Blue Point Sale to Anheuser-Busch: Mixed Feelings

If Anheuser-Busch had purchased Blue Point a few years ago, our reaction would have been a lot like what many craft beer fans have been tweeting. “How could they do this? We’re never drinking Blue Point beer, ever again!” we would have said. But hearing this news today, we have mixed feelings.

Blue Point Brewing Company is the largest craft brewery on Long Island, where we grew up. It was the first brewery we ever visited, even before we started BeerUnion. It’s part of New York beer history, and will remain that way. It’s just now owned by a giant corporation.

The fact is, Blue Point is a business. Mark Burford and Peter Cotter started it from nothing and grew it from the ground up. They have now sold that business, for what we assume to be a nice profit. By many accounts, Blue Point is an American success.

Will we drink Blue Point beer again? Of course. It’s still a New York brewery, and we write about beer in New York. But given the choice between Blue Point and a brewery not owned by Anheuser-Busch? We will choose the latter.

This is going to keep happening, folks. Craft beer is eating into big beer’s market share. Sales of craft are increasing, while sales of big beer are decreasing. It makes sense for Anheuser-Busch to buy historic and beloved craft brands. We saw it with Goose Island, and we’re seeing it with Blue Point, and we’ll see it again, and again.

But we don’t think Burford and Cotter are evil because they sold their business. They established a strong presence in a growing industry, and have profited from it.

It’s good for them, but it does make us a little sad. One of the reasons we love and support craft breweries is because they’re locally owned businesses. Drinking beer made in New York supports New York. So we’ll continue to do so. Keeping in mind that while drinking Blue Point beer supports Anheuser-Busch, it still also supports people who work on Long Island.

Bets on which New York brewery will be bought next?

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The NY Beer Guide for Thanksgiving

As you get ready for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here are some New York beers to pick up that will make spending time with family and friends that much more enjoyable.

Ithaca Cold Front – Ithaca’s Fall seasonal combines a Belgian yeast strain with roasted grains for a deep brown color and sweetness that balances the spice character of the yeast. Pair this one with stuffing (particularly if there is sausage in it) or roasted vegetables.

Rockaway ESB – This is a good example of a traditional English style that would be easily accessible for family and friends that you’re introducing to craft beer. The moderate hop bitterness is kept in balance by toasted and toffee malt flavors, making the brew easy to pair with most dishes on a traditional Thanksgiving table.

Ommegang Rare Vos – We suggest bringing large bottles of Rare Vos with you. Champagne-like bottles capture the attention of those who who aren’t familiar with craft beer, and are definitely a crowd pleaser when you pop the cork. Rare Vos has a medium body and considerable carbonation to help keep things light on the palate. The use of orange peel and coriander combined with the Belgian yeast character give a spiciness that should go well with your turkey and sweet potatoes.

Sixpoint Autumnation – Though Sixpoint is a fall seasonal, you’ll still be able to find cans on beer store shelves. The intense resinous hop flavors will keep the hop heads you know happy, and the beer suits the season.

Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious – The Westchester brewery aged its tripel in apple brandy barrels, giving the beer a well rounded fruitiness with sometart apple flavors underneath. Pair this with your deserts especially your pies: apple, pumpkin and pecan.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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KelSo Pilsner Can Misses the Mark

KelSo Beer Co. joined a growing craft beer trend this month with the release of its pilsner in 12 ounce cans. In most cases we think the canning wave has been a good one for craft beer with its protection from light, and the fact that cans don’t weigh as much as bottles. Craft beer cans are also fun conversation starters: “I’ve never had a beer this good out of a can!” So we were pretty excited when we heard that KelSo Pilsner, brewed in Brooklyn, would also be canned at Greenpoint Beerworks in Brooklyn on a mobile canning line from Iron Heart Canning. This past week we picked up a six pack at Prospect Heights Beer Works and hurried home to taste the only beer that’s been canned inside city limits.

The can touts a beer with a “spicy nose, slightly sweet, with a dry finish” but it seemed to be missing the dry finish and was dominated by the sweetness that threw off faint herbal notes from the hops. We were hoping for the clean snappiness of the Pilsner on draft. It might be worth waiting for the Nut Brown Lager and IPA that KelSo plans to can in the months ahead.

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Session IPAs

IPAs have been on a tear in the craft beer community for the past few years. Hoppy IPAs can be great summer brews with floral aromas and crisp bitterness. The intense bitterness in IPAs or other hoppy beers is often accompanied by higher alcohol content from using more grain to help balance the beers out. Many breweries have an imperial version and they can be among the most highly touted beers around – think Pliny from Russian River or 120 Minute from Dogfish Head. They can be delicious but also intensely boozy with ABVs in the double digits. A new trend is emerging with breweries looking to highlight the hop character of IPAs without the heavy hitting alcohol levels, creating session IPAs.

One of the most popular is All Day IPA from Founders Brewing in Michigan but local breweries seem to be taking up the call with some of the tastiest beers around. Boat Beer from Carton Brewing in New Jersey (below) was a hit in New York City last year for its bright snappy citrus flavors and a manageable 4.2% alcohol. Barrier Brewing in Oceanside New York keeps their Unimperial IPA to 4% ABV but still gets some intense bitterness in the pint. Brooklyn Brewery is joining in with Scorcher #366, a hoppy pale ale which will be released next week and celebrates the new hop variety #366 and weighs in at 4.5% ABV. 

