20151230_185309

NYC Beer Week 2017 is Almost Here

2017-beer-week-logoSo what’s on tap for this year’s annual excuse to drink even more than usual? That’s right! NYC Beer Week is back starting tomorrow (Friday, February 24th) for eight days (or is it nine? the NYC Brewers Guild has it listed two ways, either ending Saturday, March 4th, or Sunday, March 5th), bringing the best offerings in interesting beers, new hangout hot spots, old favorites and a funky new Guild event that looks like a winner!

In past years, I’ve bemoaned the lack of innovation that NYC (and the Guild) brings to our annual beer week. Considering we are one of the most impressive cities on the planet, we don’t really know how to celebrate our local beer scene in any demonstrable way. The Guild seems at last to have given up on dreams of grandeur, and this is a good thing. For prior years, if you didn’t pay the fee, you wouldn’t be included in the calendar of events, making it nearly impossible to find a comprehensive Beer Week event list (I tried to track all the events a few years back and it was so overwhelming I never attempted it again). However, now anyone can add their events to the calendar, which has ballooned from the couple dozen events posted during prior beer weeks into a list that has over 100 events and counting!

Obviously, you could hit up multiple events each day, but here’s my guide of “best of” NYC Beer Week for where you’ll really want to be:

  • Friday (2/24) SimulTap
  • Saturday (2/25) NYC Fermentation Festival **A Bitch’s Best Bet
  • Sunday (2/26) Smoked and Cured Brunch
  • Monday (2/27) Meet a Maltster
  • Tuesday (2/28) All NY Tap List (or Mardi Gras BlowOut Ball… if you must)
  • Wednesday (3/1) NYC Brewer’s Choice **A Bitch’s Best Bet
  • Thursday (3/2) Hopped in NY: Farm Brewery Panel
  • Saturday (3/4) Take a Beer Tour

The SimulTap was one of the genius moves the Guild made a couple years ago (my current Facebook profile pic says, “I’m a simple woman: I like bearded men and beer,” which is true in every sense; a great “event” idea can be very basic): Bars and breweries around the city tap a local beer at 7PM. Choose one of the SMaSH (State Malt and State Hop riff on single-malt, single-hop) beers at your favorite watering hole (friend Chris O’Leary has a nice list of the beers here).

Saturday’s NYC Fermentation Festival looks to be a stellar addition to the official Guild events. Taking place in the afternoon at the Brooklyn Expo, the Festival is billed as family friendly but also will have an over-21 section for beers from a dozen of the city’s brewers. General Admission is only $20 and then pay-as-you-go. More info/tickets here.

What is a Sunday in NYC without brunch? It’s not a Sunday we want to live through! Head over to Billyburg and the Williamsburg Hotel for a seafood brunch from Brooklyn Brewery’s Chef Andrew Gerson, Nya Carnegie’s Chef Luke Hurst and Harvey’s Chef Adam Leonti. Each chef will have his own station to sample a take on the traditional smorgas style. $40 includes beer (tickets and menu here).

Two events at Strong Rope Brewery are definitely worth a schlep down to Gowanus on Monday and Thursday: two panels/meet-and-greets featuring NY Craft Malt owners and Farm Brewers (some of whom actually are brewing in NYC), respectively. Monday’s event is in the afternoon and appears to be free. Thursday’s event is in the evening and has a $5 price tag, but that includes beer samples.

Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and depending on your penchant for letting les bon temps rouler, I have two events for you to consider. One Mile House is one of my favorite bars, and they’re having an all-NY tap takeover for the night. Probably your best a la carte way to taste those SMaSH beers. Or you can bring out the green and purple and head over to Treadwell Park for a party featuring Abita (of course), drag queens, a live band and undoubtedly a few beads and coins tossed your way.

Wednesday is the annual “better beer event” and one of the best to attend all year long: NYC Brewer’s Choice moves to a new venue this year, the Food Sciences Academy at LIU (Ft. Greene) and brings 40+ brewers and probably close to 100 different beers. This is the one event every year I am surprised isn’t better attended. As an incentive, you can get $20 off with code FriendsofBSR2017 here.

