Our 5 Favorite Beers From This Weekend's NYC Craft Beer Winter Harvest

It was a perfect day for winter beer, and by that I mean it was freezing. On a Coors bottle, the mountains would have been blue. Thankfully, there was not a Coors in sight at the NYC Craft Beer Festival Winter Harvest over the weekend. Hundreds of people came out to Pier 36 to sample winter beers from 75 of the top craft breweries in the world.

Winter beers are often characterized by their full-bodied, plentiful malt, high alcohol content and seasonal spices. They are, in a word, bold. Stouts are as complex in color as in their bittersweet taste, amber bocks offer a taste into the classic hearty German style of brewing and double IPAs venture into unknown realms of hopped-up goodness. Each of these styles was on plentiful display.

Besides the beer, seminars were held throughout the day. Chef Stephen Durley and beer sommelier Hayley Jensen of Taproom No. 307 led a beer and food pairing, which included brussels sprouts with bacon and truffle salt paired expertly with a Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black IPA. Much to our surprise, we learned that hops too could be used for cooking; as in, Durley's favorite ingredient is hop salt. We're going to need to find out more about that.

Another excellent talk was led by Kevin Brooks, Head Monger at Murray's Cheese. The beer-and-cheese pairing was highlighted by Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, aged by the Cellars at Jasper Hill and paired with Maine Beer Co. Peeper Ale. Brooks even argued that the variety of flavors made beer the clear choice over wine in cheese pairing. I definitely wouldn't rule it out.

As the clock struck 4, the great exodus of red-faced individuals began. It was tough to leave all that great beer behind, but we learned a lot and hope to see you at next season's installment. Three (or more) cheers for NYC Craft Beer Festival Winter Harvest!

And as always, our top five beers sampled:

  1. Bourbon County Brand Stout: An imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and at 15% ABV, a great one to share. Seriously, don't try to pound a bottle to the face; it's a really bad idea.

  2. Founders Breakfast Stout: A double chocolate, coffee and oatmeal imperial stout. We hear this modern classic is great for breakfast, but probably better to wait for the weekend.

  3. Magic Hat Heart of Darkness: An English stout with a touch of bittersweet chocolate. Its low ABV makes this a sessionable stout from a great American brewing company you'll keep coming back to.

  4. Great Divide Brewing Company Titan IPA: An impressively well-balanced and drinkable IPA, with a high ABV and heavy citrus and caramel malt flavors.

  5. Tröegs Brewing Company Troegenator Double Bock: An amber version of the classic German style of malty lager. The high ABV is hidden well under layers of sweet dark fruits.

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