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!

 

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.

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!

Welcome to NYC Beer Week! 61 Local Celebrates 2nd Anniversary

DSCN2845While we think every day is a craft beer day in NYC, the official NYC Beer Week is here, and we’re offering suggestions on where to go and what to do. The big event for today is at 61 Local, where they will be celebrating their 2nd anniversary with a party, raffle and general great community vibe from 5-9 p.m. (and beyond, we’re guessing).

The first thing you’ll probably notice about 61 Local upon entering it is ALL. THAT. SPACE. Even though it’s in Brooklyn (very conveniently located, too, because those in the “know” know the G Train is the best kept north-to-south Brooklyn secret, and 61 Local is steps away from the Bergen Subway stop on the G Train), the high ceilings and clean open floor plan gives a new name to spaciousness. In fact, the space continues to a second floor, where 61 Local often hosts film screenings, book readings and other community-centric events.

61 Local also defies definition. Have a teetotaler in your life? No worries at 61 Local, which has a full coffee bar to complement its many local draft beer offerings. They were among three bars city-wide to get a keg of Blue Point Barrier Brewing relief beer, Surge Protector, for example. They also offer a clever array of “sandwiches” and “non-sandwiches” to nosh on (their chili is to die for!).

Among their community partnerships are BK FarmyardsBrooklyn Soda Works, and Cut Brooklyn, all of which will be featured at tonight’s 2nd anniversary celebration. In fact, the bar/coffee shop/community hang-out will be serving up Brooklyn Soda Works shandies, raffling off a one-of-a-kind knife (Cut Brooklyn is the exclusive provider of cutlery at 61 Local), with all proceeds going to BK Farmyards.

Without a doubt, 61 Local is everything a quintessential Good Beer Seal bar should be. And NYC Beer Week dovetails nicely with their 2nd anniversary party, so be sure to check them out!