Pilsner Urquell Dinner at Brooklyn Kitchen

Given the nature of what we do around here, we often get to do some fun things. Our book and book tour, for instance.

But every now and then we’re invited to something that’s so wonderfully out of the ordinary that we’re looking at each other thinking, this is bonkers.

Such was the case last month, when the fine folks at Pilsner Urquell asked us if we’d like to attend a beer dinner and butchering demonstration at The Brooklyn Kitchen with The Meat Hook. Um, yes.

Meat Hook founder Tom Mylan has just come out with a book, aptly titled The Meat Hook Meat Book. Before the dinner he took all of us through the steps of butchering half a pig. Then we feasted on some pork (not the same one).

Some people might get squeamish when they see where their meat comes from. And I can see how you’d feel that way. I guess it is easier not to imagine how cute the pig was before it was slaughtered and turned into that bacon and pork belly you’re eating. But this really was fascinating for us. It was also kind of eye opening. I mean, we’ve made pork tenderloin so many times, but never saw where it came from (spoiler alert, it’s in the pig’s back).

It’s not New York, and it’s not really craft. But sometimes there’s no better refreshment than a cool Pilsner Urquell. Especially when you’re about to eat a decadent meal of potato salad, sausage, porchetta and Mast Brothers chocolate cake.

And oh yea, The Brooklyn Kitchen. How have we never been there before? It’s one of those places where you can buy anything you didn’t know you needed. Cheese making kits, many different types of bitters, olive oils. Cooking classes and The Meat Hook butcher in the back.

Thanks, Pilsner Urquell. It was an awesome time.

Photos by Liz Clayman, courtesy of Pilsner Urquell

Like this:     Like this

Long Ireland Beer Company

This past weekend we went on the first stop of our brewery tour promoting our book Beer Lover’s New York. We spent Saturday afternoon at Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead, NY, on Long Island. Had some great beers and good beery conversation.

Long Ireland was started by Dan Burke and Greg Martin in 2009. They interned at New England Brewing Company before venturing out on their own, first contracting at New England and then Olde Saratoga. An expansion in 2010 allowed the pair to start brewing in their Riverhead location. Popular brews include the Celtic Ale, Breakfast Stout and a Pumpkin Ale made each fall with fresh pumpkins.

Big thanks to Greg and Dan for helping us with a successful book signing!

Like this:     Like this

Beer Sessions Radio

Hey folks! Hope you all had a great Beer Week. It was a busy, wonderful experience for us. Thanks to all who came out to our events!

Meanwhile, we’re continuing our book promotion. Yesterday we were on Beer Sessions Radio chatting with Jimmy Carbone, beer author Josh Bernstein, Chresten Sorensen from Maine’s Bunker Brewing Co., beer journalist Niko Krommydas, and Luke and Walte Dickson of Wicked Weed Brewing (who called in).

Take a listen to the episode here. And some snapshots are below:

Writers Josh Bernstein (left) and Niko Krommydas 

We brought Rushing Duck Dog’s Bollocks, an English Style Ale

Like this:     Like this

Harlem Brewing

With all the collaboration in the craft brewing industry sometimes it’s easy to forget that brewers are businesses in a competitive market. They battle it out in stores and bars for tap handles and shelf space. With this has come the occasional trademark dispute and New York breweries have participated in several this year. Earlier this year Narwhal Brewery changed its name to Finback Brewery (not open yet) after a trademark conflict with Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Stout; and Sixpoint Brewery issued a cease and desist to Renegade Brewing in Colorado for their canned beer Ryetous, which Renegade then changed to Redacted.

The latest dispute comes within the city itself as the NY Daily News reported this week. The long-established Harlem Brewing Company is butting heads with the upcoming Harlem Brew House. Harlem Brewing Company, based out of Harlem and brewed in Saratoga, produces Sugar Hill Golden Ale, while Harlem Brew House plans to brew Harlem Blue. Celeste Beatty, owner of Harlem Brewing Company claims this causes confusion between her upcoming Harlem Brew brand. It sounds as though the dispute may head to court with Julian Riley of Harlem Brew House claiming it is unreasonable to own a trademark on “Harlem.”

