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!

 

#CBC16 Off to a Grand and Boisterous Start

20160504_095028So, as a Craft Brewers Conference newbie, I thought I knew what to expect here at CBC 2016 in Philadelphia. While I haven’t been shocked by any revelations, I have to admit I may now be a convert to the “craft” cause on the heels of Allagash Brewing’s Rob Tod, who recently was elevated to the Brewers Association Chairman of the Board of Directors.

I have been an unabashed critic of the BA’s focus on who is and who isn’t making craft beer. To my mind, it isn’t about who is making the beer, but who isn’t drinking it: Young people by and large are more likely to opt for spirits and wine (call it the Sanders’ effect) over a stalwart such as beer. To me, I would rather negotiate for market share of the potent potables’ market than to tilt at the windmills of AB-InBev and Miller-Coors.

However, Rob pretty much summed up his (borrowed from departing director Gary Fish of Deschutes Brewery) simple mission statement: The BA is larger as a sum of the parts, and the BA defines not craft beer but craft brewers.

Let me state, that I support small businesses. I think that to shop local is the most patriotic gesture you can make. However, I don’t fault Goose Island or Ballast Point for living the businessman’s dream in a capitalistic society. However, hearing Rob talk about the BA’s influence on Capitol Hill (during an election year, no less) makes me a convert to the cause. Capitalism is all well and good, but without the BA, a lot of small brewers wouldn’t be here today. And what a shame that would be.

I hope to write more about the Conference in the coming days, but if you’re still thinking about coming out, there’s plenty more fun, friendship and important issues to share with your beer brothers and sisters.

Hope to see you here in Philadelphia.

Other news and notes from today’s CBC:

  • Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head) received the 2016 BA Recognition Award
  • The Odom Corporation (Idaho) was named Wholesaler of the Year
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing launched their Beer Camp 2016 with six food and beer pairings at Time on Sansom Street

The Bloggers Check In: Day 6 in San Diego

While a lot of participants at the Beer Bloggers Conference typically bail on Sunday morning (owing to too much beer or early transportation taking them out early), one of the more interesting features of the conference is the blogger reports from various writers around the country that wraps the conference every year. It’s a quick (each blogger has five minutes) check-in on the greater beer blogging community, and the reports range from funny to serious, informative to supportive. (Note: The titles are mine, but they sum up each of the seven presentations.)

First up this year, Emily Sauter of CT beer review blog Pints & Panels: Responsible Beer Reviewing

Clip art courtesy Layout Sparks.

Clip art courtesy Layout Sparks.

Like many of the bloggers, Emily posts beer reviews on her site, and she has three basic practices she tries to follow in her beer reviews that she shared with the attendees. These were:

  • Use Common Sense – all palates are different; what I like is different than you (Tip: don’t review what you don’t like)
  • Be Knowledgeable – Be concise, know where your beer comes from, become Cicerone or BJCP certified
  • Celebrate, Don’t Hate – Give the brewery the benefit of the doubt; if the beer tastes gross, try it again in a month or in six months and if still bad, try to find something positive to say (e.g. “this is the best beer they’ve produced thus far”)

And always end your Powerpoint presentation with a dinosaur (you had to be here to appreciate this joke).

Kendall Joseph of Beer Makes Three (where he blogs with his wife in Nashville, TN): How becoming a Certified Cicerone improves your blog

I got to know Kendall and his wife June a bit on our pre-conference excursion with APlus limos. Aside from being leaders in the Nashville craft beer community, the couple prides themselves on being well educated. While Kendall’s presentation about how “easy” it is to become a Certified Cicerone was a bit tongue in cheek (his tips included studying 2-3 hours per day for 9-12 months; and pay for the off-flavors kit), he outlined the merits of what being Cicerones (June is hold her Cicerone Beer Server certification) brings to beer blogging:

  • Credibility – “I’m a student who is learning, always; the more you learn the more you don’t know”
  • Access – “I get to know the people in the breweries, I get to know the distributors”
  • Opportunities – Kendall spoke of a new restaurant that is launching a beer and food pairing program, for which they’ve hired Kendall to curate

Among his more serious study tips: Learn all 86 styles in the BJCP manual, memorize the Brewers Association’s Draught Beer Quality Manual, do blind tastings, and read good books (Randy Mosher, John Palmer, Garrett Oliver, etc.). And have a healthy respect for the test.

