On Tuesday, the 24th of February 2015, the New York Brewers Guild held its fifth annual Brewers Choice event. Held at Sanders Studios in Clinton Hill, the warehouse space served as an apt setting for the evening where dozens of New Yorkers came out to sample the most creative concoctions from over 40 breweries. Many people active in the industry cite it as one of the biggest highlights of NYC Beer Week.
‘Beer Week is a microcosm of the NYC beer market, emphasized in a ten day period’, said Brewers Guild President Kelly Taylor of KelSo Brewing. ‘I’m a beer guy and the great thing about Beer Week is there is ample opportunity to try new stuff’. When asked about the surge of popularity in microbreweries in recent years, Taylor explained that New York City had in fact been lagging behind compared to other parts of the country.’ It started on the west coat in the late 1980s/early 1990s and worked its way to Chicago, Maine and Boston’, he said. ‘It took a little while for the breweries [in New York] to catch up. Kudos to them for hammering away.’
Jimmy Carbone, owner of the pub Jimmy’s No. 43 and host of Beer Sessions Radio, was another host in this year’s committee. He is also one of the co-founders of the Brewers Choice. Carbone said he was excited to see that the number of tables this year was more than double the number of last year’s. Held in high regard by many of the home-brewers in attendance, Carbone’s pub is often described as ‘the temple of craft beer of New York.’
Carbone is extremely active in the New York brewing community, offering his expertise and guidance to members of the NYC Homebrewers Guild, who were in attendance for the first time at Brewers Choice. Scott Rubel of Brewstoria in Queens emphasized the strong sense of community among home-brewers in New York. They come together for weekly and monthly meetings, inviting people from various parts of the industry to share ideas and talk beer.
Of the eight home-brewed beers available, the standout was Bitter and Esters’ ‘I’m Walking Here’ pale ale. Light hops and a good level of citrus made it very drinkable.
The smell of burning fire permeated through the packed house, which was abuzz. Many brewers were more than eager to talk the passion that unites them all. ‘It’s a great chance to see what everyone’s doing and see the whole community at once,’ said Damian Brown, co-president of The Bronx Brewery.
Some New York staples like Brooklyn Brewery did not even have to leave their borough to come out for the night. Others, like Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, traveled all the way from Montreal to let New Yorkers sample their Happy Imperial Stout, which stood out for its chocolatey bitterness.
One of the most exciting parts of 2015 Beer Week was the Smash Brew Project; various breweries were given the opportunity to choose from three different hops and three different malts and make a brew highlighting their own creativity.
While some breweries were glad to be invited back, the Gun Hill Brewing Company celebrated its first year at the event. Their Ruby Rye smash was refreshing, flavorful and undoubtedly one of the night’s most delicious offerings. Transmitter also stood out for its New York One smash, featuring a high percentage of rye that lent a surprising peanut taste.
One of the night’s most unique concoctions was the Funky Jubilation from Shmaltz. Infused with fig and plum, the tart cherry acidity made it go down light like a cider. Green Flash Brewing from San Diego left their mark with their Duet Alpine Ale, which tasted like a delicious mouthful of beer-soaked pine needles. KelSo’s Edible Ale was one of the least showy beers, and also one of the best. Simple, clean, and straight-forward. Lucas Lanci, a buyer for Eataly in New York City, listed La Bierra, Grimm Artisan Ales and White Birch Brewing as his top picks for the night.
As an added plus, patrons didn’t have to drink on an empty stomach. Taco Santo had a line across the room all night long, while Copps Island Oysters served mouth-watering raw oysters. Boblink, a dairy farm and bakery from Milford, New Jersey, treated visitors to a generous spread of sharp cheese, rich pâté, and outstanding cranberry walnut bread.
Kelly Taylor said that those interested in getting the most out of New York beer can look forward to a Brewers Guild app in the near future. Taylor believes that if people are starting to perceive foods grown locally as more flavorful and more interesting, beer should be of the same standard. ‘It’s a negligible price difference for a whole other world of flavor.’
By Will Speros
Will Speros is a student at Fordham University in the Bronx studying journalism. He enjoys attending films and concerts and maintains active interests in culture and politics.