As for Friday, well, there’s not a lot going on of particular interest, but it might be a nice night to hang at your favorite brewery. The city is up to about two dozen taprooms and brew pubs, so pick your favorite borough and go-to.

On Saturday, take a delicious walking tour with yours truly, as I join in on Urban Oyster’s Brewed in Brooklyn Tour. We’ll start at Brooklyn Brewery and work our way down to the old Brewer’s Row in East Williamsburg. Urban Oyster also has a Fermented Craft Beer Crawl, that’s a great way to learn more about craft beer styles and the best drinking spots of north Brooklyn. Get tickets here.

Pace yourself! Hydrate! I’ll see you on the other side of NYC Beer Week!

 

NYCBeerWeek2016

NYC Beer Week Has Arrived: Where Should You Go? Does it Really Matter?

NYCBeerWeek2016A few years back, I tried to “do NYC Beer Week” and cover as many of the events as I possibly could. Not only was I utterly exhausted by the end of the week, I came to the conclusion that NYC Beer Week was not the best week of the year to celebrate beer in NYC.

However, a lot of press and time and effort goes in to this annual celebration, so here’s my view on the upcoming “week” (like so many beer weeks, it’s actually 10 days to encompass two weekends): the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

The Good

  • Keeping it simple with the SimulTap

For the past couple years (since the enactment of the NY State Farm Brewery law), there has been a push for NYC Beer Week brews to be made with local ingredients. Hence, the SMASH beer, which normally stands for Single Malt and Single Hop, but is appropriated for NYC Beer Week as State Malt and State Hop. Brewers challenge themselves to create a simple, state-ingredient beer that can be enjoyed by everyone coming to the city. It’s perfect: No fuss, no frills. And about a dozen bars (including Alewife NYC, Banter, Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co., Jimmy’s No. 43, Murray’s Cheese Bar and Randolph Beer) have agreed to tap and toast a SMASH beer tonight (Friday, February 19th) at 7PM.

Among the breweries that made a 2016 SMASH beer are Big Alice Brewing, Bridge and Tunnel Brewery, Bronx Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery, Coney Island Brewing Company, Finback Brewery, Greenpoint Beer & Ales, Gun Hill Brewing, Heartland Brewing, Keg & Lantern, KelSo Beer, LIC Beer Project, Rockaway Brewing, Sixpoint Brewery, and Transmitter Brewing. It’s a low-key way to kick off the week in style at the location of your choice.

Yes, I do help publicize this event. But it’s also my favorite event not just of Beer Week but of the entire year. In addition to the aforementioned SMASH brewers, Brewer’s Choice invites many brewers from the state and beyond to create unique beers that will be available only for one night. This is not your usual suspects kind of event where everyone is getting—you’ll excuse the pun—smashed. You’ll also get the opportunity to hang out with the brewers themselves. Plus the event offers up about a dozen food purveyors serving everything from tacos to oysters on the half shell, all included in your $80 ticket (and they’re almost sold out so get yours here).

You can double your fun this year by slipping out after 7 PM to KelSo next door and partake of a specialty whiskey tasting from the Caskmates collection: the Jameson Caskmates KelSo Pale Ale Edition. While we’ve all heard about beer being aged in whiskey barrels, this whiskey has actually been aged in a KelSo beer barrel! It’s available in limited quantities, so if you see something, drink something!

  • Final Party is a Cask Festival

Ever since the untimely closing of d.b.a. in Brooklyn, NYC has gone without a proper cask festival. This year’s official closing party resurrects the best way to enjoy beer: gas free and at a proper temperature! Enjoy about 150 casks and light eats, while mingling with the makers. Two sessions will take place on Saturday, February 27th, and there are plenty of tickets (both VIP and GA) remaining for both.

