LOCALBREW: Maltose Express Brewshop

The Maltose Express brewshop in Monroe, CT is where I first got my supplies to brew, so I was pleased when I was able to speak with Mark and Tess Szamatulski, the owners, last week. Aside from running a successful brewshop for over 20 years, they have plans to open a brewery on the same premises as well. We chatted about their future plans, recent travels, and of course, favorite beers.

For those unfamiliar to the area, Maltose started off filling a need for brewers. Mark and Tess originally started the business in their home, ordering supplies and having customers picking them up.

Although some of the most popular clone kits sold are Guinness, Fat Tire Amber Ale, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Mark and Tess both agree that the best-seller for them is the pumpkin ale kit that they make every year. They use a variety of pumpkin pie spices and vanilla. They recently created a “jacked up pumpkin” kit as well, which is a stronger version of their best-selling pumpkin ale. Mark brought me out a bag of the spices to take a whiff of, and it smells amazing. I definitely plan to make this one when it gets closer to the fall!

Mark and Tess recently traveled to England to do research on more beers for cloning. They mentioned that while many of the English beer styles are starting to branch out with other non-traditional hop and ingredient varieties as American breweries are doing, they remain different from the beers brewed here in that they are low ABV. Mark mentioned that many of the beers are 3.5% alcohol. Here in America, a 3.5% ABV beer usually means some sort of swill with little flavor. However, he said that the low ABV beers in England usually are very drinkable, with a lot of character to them.

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They luckily had a place to stay there that allowed them to clone while they were there, since it’s difficult to fly with liquid. Mark and Tess said that they cloned 12 or 13 beers while there. Cloning the beers requires a good deal of work. They first research some varieties of a style of beer by contacting the brewery, and then pouring the actual beer. They sort the beers by color and make note of the head to determine what grains would be involved. Next they look into the aroma to see what hops, malts, or spices that they can smell. Tasting is done next, to figure out what hops are in it, as well as if it’s been dry hopped or not. They then brew the beer and make more notes of how it turns out. Sometimes they need to brew more than once! Tess says that they once had a beer that had to be brewed 9 times to get it perfect. She also says that they are the only authors that brew the beers multiple times as well.

Mark and Tess have published two books; Clone Brews and Beer Captured. They are currently working on a third book, as well as revising Beer Captured. They said that their first book’s publisher wanted them to do beers from all over the world, which Mark said involved a lot of lagers originally. Now they have updated the book to be based more on style, rather than the beer’s location.

The books are a great way to try beers that are no longer made anymore, or ones that are brewed in a different location or differently.

One of the best things about Maltose is that you can sample homebrews while at the store. For those who haven’t brewed, it’s a great way to see the potential of what you can do. And for those who are brewing veterans, it’s a great way to get new ideas of what to make next. While I was at the shop last week, I sampled a scotch ale and a pale ale.

There will be even more tastings coming soon; Mark and Tess are planning to expand and Maltose will have its own brewery on premises. They plan on opening officially in November. They have already purchased the brewing equipment and are brewing test-batches to decide what will work best.

The shop also recently started selling hop rhizomes, so that brewers can easily grow their own hops. Tess sent me home with a Zeus hop plant, so hopefully I’ll be using some of my fresh hops in an upcoming batch!

Maltose Express is open 6 days a week, with different events and classes happening all the time. Their beer-making classes happen on the regular, and they aren’t just for new brewers, although Mark and Tess both say that they help get many new folks into brewing. They are a great way to get ideas on new recipes and meet fellow brewers. I am actually planning on going to the next one to learn how to set up a kegging system! They also have classes for mead, cheese, and even bee-keeping!

They also have open houses a few times a year which bring in tons of local brewers and make for a great day. Check their website and facebook for details about upcoming events as well as new brewkits and supplies to pick up in the store!

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