On a recent morning, Jimmy’s No. 43 owner, Jimmy Carbone reached out to me with a trifecta of good news: he had read and thoroughly enjoyed a feature I had written for Ale Street News on beer web series; he invited me to join him on an upcoming episode of his internet radio show, Beer Sessions Radio, recorded at Roberta’s in Brooklyn for the Heritage Radio Network; and he asked if I’d like to join the beer judging panel at his restaurant for the sixth annual Battle of the Belgians competition to be held that Saturday. Naturally, I accepted.
The judging panel, led by Gregg Glaser, gathered at Jimmy’s on Friday afternoon to taste and rate what turned out to be 28 Belgian and Belgian-style brews, including a mix of traditional Belgian and American Belgian-style ales, lambics and guezes. The panel included:
- Gregg Glaser, publisher, Modern Distillery Age and editor, Yankee Brew News
- Paul Zocco, owner of Zok’s Homebrewing & Winemaking Supplies in Willimantic, Conn.
- Heather McReynolds, a local brewer who recently left a position at Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery (she’s currently a “brewer for hire,” she said)
- Jonathan White, co-owner and cheesemaker/baker at Milford, N.J.’s Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse
- And myself, Cat Wolinski, freelance beer journalist and blogger
The beer judging panel split into two groups, the first, led by Glaser, tasting a majority of lambics and guezes and the second, led by Paul Zocco (and including myself) sampled a selection of Belgian-style blondes, saisons and tripels. Each group was tasked to select the top three beers in their category for a second round of six total beers to be included and judged in the final round. The following were the best Belgian beers, according to our expert panel:
- 1st Place: Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L’Ancienne, a blend of one- and two-year-old lambic fermented with fresh plums, hailing from Rebecq, Belgium
- 2nd Place: Cuvée Des Jacobins Rouge, a Flanders sour red ale by Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste in Bellegem, Belgium
- 3rd Place: Saison Dupont, the ultimate classic in Belgian saisons brewed by Dupont Brewery in Tourpes, Belgium.
The Crowd Speaks
Saturday’s event kicked off at 1pm, drawing in around 40 guests ready to cast their ballots of the best Belgian and Belgian-style brews in the show. To my surprise, attendees were not he usual suspects seen at New York beer events (AKA, not the usual beer nerds and reps I’m used to running into at beer events), but an eclectic group of personalities from the greater New York area who seemed, simply, to enjoy the finer things in life — along with learning about new beers.
This made for interesting Peoples’ Choice Awards results; the popular vote, as it turned out, varied completely from the selections of us judges the night prior.
The Peoples’ Choice Awards were as follows:
- Best American Belgian-Style: Trigger Rye by LIC Beer Project
- Best Belgian: Triporteur Full Moon 12 by Triporteur
- “Best in Show” (best overall): Dulle Teve 10 by De Dolle Brouwers
Among the other favorites that did not quite fit into the mix were Hitachino Saison du Japan (Jimmy’s favorite), Brouwerij Alvinne Wild West (Pat’s favorite, to a point of near-obsession), and my personal favorites, Crooked Stave Wild Sage Lambic, and Stillwater/Hof Ten Dormaal Arcana.
To learn more about the Battle of the Belgians and Jimmy’s No. 43, visit the website here — or drop into Jimmy’s in the East Village any day after 2pm (1pm on weekends). For photos of the event, see: Battle of the Belgians 2015 at Jimmy’s No. 43.
Photos by Patrick Phillips.