The Bad

  • The opening bash is a cruise

This could go under “The Ugly” as far as I’m concerned. Who thought a booze cruise in February was a good idea? Well, the NYC Brewers Guild actually dodged a major bullet. After record-breaking low temps last Saturday, they’re looking at mid-50s tomorrow, Saturday, February 20th, for their two sailings. And in a surprise to no thinking person, tickets are still available for purchase here. As for me, I’m waiting for the real spring to arrive before heading out to drink in the bay under the Statue of Liberty.

  • Very few truly unique events

In general, there are fewer events being promoted this year and only a handful of them are interesting. Most of the events are just “themes.” A handful of beer dinners. I feel like there’s not a lot of substance or sizzle to the official event listings, but  Shmaltz is premiering their Vulcan Ale as a part of Astronomy Night on the Intrepid this evening (2/19 at 7PM). Bring your favorite Klingon to drink well and prosper. Another event that could be of interest is a Kick-Off Panel  at DBGB’s on Sunday, February 21st from 5-7PM, featuring Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery), Kelly Taylor (KelSo) and Benjamin Weiss (The Bruery).

The Ugly

  • We’re just not that in to you

In the past couple years, the Brewers Guild has been tweaking how they run and publicize the week, but the growing pains should be in the past. The truth is I hear nothing positive about being a part of NYC Beer Week from the people who really matter: the bar owners and industry insiders who might want to put money into being a sponsor at a Beer Week event. The Guild has decided that NYC Beer Week is really Beer Made by NYC Brewers Week. It’s not about the bar owners or non-guild members. And while this could be a great mission statement, it’s not really flying with anyone. Late last year I heard about a collaboration attempt from the NY State Brewers Association to have an event revolving around “country brewer/city brewer” beers, where upstate breweries would collaborate with city breweries to bring new beers to the market for beer week. That sounded like an awesome idea! But if it happened, no one is publicizing it. I just don’t believe the NYCBG has the bandwidth to undertake a SMASH beer project and a larger collaboration project. The SMASH beers are great, but it’s just a weekend idea. You cannot build 10 days’ worth of programming around this.

How to Right the Ship

  • Move Beer Week back to the fall

Before the NYCBG bought out the original beer week, it was held every September. Bar owners seemed to love it, because that was when business tends to be “off.” We NYers are generally spending the fall outdoors, not in bars. The weather is amazing for a few scant weeks in NYC, and September is one of those months. NYC Beer Week in the fall would encourage people to come indoors, and bar owners would probably drum up some great programming to attract more attendance. In February, business is generally good—random 3-feet blizzards aside—and bars don’t need to allocate resources to come up with clever ideas to attract business. Maybe that’s why this year’s events seem so ho-hum.

  • Incorporate more of the breweries

Nearly all the non-gypsy brewers in the city now have tap rooms. Yet almost no events are planned at any of the tap rooms during NYC Beer Week. Even the aforementioned Jameson event at the KelSo tap room is a whiskey outing. Some breweries (e.g. Bridge and Tunnel) are having ad hoc events as a part of their regular business. It seems like this is a wasted opportunity when places like Other Half routinely have lines around the block trying to get a new beer release. If the NYCBG is about the actual breweries, shouldn’t more events be taking place at the breweries?

  • Hire a few privates

I have long suspected that a major problem with the Guild’s version of NYC Beer Week is “too many generals, not enough privates.” If all you have is everyone looking out for his or her own brand, you’re unlikely to build a beer week of substance. I never hear anyone saying, “Let’s go to NYC for beer week.” Yet, I do hear it about San Francisco, Asheville and—especially here in NYC—Philadelphia. We need to figure out how to make NYC Beer Week “destination worthy,” and then have the troops in line to implement the strategy that the higher-ups devise.

Otherwise, the impetus for getting out to drink over the next 10 days is really just “business as usual.” And no matter the quality of the beer scene, that’s no reason to celebrate our city’s beer culture.

