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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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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.

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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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Anyone brewed the White House beer?

Check out this New York Times story about Garrett Oliver experimenting with the White House homebrew recipe. According to Oliver, the beer “is not without complexity, and it’s an interesting, broad sort of bitterness… it’s perfectly balanced.”

Homebrewers out there: have you made the White House beer? What do you think?

 

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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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The Three Best Local Beers to Have This Summer

Now that summer has officially arrived (in all its hot, humid glory) we thought we would put together a list of three beers we think are best to have this season.

Greenport Harbor Brewing – Summer Ale 5.3% ABV
Super refreshing but still full of flavor, Greenport Summer Ale is brewed with some orange blossom honey and nicely hopped (lending a bright lemony flavor). Crisp and dry, it should be great with fresh summer dishes.

Brooklyn Brewery – Summer Ale (cans) 5% ABV
Brooklyn’s Summer Ale made the jump to cans last year and has been one of our summer go-to beers since. The canned version is extra crisp and snappy and lends itself easily to backyards and patios.

Captain Lawrence Brewing – Kolsch 5% ABV
It’s available year round but the summer is the best time of year for this beer. Light and refreshing with some slight fruitiness. A great local example of a classic German style.

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Surprise Visit to the Barley Creek Brewing Company

This past weekend we road-tripped up to Binghamton University to see our brother/brother-in-law graduate from college. Can everyone pause for a minute to appreciate the coolness of that sentence? He graduated from college!

Ahem. So on the way back, while driving through Pennsylvania looking for a place to eat dinner, we happened upon the Barley Creek Brewing Company.

We enjoyed a flight of beers, which included a Copper Top Ale, Rescue IPA, Cocoa Porter, and Spring Hop IPL (India Pale Lager). The Spring Hop IPL was our favorite of the bunch with a bright snappy hop character that was quite refreshing. Weighing in at 4.5% ABV the Spring Hop is a great session beer for the summer heat. The Cocoa Porter was dominated by sweetness and cocoa, definitely more appropriate for a cold, damp day. Both the Copper Top and the Rescue were well balance malt forward beers that would be easy to pair with the pub style fare served at the brewery.

A great place to enjoy beer and food while passing through the area.

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