Beer making is, when you get down to it, a chemistry experiment. Which ingredients, combined in which proportions, and blended at which temperatures — it’s enough to make the science-challenged grab for, well, a beer. But for two MIT graduates, it’s the test of a lifetime.
Ricardo Petroni and Peter Oates, both of whom earned graduate degrees in environmental engineering from the esteemed university, put their heads together to open Equilibrium Brewery in Middletown and started distributing this past fall. They believe their beer is better because they follow scientific principles focusing on balancing drinkability and flavor. As Petroni puts it, they make beer that is easy to drink but still packs a lot of body. “Dark stouts and IPAs are very flavorful, but are so bitter or so over the top they keep you from taking the next sip right away,” he says. “Our beers invite you for that next sip.”
Petroni, a homebrewer, was working at an engineering firm post-graduation. “After 20 years, I wasn’t very engaged,” he says. “I always wanted to open a brewery.” Oates, a colleague in the firm (they hadn’t met at MIT), was also a homebrewer looking for something new. They began their beer journey together in 2013. “I developed more of the recipes, with Ricardo more on business,” says Oates.
Once they had recipes — and raised enough funds — they scouted locations. Middletown officials offered them a rundown, century-old meatpacking facility. “They made us a deal to pay a low amount for it if we renovated,” Petroni says. “It’s a good deal for us, and attracts business and people to the area.”
According to Oates, environmental engineering teaches a mastery of the concentrations of “stuff” in water. In the non-beer world, that knowledge is used to take “bad stuff” out of water. “With our background, we discussed how to manage concentrations of ‘good stuff’ and take out bad stuff [when brewing],” he explains. “Brewing involves a lot of science. We wanted more understanding of the chemistry and boiling underlying beer making.”
That involved lots of time in the lab — er, brewery — conducting experiments. “It took us three years, and many pilot batches…testing different hypotheses of treating different malts, yeasts, hops and temperatures,” says Petroni. “That all ended up as the beer we are making now.”
So far, those beers number seven. Photon, an American Pale Ale, is a hazy orange on the pour and tastes of tropical fruits. A version of Photon conditioned with zested orange, called Mmm…osa, adds a citrusy flavor. These two are low alcohol, while MC² is Photon with the hops squared, and while still drinkable, is much higher in alcohol.
Fractal Mosaic, the first offering from what they call their “Small-Batch Research Series,” uses only pale malt and a single hop “to investigate how different hops manifest through our processes.” And their first sour beer is called There and Back Again.
The brewery’s 20-barrel system will crank out others in the future, but these selections are currently available in their newly opened gastropub and tasting room at the brewery, and at many locations throughout the Valley, New York City and Nassau County.
22 Henry Street; www.eqbrew.com
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