LageringCave_800

The Lagering Caves of Brooklyn

LageringCaveThere are a lot of “citizen beer bloggers” out there who happily work for free stuff. Admittedly, as an accredited member of the press, I don’t mind the perks of the job, but I do expect to be paid more than just my (not inconsiderable) weight in beer. Thus it is that only once in awhile is there some event that I deem truly worth my money. Yesterday, I got to participate in such an event as I—and roughly three dozen other beer lovers—were the first folks in a century to tour the historic Nassau Brewery lagering caves as (paying) guest of author and beer tour guide extraordinaire, Josh Bernstein.

Josh dubbed his tour, “Cold Comfort,” but in fact compared to the blustery temperatures outside the building’s seemingly innocuous facade, the lagering caves were practically balmy by comparison. Joined by owners of the building, husband and wife Benton Brown and Susan Boyle, Josh brought in a half-dozen professional brewers with lagers ranging from a 1/2 Pils (Brooklyn Brewery) to a hop bomb in the guise of a lager (Bunker Brewing’s Cypher Hoppy Lager… delicious, but unexpected amongst the competition).

LageringCave_JoshMostly though, it was about the caves. Susan read from an 1884 Brooklyn Eagle article that noted the caves would be “a good place to murder someone.” In fact, Benton and Susan plan to age cheese in one of the four caverns, while renting out the other three. They’re pitching to butchers who’d like to age meat, mushroom growers (yes, there were a couple jokes about the type of mushrooms one might grow in a Brooklyn cave), or a brewer with a small-batch lager system.

Josh conducted the tour both as a curiosity and to remind us, “Lagers are truly a beautiful beer style that revolutionized beer around the world.”

Dating back to the 1860s, the lagering caves once were used to produce 90,000 bbl each year for Nassau Brewing before succumbing to Prohibition in 1914. Josh had been wondering about the caves when Benton caught him (and Josh’s very pregnant wife) on the street a few months back and offered them an impromptu tour of the caves. When Benton and Susan purchased the building just after 9/11, they knew the caves where there and saw the potential, but it’s taken a dozen years to outfit the caves with electricity and a spiral staircase for (more or less—hey, an 8.5-month-pregnant woman could do it!) easy access.

It’s unknown if future tours will be available to the public, but keep an eye on Josh’s website and buy fast if you get the chance. This tour sold out in under three hours, and was worth every last cent I paid to attend. For all my photos from the tour, please check out (and like!) my Facebook page.

 

Handshake

The Devil’s in the Details as Micro-brasserie Le Trou du Diable Premieres at Beer Street

Saison_LeTrouduDiableTomorrow is looking snowy but that shouldn’t keep you from seeking out The Bitch’s favorite growler shop, Beer Street (north Graham off Metropolitan L), as they bring forth a devilish line-up of brews courtesy of Shelton Brothers Imports and the Canadian micro-brewery Le Trou du Diable. So, unless you are seeking out “the devil’s hole” or plan a trip to Shawinigan, QC, in the near future, here’s your chance to catch some exclusive pours (pay as you go). The fun starts at 3 p.m. (Saturday Dec 14) and will include the brewer’s collaboration beer with Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver. The full list of beers includes:

SMaSH Noble—An exclusive to Beer Street, which has the only keg in NYC. SMaSH is an acronym for Single Malt and Single Hop and is brewed with Noble hops. They do different varieties of this beer with a different hop varietal each time. This is the latest version and is brewed with Tradition, a German noble hop (7 % ABV).

 

Mouss’cornue—An exclusive to Beer Street, not just in NYC but in the USA! A collaboration with Laurent Mousson of Switzerland- pale ale with American hops, British yeast, and “Swiss flavor”.

 

Epoque Opaque—Black IPA (6.3% ABV).

 

Saison du Tracteur—An award-winning beer the brewer calls a “new world Saison”.

 

Shawinigan Handshak—This hoppy weizenbock brewed with Chinook hops is inspired by Brooklyn Schneider Weisse collaboration with Garrett and Schneider Weisse’s Hans Peter Drexler. There’s a great story behind the name and label of this beer. The label shows former Canadian PM Jean Chretien choking the brewer, which references the “Shawinigan Handshake” when Chretien choked a protester.

 

Those Canadians sure know their political humor, eh? Hope to see you there when the snow flies!