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Brooklyn’s Dry Irish Stout in Bottles

Brooklyn Brewery’s Dry Irish Stout, normally a draft-only beer served from January through March, will be available to take home in a 12oz bottle format. As the brewery states, the roasty and smooth stout is good pairing for oysters, burgers, and of course corned beef and cabbage. The beer is not only a great example of a local dry stout but also one of the closest things to a winter seasonal since it does not become available until January and is gone by spring.


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Pairing Beer with a Tri-Tip Steak

Dave Kassling, owner of Tri-Tip Grill (which has locations in Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center) generously gave us a couple of tri-tip steaks to experiment with beer pairings. This weekend we made up the steaks. They’re already rubbed, smoked and charred when you get them, and come with instructions on how to cook them to medium rare. We picked a few beers based on experience and recommendations from readers. Belgian styles and IPAs were among the most popular so we chose a few different local or regional beers and a Trappist beer to try out with the steak.

We tried a Westmalle Dubbel, Southampton Burton IPA, Ommegang Rare Vos and Harpoon Leviathan Quad with the meat, and here are our assessments:

Westmalle Dubbel: At first we thought this would be the winner because the effervescence of the beer would cut through the richness of the steak while there would be enough flavor to stand up to the steak.  The dark fruit and clove flavors of the beer went surprisingly well with the char on the meat at first, but it left a strange aftertaste with the smokiness.

Southampton Burton IPA: We picked this beer for the earthy hop bitterness and the solid malt backbone. It turned out to be too bitter for the steak and blew the flavors off the palate. We still like the beer but it just didn’t work well as a pairing.

Ommegang Rare Vos: Perfectly complementary. The effervescence from the Belgian yeast cut through the fat of the steak while the slight spice and understated hop bitterness complimented the char and smoke from the meat.

Harpoon Leviathan Quad: Too strong and overpowering for the meat. Again, the dark fruit flavors mixed with the smoke flavors in a strange way we didn’t like. Clocking in at 11.75 percent ABV, the beer was just too big.

The winner? Ommegang Rare Vos!

Photos by Michael Gallagher

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Cider and Craft Beer

Cider has been getting a lot of attention lately as a follow up to the craft beer surge in recent years. There is a Cider Week (similar to Craft Beer Week) going on right now in New York City and even a well-known brewer like Greg Hall (formerly of Goose Island) crossed over with his new company Virtue Cider. This week the Tour de France restaurant group is featuring cider as part of its Apple, Sausage, and Beer festival by pairing one of the dishes with Docs Draft Cider. But not the whole craft beer community is supportive of the cider trend. Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy commented to the Brewers Association in May that “we don’t need cider…but that’s just my opinion.”

Do the similarities between the craft beer and cider trends mean there should be more collaboration and attention given to each other? Or should the craft beer business be treating cider like just another beverage option and leave it up to consumers to find their way?

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Beer we got in Chicago

Two weeks ago we took a mini-road trip to Chicago for a wedding. So many people thought we were crazy for driving, but it was actually quite pleasant. We stopped in Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along the way.

The Midwest is a great place to go to try new beers. The region is teeming with great brews that never make it to New York City. Because we drove we had the opportunity to bring back beer in the car, and we sure loaded up.

For beer shopping we went to a Binny’s Beverage Depot in the South Loop area of Chicago. We were like kids in a candy store. So many beers! Only so much room to bring them back.

We settled on a mix of old favorites and ones we hadn’t tried. We came home with Bells Two Hearted and Kalamazoo Stout, New Belgium Fat Tire, Half Acre Daisy Cutter,  Revolution Brewing Octoberfest (in cans) and Pipeworks Brewing End of Days.

Next road trip? Michigan or Wisconsin.

What are your favorite beer states?

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Beer and Fig Pairing

For Labor Day we visited the Annese parents home on Long Island and went foraging in their garden. We came back to Brooklyn with a bountiful harvest of figs, tomatoes and cucumbers. The figs, when plucked from the tree and eaten right away essentially tasted like juicy candy, and we immediately wanted to try out a beer and fig pairing. We were inspired by last week’s beer and cheese event at the Brooklyn Brewery to go outside the box when thinking about matching beer with food. Instead of choosing something sweet like a Belgian Quad (we thought about a Rochefort or one of the Harpoon Leviathan Quads that we have in the fridge) we went with a Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait from Belgium and an 8 Wired Saison Sauvin from New Zealand to accompany the fruit.

Both beers are delicious in their own right. The gueze was a surprisingly mellow version of a normally intense sour style. The saison was a subtle combination of citrus and tropical fruit from the hops with the slightly funky and earthy yeast flavors. We thought that they would each would give a nice contrast to the super-sweetness of the figs. The saison worked well with the fruit; it had just enough bitterness and effervescence to accompany the sweet figs and not overpower them. We missed on the geuze pairing, however. Despite being mellow for its style, the beer is still bracingly tart and ended up blowing the fig taste off our palates. We saved the geuze for after the experiment; it worked quite nicely as a finisher for the evening.

Have you had any impromptu pairings that either worked well or disappointed you? What were they?

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AleSmith IPA for #IPADay

Last year we acknowledged #IPADay by drinking through Sam Adams’s Latitude 48 deconstructed IPA limited release variety pack. Then we had a bunch of other IPAs. This year, we’re doing a little AleSmith IPA. Just the one bottle. Look how we’ve evolved (read: we’ve had too much drunkenness lately).

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