NYC Beer Week Wrap-Up Part 1

BeerWeekGrainsThrough a haze of amazing beer, people and NYC Beer Week events, I have emerged. While I didn’t go out every day this week, I did hit up several new venues and came to even more conclusions about what this “annual celebration” means for this city (more on that in Part 2, to follow). Rather than attempt to marry my activities to my thoughts, I’ve decided to sum up with a grade-school-style essay that might as well be called, “How I spent my Beer Week.”

Day 1 – Friday, February 21st

I guess I could say I’m getting too old to go out every night, but I think I’m just too lazy to go out every night. Not to mention the whole “beer makes you fat” thing (and to those opponents of this notion, I always joke, “Sure, beer doesn’t make you fat… but calories do!”). Anyhow, I had an awesome time hanging out at 508 Gastrobrewery with Brooklyn Brew Shop the night before, so I opted to lay low and hang with a friend at Williams & Bailey for East Williamsburg Restaurant Week (yes, there is such a thing, and it’s way cheaper than NYC Restaurant Week).

Day 2 – Saturday, February 22nd

I really hope that Clinton Hall finds its identity. I feel like it’s going through growing pains. On a positive note, the beer garden built from the ashes (or perhaps, more accurately, soggy mush) of Merchants NY Café still brings in an upscale FiDi crowd that would pay $8 for a Stella, so they’re really not gonna blink when they shell out $10 for Perennial’s La Boheme (Clinton Hall had the only keg of Jonathan Moxey’s wild sour in NYC). But does this crowd appreciate the delicacy of a flux capacitor (one of only two in NYC—the other at Tørst) or the fact that the bar is run by a Certified Cicerone (do these bridge and tunnel types even know what a Cicerone is)? I’ve met Abraham Merchant and he’s not one to fail; each of his Lower Manhattan restaurants has its unique style. That said, this bar is a cut above the neighborhood (and The Bitch lived there before she was Brooklyn-bound, so I know of what I speak!). I love hanging out there on a Sunday in the early evening, when there’s no one at the bar. But that’s kinda a problem, i.e. no one at the bar. A bar this good (and this pricey) will need the love of the NYC craft beer community if it is to succeed as an artisanal joint rather than just an excuse not to go to TGI Fridays one block east.

Day 3 – Sunday, February 25th

Since the only event I really wanted to attend was Caskalot but couldn’t bring myself to schlep back into Manhattan, I took a day off from drinking (shock!)

Day 4-5 – Monday-Tuesday, February 24th-25th

Honestly, I had no idea just how hard publicizing NYC Beer Week would be! On top of my own (gratis) calendar and Best Bets, I was doing last minute-outreach for NYC Brewer’s Choice. So, while I did drink some growlers, mostly I was working my ass off on these days.

Day 6 – Wednesday, February 26th

BrewersChoiceOkay, I have to admit there’s something not quite right about the state of beer drinkers in NYC. They’ll pay a small fortune to line up to be part of a clusterfuck at a warehouse-packed tasting event, but then won’t spring for what was arguably the best beer event of the week. Yes, I’m paid to promote NYC Brewer’s Choice. Yes, I know there are certain behind-the-scenes issues. That said, this year’s event blew it out of the water! The amazing food (from Luke’s Lobster, Reynard, Nordic Breads and Blue Island Oyster Co., among others) was paired with several dozen different brews made with local ingredients. Plus, beers were poured by the brewers themselves! Maybe it was because people didn’t want to schlep to the Wythe Hotel or maybe it’s just because NYC is still in its pubescent “let’s get wasted” phase, but I’ll never understand why the more interesting and sophisticated drinking+eating events don’t sell out. I said the same thing last year when Savor came to town: NYC has a long way to go with regards to beer appreciation, and I fear that NYC Beer Week is not doing anything to advance quality (of both beer and programming) in this regard.

Day 7 – Thursday, February 27th

Was heading to Spuyten Duyvil for Two Roads when I passed my favorite growler shop… pouring Two Roads. I stayed in and watched Elementary.

Day 8 – Friday, February 28th

Kristen_SonyaOkay okay… I admit that I’m not a fan of the bus system in NYC. However, after I discovered the B48 (which I rode two days in a row), I will have to rethink my loathe of traveling to South Brooklyn. I didn’t know what to expect (from both the transit option and the bar) when I headed out to Glorietta Baldy for their Women+Beer First “event.” Turns out, it was more like a theme, with $1 off draughts, homebrew, and some amazingly cool women hanging out. I grabbed a seat at the bar, only to discover with great luck that I was sitting beside Allagash’s NYC rep, Kristen Demergian. I pretty much put shit out there (as anyone who knows me will testify), and it’s no bullshit when I say how much I love Allagash. As luck would have it, Kristen had something up her sleeve (okay, it was in her bag): an unlabeled bottle of the new year-round beer (their first since 2007), Allagash Saison. I haven’t sampled it yet, but it will be available on the market March 21st, just in time for spring!

After Kristen headed out for another event, I ended up talking to the So half of KelSo: Sonya Giacobbe was in the house, and even offered to save me from the bus ride home with a lift back to North Brooklyn (but I was able to find my way to the northbound B48 despite her kind offer). And the Internet is a strange thing: I’ve “known” Beerded Lady Hayley Karl, but this was the first time we’d met up face-to-face.

An awesomesauce time was had by all, I think (and I heard after 10 you really couldn’t get in the place, so I guess I left just at the right time).

Day 9 – Saturday, March 1st

Yesterday, I wrote all about this. Without a doubt, Saturday’s outing was one of those “I’ll never forget…” experiences. The lagering caves of Brooklyn tour led by Josh Bernstein was not just a geek out moment for beer lovers, but a truly historical tour that harkened back to a simpler time. Of course, no cell service in the caves punctuated that.

Afterwards, I headed out with Good Beer’s Matt Cincotta to Fourth Avenue Pub, where I drank some of the same Peekskill brews that were being poured from the tanks when I visited the brewery in January.

Day 10 – Sunday, March 2nd

Went out for Bloody Marys early, came home, took a nap, stayed up too late watching the least interesting (and most predictable) Oscars ever. But at least Ellen didn’t drive me to drink.

Cheers to another NYC Beer Week that came to a close just in time for March Madness!

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.