With more and more breweries popping up in the city we expect there to be more disputes of this kind, especially since breweries like to tie their brands to their locale. Hopefully disputes like these don’t undermine the collaborative efforts that so many breweries engage in.

Like this:     Like this

BeerUnion Bottle Openers

Here are BeerUnion we’re woefully in need of some branded swag. Don’t you think? Sometimes it’s hard to tell what type of item you’re going to get when you order it: could be exactly what you want, could be something cheap, and could be nothing like you imagined at all. Unfortunately this wisdom comes from our experience.

So when promotional products company Custom On It offered to send us a couple of branded bottle openers, we agreed, but kept our expectations neutral. Fortunately for us we weren’t disappointed! The bottle openers are hefty and strong, and our logo happens to look pretty awesome on them. Win.

And who knows? You may see some more useful items with our fine logo on them in the near future. Maybe even more bottle openers.

Like this:     Like this

The Blue Dot BeerUnion Hops Pendant

It’s always awesome to have talented and artistic friends.

This year for my birthday my great friend Caitlin made me a silver necklace with a hops cone pendant. Pause to think about how amazing that is: a hops pendant!

Caitlin designs and makes jewelry out of precious metal clay through her business Blue Dot Jewelry. She forms pieces in the clay and fires them off in the kiln. The clay is made of small particles of silver mixed with particles to bind it together. When fired, the binding particles burn away, and you’re left with pure silver.

We’ve decided to co-brand with Caitlin on the hops pendant necklace. Check it out here! Wear your love of beer around your neck.

You can find more of Caitlin’s designs on her website, at the Brooklyn Museum and at various boutiques and craft fairs throughout NYC, including the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair. A few of her pieces are also featured on Uncovet!

Like this:     Like this

There is great beer in New York.

“I thought starting a brewery was cool, but what you guys are doing, going around trying beer at all these breweries, that’s really cool.”

Mark Gillis, founder and brewmaster of Blue Line Brewery in Saranac Lake, said this to us. It is pretty cool. We’ve been having such a great time traveling across our home state for book research, visiting places we’ve never been to. And trying many, many New York beers.

Here is what we’ve discovered thus far: New York State is highly under-appreciated for its beer.

We get it, we really do. When you think of states with great beer, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Maine come to mind. And when you think of places to get great beer in New York, NYC and its surrounding areas would probably be your first choice.

We’re not sitting on high horses here. We were guilty of this too. But we can now tell you with absolute certainty that New York has amazing beers. There are breweries and brewpubs that stick with and work to perfect English styles. There are others that put their own spin on traditional beers, like making a sweet pale ale or a golden oat ale. Still others that innovate and experiment with interesting flavors and ingredients.

If you’re from a small town upstate you’re probably like, duh, we know this already. We’re glad. Our hope is that we can encourage people who stick to NYC and its surrounding areas – and also those who don’t think of New York as a place for great beer – to explore this state. We know you’ll find some great brews.

Follow our beer adventures on Twitter, hashtag #beerloversnewyork!

Greenport Harbor‘s Black Duck Porter.

Here I am climbing out of a brew kettle at Davidson Brothers Brewing Company.

Tap handles at Newburgh Brewing Company.

Like this:     Like this

Growing Hops

This is our hop plant. We have named her Eleanor. 

Wednesday evening the Brooklyn Brewery hosted a discussion on hops growing, featuring Jaclyn Van Bourgondien and Andrew Tralka, a husband and wife team who launched Farm to Pint in 2012, a hops farm in Peconic, Long Island.

In the late 1800s, 80 percent of all hops in the US were grown in New York State. It was interesting to hear Bourgondien and Tralka’s take on their desire to join the wave of people who are trying to make New York State the hops producer it once was.

