In the modern age of digital music, the concept of a B-track—a term used to describe the flip side of a single—has mostly evolved into a slew of bonus tracks tacked onto the release of a proper album. But the concept remains: B-tracks embody the more experimental side of a band or musician, often offering insight in the process of musical creation as much as it does deliver a finished product. And I’m sure there are more than a few hipsters still hawking 33-inch records and single cassette tapes on various corners of the interwebs.
Bronx Brewery embraced the notion of experimentation implicit in those recordings in 2018 when they partnered with their neighbor, Baldor Specialty Foods, to release a limited-run beer under their new B-Tracks series. Baldor got its start as a fruit stand in Greenwich Village in 1946 and is today one of the largest importers and distributors of fresh produce in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Using the purveyor’s extensive inventory of unusual ingredients as a starting point, Bronx Brewing released Far From the Tree, an “Oaxacan old-fashioned IPA” that used Topaz Crimson heirloom apples with Xocolati mole bitters in the brewing process before short-aging the IPA in tequila and mezcal barrels. The end result of the limited-run release (in cans and on draft) added bold smoky notes that played with the sweetness of the fruit and a touch of bitterness from both the mole and the hops.
This year, the collaboration continues with the introduction of their Strobe Light Gose, which highlights the French hop Barbe Rouge and was made with heaps of rhubarb and strawberries sourced from Baldor, added during the cold conditioning alongside gose staples like coriander and sea salt. The bright, tart brew carries loads of bold berry flavors, nicely complimented by the sour style and a touch of salt, a perfect beer to usher in the spring and summer months. Mind you, this is hardly the first gose to play with berries and other fruits; indeed, the style has undergone something of a rebirth in the United States, a welcome evolution to the beer’s humble origins when it was first made in Goslar, Germany, back in the early 13th century. But more of a good thing is always a good thing—if you can find it, that is.
As with the first release, the Strobe Light saw limited production and even more limited distribution—served on tap at the brewery at 856 East 136th Street and at various Clinton Halls throughout NYC, one of Manhattan’s craft beer staples. And surely several 16-ounce cans popped up on the shelves of a few more discerning retailers. But even if you can’t chase one down, given the passion for craft and experimentation from both companies, chances are next spring (2020) will see another release in the B-Tracks series, once again taking some fresh and unusual ingredient and using it as the point of inspiration to create something exceptional and unique. Yes…another reason to earmark a spring trip to the big city.