The bulk of New York’s beer elite converged upon Williamsburg’s eminent Brooklyn Brewery early September to promote the 3rd Annual NY Craft Beer Week, Sept. 24th through Oct. 3rd. Not only will $10 passports allow beer enthusiasts to sample one affordable $3 libation at over 100 craft beer destinations around the city, but it’ll also serve to educate the public through many Beer Pairing Menus over the ten-day period.
Gathering at Brooklyn Brewery’s tasting room for the pre-festival jaunt were several industry hotshots such as Yankee Brew News editor, Gregg Glaser, and our devoted toastmaster, Garrett Oliver. Large brew tanks at the side entrance welcomed guests to the brick-walled taproom, where exposed wooden beams and ducts provide a rustic warehouse feel, tripled by the recently acquired 14,000 square foot space next door (adjacent to prevalent multi-venue Brooklyn Bowl).
Oliver alluded to Brooklyn Brewery’s inconspicuous opening after an informal meet and greet. The pioneering brewer recalled his days at a defunct Manhattan brewery a decade after New York’s stalwart Rheingold and Schaefer breweries shut down. Though humbled at being part of Williamsburg’s recent arts renaissance, the cordial Brooklyn brewer warrants merit. Alongside an ascending indie rock scene that’s second to none, he’s clearly revived the Big Apple’s brew crew. In 1900, 48 breweries existed in New York City, then Prohibition reared its ugly head, and by 1980 none were left. However, new-sprung brewers, Kelso and Sixpoint, have helped Brooklyn’s revitalization.
“In 1994, nobody was on the streets. Tumbleweeds were rolling by,” Oliver reminisces about the once-dangerous neighborhood that’s now part of north side King County’s booming Renaissance.
It’s no surprise Brooklyn Brewery held NY Craft Beer Week’s press party at the old matzo ball factory they’ve occupied since 1996. There are few national competitors that boast such an arsenal of finely designed brews. Some that do— Victory, Lagunitas, Stone, Avery, Dogfish Head, will be celebrated for Craft Beer Week. Each brewery represents what’s best about the unmitigated entrepreneurial spirit of America.
Take tonight’s waggish high-profile guest, Jeremy Cowan, for example. Using his Jewish heritage as comical fodder for beer monikers, his decade-plus Shmaltz Brewing Company started as “a little experiment out in San Francisco” before ultimately bringing his venerable “ancient Middle East beer recipes to Brooklyn.” He shared nascent memories with the crowd while promoting Geektoberfest, the official Craft Beer Week offering limited-edition anniversary ale, Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah.
Getting to the event early, I casually relished four inaugural host brews before the mad rush began. My complimentary glass captured excellent Brooklyn brews such as Mexicali-styled, orange-spiced, wood-hopped Sabroso Light Pils, San Diego-styled pine-sappy red-fruited Detonation IPA, and oatmeal raisin-prompted Cookie Jar Porter.
Meat Hook, located beneath nearby Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, supplied quality hot dogs, sauerkraut, and beef jerky for the delighted throng. Greenwich Village-bound Murray’s Cheese brought delicious taleggio-gruyere beer pairings.
After munching down, I quaffed several newly discovered brews soon to be featured at Beer Craft Week. First, representing the South was Florida’s Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, a pine-spruced pear-browned apple-spiced bitter. Out of the Midwest came Goose Island Fleur, a soft-watered, prickly-hopped, hibiscus-flowered, high-end Belgian knockoff. Exemplifying the Northeast were Pennsylvania’s Victory Saison du Buff (an herbal Stone-Dogfish Head collaboration delegate Bill Covaleski claims will take your mind on an excursion); Maine’s Allagash Black Belgian-Style Stout (a dramatic, chocolate-spiced, tar-charred espresso alternative); and Cooperstown’s Ommegang Cup O Kindness (a malt-smoked, meat-cured, Belgian-styled Scotch ale curiosity).
A myriad of restaurant-bars will serve Beer Craft passport holders’ exclusive specials for the extended autumnal week. Participating eateries include Arctica Bar & Grill (featuring Magic Hat Brewery), Bar Great Harry’s (Captain Lawrence), Austin’s Steak & Alehouse (Chelsea Brewing), Blind Tiger (Sixpoint), Coco 66 (Kelso), D.B.A.’s (Stoudt’s/Stone), Jimmy’s No. 43 (The Bruery), and David Copperfield’s (Ommegang). Also, beer menu specials by Zagat-approved establishments Blue Smoke, Café D’Alsace, Delmonico’s Resto, Mel’s Burger Bar, and others fill out the busy week.
Tribeca Grill’s Annual Harvest Beer Dinner, set for September 30th, features ‘appearances by’ Shmaltz’s Human Blockhead, Sword Swallower, and Heather Holiday. For a neat turnabout, NYC Brewer’s Choice will host rare small-batch beers the same day in an intimate VIP-ticketed affair at City Winery.
Like New York City itself, it’s all too much for any individual to take in whole. But the affordable $10 passport coupons are well worth the price. Regularly priced craft beers usually go for $6 and up so consuming six libations over the course of an afternoon bar hop costs $18, half the price.
NY Craft Beer Week is a must for venturing brewhounds. Get your (gl)ass there.