Brooklyn Beer Fests Beckon

BrooklynPourSo, it’s not too late to get your Oktoberfest going, and there are two “the bigger the better” drinking events upcoming with a Brooklyn focus that really look to be worth the price of admission (sadly, The Bitch will not be in attendance at either of them: In the case of the former, I’ll be raising my glass to toast friend and NYC beer event savant, Chris O’Leary’s fifth anniversary of his blog—in my best Rowan Atkinson impersonation: It is so much more than a blog—Brew York, New York. In the case of the latter, I’ll be at GABF).

First up is this weekend’s Brooklyn Pour. Put on by the Village Voice and held in Williamsburg(h)’s historic bank (you know the one I’m talking about if you take the J/M or bike/hike across the Williamsburg Bridge), Brooklyn Pour is one of the better-produced large-scale drinking fests. The Voice (almost) always manages to get the perfect balance of vendors, and this year’s Brooklyn Pour will feature some excellent European brews (two words: Ayinger Marzen) in addition to hyper local beers from new breweries like Braven (which is slated to open sometime this fall; local boys doing the gypsy thing). In all, they’ll be serving up more than 125 beers from 70 breweries.

Note that tickets will only be available online until tomorrow (Friday, September 26th) 2 p.m., so buy yours before the door price tacks on an extra $10. And while I don’t often recommend VIP, for Village Voice events, the cost is worth it: you get in an hour early, so you’ll miss the long lines (if you pay VIP, obviously, show up before the VIP doors open at 2 p.m.) plus you get your food included. Tickets are $85 for VIP (four-hour tasting) or $55 GA (3-6 p.m.; food available for additional purchase). Get them here.

On the day after GABF wraps in Colorado (October 5th), the inaugural Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival will take place at 420 Carroll Street in the trendy Gowanus/Carroll Gardens crossover neighborhood in south Brooklyn. Weirdly, despite being a stone’s throw from The Other Half, the BLCBF thus far has no actual Brooklyn artisanal craft breweries on the line-up. While I support their efforts to get away from the Brooklyn behemoths (including, well, you know, Brooklyn! as in Brewery), it’s odd to me that a festival calling itself Brooklyn Local Craft doesn’t have any. I’m hoping that a few more truly local brewers will come on in the final week leading up to the event.

Which isn’t to say the event won’t have some very cool, lesser known craft beers. It will. Most interesting among them is Long Island’s (kinda like Brooklyn, I suppose) Lithology Brewing Co., which currently is only serving its beer on the festival circuit (they expect to open their brewery to the public in early 2015). And for those of us who live in Brooklyn, this is also your opportunity to get some great brews from The Bronx (Gun Hill Brewing), Queens (Finback) and Staten Island (Flagship) without a two-hours-in-each-direction commute. They’re also offering punch cards for logging your brews, a very handy thing to have when you get too buzzed to do a proper Untappd check-in. GA tickets are $47.50 (including the fee) for six hours of drinking (noon to 6 p.m.). Food is available for additional purchase.

So, enjoy Brooklyn while I’m drinking in Manhattan and Denver! Have one for The Bitch.

Take Me Out To The Beer Game: Two New Festivals Bringing Brews To Stadiums

BanBClassic_PSC8020I have a love-hate relationship with baseball. Mostly, I think there should be a shot clock on the pitcher to move things along, but I grew up watching a lot of it on WGN (and still have a soft spot for the Cubs and miss Harry Caray’s seventh inning sing-along stretch). However, despite being one of the more affordable sports options to watch in person, I’ve never been a huge fan of heading out to the stadium to bask in the sun (and hope there are no pop up fouls heading my way).

But if they’re going to be bringing in great beer on a sweaty July Saturday? Yeah, I’m game.

In fact, two baseball stadiums will play host to two new events during this “July Good Beer Month” in NYC: Coney Island On Tap (click here for ticket options) on July 12th at MCU Park (home to Brooklyn’s minor league Cyclones) and the Bacon and Beer Classic (ditto) on July 26th at CitiField (home to the Mets, in case you weren’t aware).

Each event offers a different experience for attendees, and although both have designated driver tickets, the good news for straphangers is the easy access to both venues via (hopefully air conditioned) subway.

Among the features of Coney Island On Tap:

  • Limited tickets – Town Square Media is a veteran producer that has limited the number of attendees to a very reasonable 3,000. They recently added a second evening session to ensure that everyone has easy access to the beer stands.
  • A wide variety of breweries – Nearly 60 brewers are on board, including several that don’t frequent the festival circuit, such as hometown gypsy brewer Radiant Pig Craft Beers and one of my personal favs from NJ, River Horse (their DIPA is to die for!). More than 100 beers will be available with specialty beers in the VIP section.
  • Location, location, location – Whether you decide to head to the beach in the morning, break at midday (for the 1-4 p.m. session) or head to the beach in the afternoon to hang out until the evening session (from 5-8 p.m.), you won’t make a mistake to combine this event with the beach and boardwalk.
  • Affordability – because this is a beer-centric event, the tickets are relatively inexpensive ($40 in advance for general admission). The stadium is selling its own ballpark food, so bring extra cash if you want to drink and dine.

Key features of Bacon and Beer Classic:

  • Restaurants – Let’s face it, beer is great but beer with bacon? Well, that’s just the best. From Tommy Harder’s team at Blind Tiger to off-the-beaten path Queens gastropubs (Oliver’s Astoria, Blackbird’s), there is a great line-up of food vendors to choose from.
  • One hour VIP early admission – Typically VIP options that just throw in some swag aren’t worth the additional price, but when you get in an hour before everyone else, you’re wise to pay up. And in the case of the Bacon and Beer Classic, the VIPs get private tours of the Mets stadium, which is great if you’re a super fan because when else will you get inside the dugout?
  • Demos and education – There will be celebrity chefs and beer experts on hand presenting cooking demonstrations and beer education classes. No doubt with sampling involved.

Both events look like a great chance for the non-Montauk-going set to have the illusion of getting out of town for the day, with a chance to combine baseball lore with everyone’s true favorite pastime: drinking beer.

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.