Katherine Belamino of Passports & Cocktails: How to create a niche in blogging

Katherine works with a partner remotely (she’s a travel writer; Steven Grams is a beer writer) who relate beer, wine and spirits to travel adventures. They focus on the feature story that goes beyond one particular beer and its flavor and ingredients. Her main goals in writing include:

  • Why would someone want to go to a brewery when on vacation – Her features go beyond the taste to a feature story that will be meaningful beyond an individual beer
  • Her blog looks at events and programming and then gets hyper-local that is related to travel – e.g. if there’s an event, they write about the destination itself, but they also encourage visiting the breweries and distilleries/vineyards related to the event

A good spin on the beer blog, going beyond the taste and ingredients to know the story behind the brewery.

Alan_Michael_Ryan

Alan (far left) and Ryan (far right) on the per-excursion tour with Michael Puente.

Ryan Newhouse and Alan McCormick (from Montana Beer Finder and Growler Fills, respectively): How to launch your own beer week

Ryan joked that he and Alan “represent 100 percent of the Montana beer blogger scene,” but they’ve already made a huge impact by launching the Missoula Craft Beer Week. The beer week was a bit of a happy accident when Alan was inadvertently cc’d on an e-mail related to the Garden City Brew Fest on the 20th anniversary festival. They chimed in, “Let’s expand to a craft beer week.” With 45 breweries in Montana, they had only six weeks to put the 2013 beer week together. It was necessarily small with only 15 official events (a lot of tap take-overs and “visit your local bar” outreach). By year two, there were beer dinners and more creative programming (“how do we get hot yoga and cold beer together”). A mere year later, the late-April/early-May beer week launched the innaugural Craft Beer Cup as their marquee event: Nine bars, 11 breweries, and nine holes of putt putt – each bar built its own course – that raised almost $1200 to go to Missoula Food Bank.

Carol Dekkers of Florida’s Micro Brews USA: Bringing volunteerism and reaching your local beer scene

If Ryan and Alan are Montana’s craft beer ambassadors, Carol Dekker is Ambassador of western Florida (FL has 100 breweries). She started her presentation by quoting conference opening speaker Julia Hertz: “Make craft beer approachable.”

Crowler2In Carol’s St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay community, the demographic works against the Brewers Association’s norm with 25 percent of the populace over age 65 (the majority of craft beer drinkers are currently under age 45).

Her blog is more about bringing craft beer to the general population (Tampa-area beer gardens are both family- and dog-friendly) while dealing with controversial laws (no growlers larger than 32 oz.). She poured beer from Cycle Brewing’s “crowler,” a 32-ounce can that can be filled and sealed at the brewery. She also offered ways to gain more traction in the online beer community (her tips: Get a paper.li account, where you can create your ownenewspaper – hers is Brew News Daily – that gets populated from keywords; and join as many Facebook groups as possible and interact with them because one post goes out to thousands of viewers as opposed to only your personal followers).

Finally, Carol gave her spiel on the importance in volunteering, especially for events (March 7-15, 2015, is Tampa Bay Beer Week, you’re invited!), as volunteerism is a key part of bringing craft beer to the masses.

Brandon Fischer 365 beer.comHow to grow your blog with smarter posts

For most bloggers (Brandon’s focus is on beer reviews), there are two issues impeding growth: a small audience and past reviews that don’t “get the love” and pretty much disappear from your readers. His task was to address two main goals:

  1. Make content more attractive and accessible for the every-day beer lover
  2. Make content “stickier” without “selling out” to beer makers that just want product placement

He also didn’t want to forgo his creativity just in order to create more content. After determining that “everyone reads lists (e.g. buzzfeed),” he decided to to compile his existing reviews into lists (e.g. five beers of summer, five best regional beers, five beers to drink during a zombie apocalypse). This is allowing him to take old content and infuse it with fresh life with a minimal investment (the lists link to the previous review).

Craig Hendry of Raise Your Pints (among others): Using social media to affect beer regulation

While Craig began blogging in 2007, its his recent work in Mississippi on the legislative level that has made him a star in beer circles. It was through his organizing that Mississippi finally is able to homebrew legally (the 50th state to allow homebrewing), plus the relatively low 6.2% ABV limit was lifted this past year. Craig’s recommendations for ensuring success for craft beer in your state:

