NYC Craft Beer Week: a citywide beer festival in all but name, craft beer lovers from all over the country flocked to this 10-day celebration to taste the best beers in NYC and the Northeast. There were beer dinners, brewers’ conventions and of course, a massive array of specialty beers on tap. Many were available only for the festival, like Speakeasy‘s keg of Black & White Cookie, made in honor of the iconic New York treat. One of the highlights of the week was seeing just how many different types of beer bars the city has to offer.
Beer pairs wonderfully with many classic New York foods like hot dogs, pizza and burgers, but what surprised us most was how many restaurants have taken to beer as a staple ingredient. No longer just for battering pub fare, we tasted beer in everything from hoppy pork marinades to tiramisu infused with stout. With so many styles to choose from, beer is holding its own as a truly versatile ingredient we’re sure to see more of.
While the beer food was great to try, at the centerpiece of it all was the drinking. If you were in attendance, we hope you were able to try some of these incredible beers too, but if not, make sure to look out for them on your next trip out east. Here are our top 10 beers of the week:
- 508 Gastrobrewery: Szechuan Paradise
My favorite beers are the ones that make you immediately think of the food they would pair with. This saison is brewed with fiery Szechuan peppercorns and earthy, gingery grains of paradise. I found it especially refreshing even for its nearly 9% ABV. It could definitely hold its own paired with a spicy Asian feast.
- Stillwater Artisanal Ales: Sensory Series V.1 Lower Dens
Stillwater Brewer and former techno DJ Brian Stumpke wants to show the world that brewing is an art, just like music. He’s off to a great start with this collaboration with Baltimore-based band Lower Dens. Inspired by their song “In The End Is The Beginning,” this ale, brewed with hibiscus is, as Strumpke puts it “white but not bright.” It features a little smoke and the perfect amount of floral spiciness. Looking forward to the next in the series!
- Smuttynose Brewing Company: Bloom
This is a saison made with 14 different edible flowers, the second collaboration between Smuttynose and the Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, NH. The Trumpet’s staff grew and picked all the flowers for this special beer. The nose is insanely floral and the taste is overall refreshing. Part of a 1000-bottle short series, this is definitely worth seeking out and drinking fresh. Maybe bring that special lady a “bouquet?”
- Pilsner Urquell Brewery: Pilsner Urquell
The definitive classic Czech pilsner gets a makeover, not with a change of ingredients, but by the aerated quadrunner draft system at NYC restaurant Hospoda, which dispenses four different lengths of foam. Cool, right? The classic crème pour is half-foam, half-pilsner, effectively smoothing out some of the pilsner bitterness one might encounter in the bottle. This was the very first European beer I ever tried as a teenager (shhh…) but having it fresh was like tasting it again for the first time, only better.
- Brooklyn Brewery: Black Chocolate Stout
I’ve associated BBCS with food ever since it was featured on the Iron Chef: Battle Beer. Another great “sweet” pour from our trip to Hospoda served with nearly three quarters foam (!) the result is more creamy dessert drink than conventional beer. I thought it a great way to introduce non-stout-drinkers to an impressively versatile style — all the more reason to Czech it out!
- Wandering Star Brewing Company: Bert’s Disqualified Imperial Stout
This Russian Imperial Stout from the Pittsfield, MA nanobrewery was definitely a NYC Brewers’ Choice highlight. As the story behind the name goes, it won the 2011 NYC Homebrew Competition but was disqualified for leaving a label on the competition bottle. The 9.5% ABV is very well-hidden under dark chocolate and smoke. An excellent nanobrewery to look out for on taps around NYC and New England.
- KelSo of Brooklyn: Oak-Aged Flemish Red
Flemish Red is a style we just don’t see enough of in American beers, especially in the NYC area. I thought KelSo pulled off this take on a traditional sour extremely well (much, MUCH more on sour beers right here). It’s aged for a year and a half in stainless steel, and another 8 months in oak — it takes time to make great beer. This Flemish Red would surely impress alongside some of the Belgian greats. For fans of Rodenbach or newcomers to the style, this is definitely one to seek out.
- Carton Brewing Company: G.O.R.P.
When I heard about this release, my inner mountaineer from childhood summers spent hiking in Vermont came rushing back (with a fake I.D.). I could practically smell the fresh pine, though there’s none of that in this beer: this brew’s is all about the trail mix. G.O.R.P. stands for “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts,” and this drinkable version has all that and more. It’s made with dehydrated peanut butter (PB2) with chocolate and raisins, and the flavors live up to the name. Get on this trail.
- Kuhnhenn Brewing Company: A Few Shillings Too Many
One of the best parts of NYC Beer Week is, of course, bars tapping special kegs. Scotch ales aren’t my favorite style, so when I enjoy one, as I did with A Few Shillings Too Many, it has to be really good. The monster 12.5% ABV from Michigan’s Kuhnhenn was almost unnoticeable and vanilla, bourbon and dark fruits make this a perfect nightcap (and pairs really well with a game of late night Pac-Man at Barcade).
- Blind Bat Brewery: Vlad the Inhaler
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the name (can you blame me?), but props to the bar staff at the award-winning Alewife in Long Island City for insisting I try this incredible little beer. Vlad is a Grodziskie-style smoked wheat ale, practically extinct in its native Poland but (thankfully) very much alive around these parts. The taste might catch you off-guard, as it’s a perfect balance of smoke and apple/lemon tartness, but at only 4% ABV the Inhaler is something that I could drink all day. My biggest surprise of the week.
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