“We’re re-learning the nature of how to do it,” said Van Bourgondien, who noted that the pair have learned the trade from farmers on West Coast and the few that do exist in New York.

Hops are vines that grow vertically and twist as they grow, called bines. To grow them, rhizomes (small pieces of roots that are cut from the root system of other hops) are planted, out of which sprout the new vines. Hops need full sun and can grow up to 12 inches per day. They wrap clockwise around coirs, long lengths of twine that stretch from the ground up to a trellis structure. Hop bines can grow upwards of 18 feet tall. At a hop farm, you’ll see rows and rows of hop bines, all climbing up coirs that are attached to a trellis, kept in place by large wooden posts.

“Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible,” Van Bourgondien continued. She and Tralka accomplish sustainability and eco-consciousness by using untreated wood for the posts and biodegradable coir made of coconut fiber.

Farm to Pint and is part of a movement of farmers and brewers committed to using as many local products as possible, encouraged by the Farm Brewery law, which went into effect this January. By using at least 20 percent of locally grown ingredients, a brewery can get a Farm Brewery license. In 12 years, that percentage will be up to 90.

“So 12 years from now you could choose to buy a New York beer,” said Van Bourgondien. “It’s pretty cool and exciting.”

It really is. But for now, we’re going to plant Eleanor, our Cascade hop plant, and see what happens.

Like this:     Like this

SlantShack Gift Certificate Giveaway!

As part of our partnership with SlantShack Jerky, today we’ve started a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate to their online store. It will run for two weeks, and to enter, share this Facebook post and comment that you’ve shared it. We’ll pick one winner. That’s it!

You can put it toward ready made jerky or customize your own. Delicious.

Be sure to read our feature on SlantShack here!

Like this:     Like this

Belated Thoughts on Beer Week

Well, readers, Beer Week came and went. And it was a pretty good time. Here are some of our thoughts about the best (read: drunkest) week of the year.

508 is here, y’all: Homebrewer (and saxophonist) Chris Cuzme took over brewing operations at 508 GastroBrewery in November. This beer week we got to taste 4 separate new 508 beers: Saxual Healing, Pompale, Hall Pass (below) and Szechuan Paradise Saison. All four were awesome. Cuzme was all over beer week, launching Saxual Healing and celebrating the inaugural use of his cask (dubbed Sir Cask-a-lot). We’re very much looking forward to see what else is going to come from Cuzme, and we think he’s one of the most exciting up-and-coming brewers in the city.

Nano and micro brewers abound: Rockaway Brewing Company beers were everywhere, as were those from SingleCut. City Island Beer Company in the Bronx launched its first beer, a pale ale, for Beer Week. And tiny Bridge and Tunnel Beer Company had a dedicated night at Jimmy’s No. 43. We’re happy to see all these small brewing businesses serve their beers, and even more are in the works. NYC is certianly on its way to becoming a beer destination.

Brewers Guild taking over: After four Beer Weeks with Josh Schnaffer and Chris Cuzme at the helm, this was the first under the direction of the NYC Brewers Guild (members pictured below). We had mixed feelings about the outcome. It’s a good feeling to have all these brewers in the city, for one, and also to see them coming together for a joint cause. The events we went to were pretty awesome. However, we were a little disappointed to not have a passport-type thing for this week. In previous years, we had used the passport as a guide to where the events were happening during the week, and didn’t even use any of the deals for the rest of the year. This year the Brewers Guild released an insert into the Village Voice with all the event listings. We didn’t have a chance to pick one up until halfway through the week, and it would have been much less convenient to carry around than the pocket-sized passport. We hope in future beer weeks there’s a small guide that can easily fit into a pocket or purse with all the events and participating bars.

At the closing party at Birreria, KelSo brewer (and VP of the Guild) Kelly Taylor said, “I’m optimistic for next year.” So are we! We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of NYC beer and watch it evolve.

Like this:     Like this