  • Look for legislative updates that might affect your local brewers (he suggested following the “Support your local brewery” alerts at the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer website)
  • Monitor your state’s legislative website (search for beer, brewing, alcohol)
  • Be vigilant and offer assistance to your local brewers guild (they are probably more involved in day-to-day operations of their breweries to stay on top of deadlines/changes in legislation
  • Understand your state’s legislative process (you can attend any session if you’re in your capital area); the more you know about the whole process of bills and strategies to get bills passed, the more advocacy you can do
  • Promote positive laws, work against bad legislation
  • Steer the discussion – help drive what’s being talked about in the public via Twitter/FB

The Choice of Eats at Choice Eats 2013

choiceeatswelcomeThis past Tuesday I had the mixed pleasure of attending this year’s Choice Eats, the Village Voice’s annual tasting extravaganza. The spread was awesome, in the real sense of the word. Long lines aside, there was far more food to consume than could possibly be consumed by anyone who was not a competitive eater.

When I say that attending was a “mixed pleasure,” it’s because press at these things are always the bastard step children invited to dine at the grown-up table. If you’re just there to eat, drink and make merry, it’s a heck of a deal (although, at $50 general admission, the price for tickets was well worth what you got inside). However, if you really want to get to know the purveyors—there were more than 100 tables at the event, not including VIP—you’re pretty much unable to do this at the event itself. The best you can hope for is to grab a business card and follow up a day or two later.

I ended up in the VIP lounge for much of the early part of the expo, simply because the chefs and artisans had time to discuss their wares. Whether it was Kentucky Rye or Hawaiian Kona beer, the VIP experience was much more mellow than the main hall at the 69th Armory.

I’ve attended many of these freestyle expos, and this is among the best run. For every table that had a queue, there were several that you could walk up to and grab a sample. Options ranged from sliders to cupcakes, with more than two dozen beer, wine and spirits tables included.

Among the biggest surprise of the night was NYC Craft Beer Festival pouring Barrier Relief beer. This collaboration beer from Ommegang was among the first released to help Barrier Brewing Company in the post-Sandy aftermath. The beer held up well, and I was surprised to find it available.

BeeratCEOn the main floor, I was able to make it to the front of a dozen or so lines. My favorite taste of the night had to be the savory bun by Brooklyn Kolache Co. , a pork and jalapeno yumminess that almost makes me want to hop on the G train for more. In the VIP suite, the winner hands down was an entry from Jersey City’s Thirty Acres. Husband and wife team, Kevin and Alex Pemoulie, have a rotating menu and their Red-wine Marinated (soft boiled) Egg was a revelation. Served on a bed of salty croutons, buttery mâche (perfect with an egg), and topped with trout roe, this dish has been a mainstay on the restaurant’s brunch menu (sadly, it’s being rotated off). However, if the sample was indicative of their year-old restaurant, I’m planning a trip across (under?) the Hudson very soon.ChoiceEatsEgg

All in all, I’d say the Bitch is Ecstatic about Choice Eats, but as with any of these popular tasting events, the early birds (i.e. those folks who stood in line for an hour before opening) had the best time. And everyone who sprang for VIP.

How Epices Is Your Beer?

DieuduCielRoutedesEpicesThere are always trends in beer, and lately it seems like things are getting kinda spicy. Now, I love a good salsa (or spicy Bloody Mary) as much as the next person, but pepper in beer is a mixed pint. On the one hand, you have Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter Cocoa Chipotle, a Chile beer with so much over-powering pepper that I don’t know how anyone could drink more than a shotglass (i.e. The Bitch is Not In The Mood); on the other, you have Horseheads Brewing’s Hot-Jala Heim Beer With Bite, infused with jalapeno, anaheim and habanero peppers, which is quite mild on the palate and would pair well with a cheese or mild sausage (i.e. The Bitch is Very Happy).

The best of these styles I’ve tasted was actually a homebrew (I believe it was a Belgian Style Saison infused with jalapeno) brewed by my friend Mary Izett. I had it last summer at the Funky 8, an annual round-up of beer lovers drinking American beers in the Belgian Style. However, if I’m going to choose among the commercially available beers I’ve tried, I’ll go with Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Route Des Épices (Ale Rousse Au Poivre). This Rye beer made with peppercorn by itself would make the Bitch Ecstatic, but the fact that I was drinking it with Mr. Chocolate, Clay Gordon, who happened to have brought along some Laurent Gerbaud (Brussels) 75% blend chocolate, a blend of  Ecuador and Madagascar chocolate laced with Madagascan black pepper? Well, let’s just say the Bitch is Orgasmic.

If you want to do the pepper, grab Dieu du Ciel. And some kick-ass spicy chocolate to pair with it.