Element Brewing Company may be new, but the three co-owners have known each other for years.
Massachusetts' Element Brewing Company may be new, but the three co-owners have known each other for years.
Dan Kramer, the former brewer at Owen O'Leary's, used to own the Maplewoods Farm Restaurant and Brewery. There, he met Tom Fields, who was a regular, and Ben Anhalt, the former brewer at the Paper City Brewing Company.
Anhalt said he and Kramer got along well and always wanted to work together. They decided to leave their respective jobs -- Anhalt was still at Paper City, while Kramer was at Opa Opa -- and to open a brewery.
Fields was a contractor and he was doing some work on Kramer's house and mentioned he wanted a career change. He became the third partner, Anhalt said.
What came about was the Element Brewing Company based in Millers Falls. The first beers rolled out of the brewery about two weeks before Christmas.
"We really wanted to highlight the craft," said Anhalt. "We were going for high-end ingredients. We're going for the higher-end thing. We need to create beers that kind of reflect our goals, our mission in all of this."
What the trio has created are three of the more unique beers on the market.
Traditionalists who do not like when brewers stray from normally accepted styles may not be happy with Element's brewing style, but the unique beers they produce are all worth seeking out by beer geeks.
"We're taking different styles and mixing them together," said Anhalt. "We really wanted to be in that sweet spot, in the 6 to 8 percent (alcohol by volume) range. Our beers are not triple bocks or double IPA, but they're not the normal six-pack microbrew beers."
The first beer is the Extra Special Oak, kind of a blend of an English-style extra special bitter and an American pale ale. And it's aged with oak, although he won't say if they age the beer in barrels or use oak chips.
"We took the mishmash of different types of beers," said Anhalt. "It has the malt profile of an ESB and we took the hop profile of an American pale ale. It's really low in bitterness and lower in the hop aroma to highlight the oak. The oak provides some toasted and vanilla flavors, and it's very malty, has a medium body and mouthfeel."
The next beer is the Red Giant, which is based on an amber ale and an India pale ale coming together.
"It's bigger than the typical six-pack amber ale," he said. "We've taken the malt profile (of an amber ale) and mixed it with the English style of hopping it. It's bitter, but not as bitter as American IPAs are. We're using special finishing English hops, which provide more of earthy, chocolaty flavors to it, rather than the citrusy and grapefruity flavors you get from American IPAs."
The final beer is called Dark Matter, at least for now. The Brooklyn Brewery has a beer named Dark Matter, but has allowed Element to continue using the current labels until they run out of them. After the labels are gone, the beer's new name will be Black Element.
"They were really, really good about it," Anhalt said.
The beer itself is being dubbed an American black ale.
"What we've done is taken a Schwarz style (German-style black lager) and mixed it with an American IPA," said Anhalt. "It has citrusy and piney tones and it's black in color, but it doesn't have the roasted characteristics you get from stouts. It's got a ton of body to support all of the hops in it. The hop payload is in the finish."
The Element Brewing Company beers are easy to spot on the shelves. They are 750 ml bottles wrapped in paper that serve as the labels. The caged-and-corked bottles themselves don't have labels.
The beers are not cheap -- about $11 a bottle, but you're paying for the high-end ingredients. The brewery is also tiny -- they expect only to brew 500 barrels, or 15,500 gallons of beer this year. (That makes it the smallest brewery ever featured in the Beer Nut.)
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail email@example.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/ or follow the Beer Nut at his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.