Doug Pearsall of Eastern Front Brewing on American Hops, Green Bottles & Brewing Great Beer

Q: Have you always been a brewer? If not, how did you get into brewing?

A: I’m a marine mechanic; I have been for over 30 years. But I like beer. My girlfriend likes beer. I’ve always liked good beer. Back in the early 70s in Blue Point where I grew up, I was drinking green bottle beers like Becks, Carlsberg Elephant Beer, DAB, Molson Red and Heineken.

Then I joined the Army and was stationed in Germany. I drank a lot of beer there. Every town had its own brewery. We’re going to become the town brewery here in Mattituck. Because is beer good. That’s our unofficial tag line.

Q: You mentioned ‘green bottle’ beer like a marker of quality; what’s the connection?

A: Beer is photosensitive,  so you don’t want it to be exposed to light, otherwise it develops that distinctive skunk taste. During WWII brown glass was very hard to come by, so the better brewers started using green glass to keep the visual distinction between their beer and the cheaper clear glass bottled beers. Brown glass protects better but people have been conditioned to believe that green bottle beer is a moniker for good beer.

Q: Do you have a particular style you like to brew?

A: I’m a traditional beer style guy and want to use traditional ingredients, so very few of the ingredients I use come from the States. The grains I use come from Canada, Germany, England and Belgium. The hops come from Europe too. Most of the yeast does come from the US though.

Q: Why the foreign ingredients? What’s the difference?

A: Everything here is always bigger and better, but with beer I don’t really care as much for bigger. American hops are higher in alpha acids, that’s what gives all hops their bitter flavor. The strong ones have more of a grapefruity citrus flavor; it’s pleasant, but it’s stronger than I like. European hops are lower alpha hops and have more of a flowery scent; they’re more aroma hops.

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When brewing, the bittering hops counter the sweetness of the malt in the brewing, and then people add the aroma hops for bouquet. I like to use aroma hops as bittering agents. That makes my beer more similar to a European style beer.

Q: You mentioned being a boat mechanic; how did you start brewing? Did you get one of those home kits?

A: No. I knew I’d love brewing once I got started researching it, so there was no point in a home kit approach. I spent about a year researching brewing and gathering equipment, and then I started with all grain. That was about 10 years ago.

I started with a Pilsner Urquell recipe, because I really like that beer, but I changed it up a little because why make what I can buy. Over time I’ve continued to tinker with it. And it’s not just not the ingredients; it’s also how you make it. That’s one of the challenges of home brewing, because any inconsistency one batch to the next will change the flavor.

Q: So how is beer made?

A: To make beer you start with malted barley. You crush it and mash it, which means soaking it at varying hot water temps to convert the starches into the sugar. Then you drain and rinse the grain to get something called wort. The wort is boiled and hops are added and then it is cooled. Yeast is added and then it is left to ferment.

Our friend Bob Burke, who works at the North Quarter Farm where they raise buffalo, takes the spent barley and feeds to the buffalo. They love it so much they come running, and he calls it buffalo candy. That’s a nice way not to waste anything.

A fun thing about being able to make beer is sampling it over time. With the exception of wheat beers, which should be drank pretty much as soon as they’re done fermenting, beer should sit and condition. That’s my opinion. The worst thing brewers ever did was put a “born on date” on beer. There’s no steadfast rule about how long it conditions. The most important thing is how beer is stored; 40 degrees for a few weeks or months will make it smoother tasting.

Q: So you got started a decade ago. Did you scale up right away?

A: My us1girlfriend, Christina Oman, persuaded me to get going toward a brewery three years ago. She’s the co-founder of the brewery. It has been quite a process, and it hasn’t been easy.

We’ve been trying to learn from other people’s mistakes and successes. The whole microbrew community has been really helpful.

Right now I can ferment 10 barrels at a time, that’s my third time scaling up equipment and we are still very much a microbrewery. About 80 % of the equipment is hand built by me. I’m a metal fabricator and welder so I’ve been making bigger equipment as I go.

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Q: What beers are you selling now, and where could someone get a taste?

A: Right now we have three in circulation. The most popular now is Miami Weiss [ed. note, Weiss is a German word meaning “white” pronounced vice], which is a wheat beer. It’s very light and refreshing with citrus and coriander accents.

The next is Anomalous Ale, which brown and full bodied. The Anomalous Ale doesn’t fit neatly as an amber, red or a brown ale, hence the name. It’s a mix of German and British malts and hops with a slight fruit finish.

The third is the Sexy MF Stout. It’s an Irish Dry Stout with a balance of coffee, chocolate and smoked flavor. It’s named after a Prince song. All our beers have unusual ways of being named, this is no different. At our first ever beerfest in April we had not come up with names of beers yet. We tried out the name at the beerfest and got a good response but we were still on the fence. Then Prince passed and at that point we felt it was a sign, we had to stick with it.

East to west, you can find us on tap at Billy’s By the Bay, Whiskey Wind Tavern, Founders Tavern, Sophie’s—on and off there, and the Old Mill Inn. We are looking to be expanding into Riverhead before Labor Day. If you would like to purchase a growler, stop at Polywoda Beverage in Southold.

We are looking to open a tasting room, perhaps in the next year or so.  Even someday when we have a tasting room  we’ll always be grateful for those that supported us from the beginning…Billy’s, Founders and Old Mill have been super supportive since the inception.  We can’t thank them enough.

Q: Do you always make those three, or do you change what you brew during the year? Do you have a favorite?

A: We brew a lot of beers. I’ll be making a hefeweizen soon, and in September we’ll have an Oktoberfest. There will be a Pumpkin Ale for fall as well. We’ll also be bottling the Belgian triple. The Scottish Wee Heavy, which we’ll have too, is also a strong ale. It is the malt equivalent of an IPA.

My favorite in general is the Belgian strong ale, but in this heat outside I wouldn’t order one. In this heat it’s a perfect day for a Miami Weiss

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