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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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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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Bethel Woods Craft Beer Festival

This past weekend we traveled to the Catskills for a short vacation. Since it’s pretty much impossible for us to go anywhere without participating in some sort of beer-related event, we went to the inaugural Bethel Woods Craft Beer Festival, which was held at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The Center is at the site where Woodstock took place.

The festival was a great showcase for New York beer, and we were happy to see breweries representing all regions of the state. Great NYC brews from Sixpoint, The Bronx Brewery and City Island Beer Company were poured. And we enjoyed beers from some of our favorite breweries outside the city: Rushing Duck, Peekskill, Middle Ages, Greenport Harbor, Ommegang, Upstate and Southern Tier.

It was a beautiful day and a great setting to imbibe some excellent brews.

Beer pasta.

Chocolate. Covered. Bacon.

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Beer Lover’s New York

Sometimes, amazing things happen. We are writing a book.

It’s called “Beer Lover’s New York” and it’s part of the Beer Lover’s series published by Globe Pequot Press, which already includes Colorado, Oregon and New England.

The book is a guide to beer in New York State, broken down by region. Each region will include breweries, brewpubs and bars. The book will also feature recipes for homebrews and foods made with beer in mind.

We’re traveling across New York (all the way to Southern Tier) from now to August, on weekends and holidays. We’d love for you to email us any suggestions on great places to visit!

To say we’re excited would be an understatement.

It’s because of you, readers, that we have this amazing opportunity. Thank you.

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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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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!

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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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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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