SMaSH Beers to Look Out for During NYC Beer Week (February 19 to 28, 2016)

Flint of Rockaway and Eric of Coney Island

Flint Whistler of Rockaway Brewing Co. and Eric Hernandez of Coney Island Brewery.

NYC Beer Week kicks off this Friday, February 19 at 7pm with the “SimulTap,” or simultaneous tapping, of New York City beers, each brewed specially for  Beer Week as part of a 10-day celebration of New York beer. Though the SimulTap marks the start of Beer Week every year, this year’s holds special significance because it will feature 15 NYC brewers’ beers made with State Malt and State Hops, being referred to as “SMaSH beers,” spotlighting local ingredients sourced right here in New York. NYC Beer Week is organized by the New York City Brewers Guild.

Note: SMaSH usually stands for “Single Malt and Single Hop,” meaning one type of malted barley or other malted grain and one type of hop are used in the brewing process. In this case, it stands for State Malt and State Hops. Three types of New York malt and three New York-grown hops were used to brew the NYC Beer Week SMaSH beers.  Continue reading


NYC Beer Week 2016: Brewers to Look for and Beers to Drink

NYC Beer Week  2016 (Feb. 19 – 28) is almost upon us. With less than two weeks to go, it’s time to start planning which beers to seek out, many brought to you by the ever-growing and awesome group of talented New York City brewers. Lucky for all of us, some of us were clued in to what will be pouring throughout the 10-day “week” of incredible local beers.

The recommendations below include beers poured at the NYC Beer Week 2016 press preview held at Flatiron Hall on Jan. 27, 2016. Several of these breweries will also be debuting SMaSH beers on Feb. 19 during the city-wide SimulTap, or simultaneous tapping of State Malt and State Hop beers brewed specially for NYC Beer Week. Possibly the best lineup of these (10 SMaSH beers on tap) will be tapping at Banter on Feb. 19, but you can find them throughout the city and week in small quantities. Continue reading

My Year in Beer – 27 Best Beer Moments of 2015

(L to R): Cat Wolinski, Beer Affair and Pat Phillips, cameraman and co-founder of Team Biscuit Films check to make sure they are really here.

It’s time for some BeerAffair birthday reflection.

Today is my birthday. Although it feels narcissistic and ridiculous to celebrate the day, unbeknownst to you, a woman decided to push you into the world, it’s also a day to give yourself a pat on the back for making it another year. For me, this year was one of transition, and between New Year’s and the 21st, I’ve taken a bit of time to reflect on what’s happened in my beer life here during my twenty seventh year on Earth.

27 Best BeerAffair moments of 2015, in roughly chronological order:

  1. Finally becoming a full-time freelancer, devoting myself to the two most meaningful crafts in my life: writing and beer.
  2. Helping launch an app, Happy any Hour, which left me on my ass almost as soon as it appointed me a core member of its team (#startuplife)
  3. Brewing what’s still my favorite homebrewed beer, the Pot that Called the Kettle Black IPA, a black IPA we (Pat and I) crafted with our good friends, Chuck and Chelsey.
  4. Attending Chris O’Leary’s (AKA Brew York‘s) bottle share and blind tasting of IPAs, an intimate and gustatorily stimulating beer affair.
  5. Taking our first trip to Portland, Oregon, where we visited 15 breweries in 5 days, recorded video interviews with Ex Novo Brewing Co., Baerlic Brewing Co. and Base Camp Brewing Co., and experienced the magic of the Pacific Northwest coastline at Pelican Pub & Brewery.
    Pelican Pub and Brewery
  6. Curating and copywriting the first-ever Queens Beer Book, a guide to the craft beer bars, breweries and beer-centric eateries of Long Island City, Astoria, Ridgewood, Forest Hills and further neighborhoods in Queens.
  7. Being interviewed for TV about the Queens Beer Book for NY1.
  8. Being quoted by Ale Street News editor, Tony Forder in his editorial column, “What is Craft Beer?”

    “From a craft beer-crazed Millennial to the Curmudgeons of Craft, thank you for your early and continuing insights on this awe-inspiring, exciting, absurd, barrier-breaking beverage. ‘Craft beer,’ as it is so ubiquitously named despite its may nuances, is changing and growing as fast as (is not faster than) we can drink it, tweet it or blog about it. Yet even in this super-saturated, media darling market, we must turn to the ‘Legends of Liquid’ to remind us that what we’re drinking is history in motion, and it would do us good to stop and smell the hops every once in a while. This is what craft beer means to me. Thanks for the moment of reflection.”

  9. Camping at Indian Ladder Farms with Other Half Brewing Co. & friends.
  10. Traveling to Montréal for Mondial de la Bière, a worldly festival that introduced us to a theretofore unknown palate pleasing plethora of Quebec-brewed beers.

    Pat sips on LTM's Le Meilleur Des 2 Mondes, a double IPA/Baltic porter blend served on cask.

    Pat sips on LTM’s Le Meilleur Des 2 Mondes at Mondial de la Bière, 2015.

  11. Attending our first American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Rally at Keegan Ales in Kingston, N.Y.
  12. Publishing my first piece for Thrillist, a guide to drinking day trips in N.Y.
  13. Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC), always a favorite, but especially this year, our first year attending the VIP dinner as press, seated at the table with Ommegang brewmaster, Phil Leinhart, with Tony Forder on my right, and interviewing Phil Leinhart for a future story I hadn’t pitched yet.
  14. Publishing my first piece for Ale Street News, a BCTC recap.
  15. Spending the summer working part-time as copywriter of Brooklyn Brew Shop, where I met awesome people, edited a ton of blog posts, and made a really great beer with the girls’ team — Honey, I Ain’t Got No Figgin’ Thyme for That! (A Belgian-style blonde brewed with honey, caramelized figs, orange peel and thyme.)
  16. Drinking an Otter Creek on Otter Creek.
  17. Signing on as the first Craft Beer Correspondent for Eventbrite Rally.
  18. Interviewing Julia Herz, whose many accolades inspired this story.
  19. Publishing my first long feature in Civil Eats, the James Beard Foundation Publication of the Year, about bringing hops back to New York StateIMG_1030
  20. Taking my first trip to Belgium with my partner in BeerAffair and life itself, Patrick Phillips. Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, and various villages in Poperinge…

    -Staying on an artist’s houseboat for three days in Amsterdam, with all the beer, cheese and chocolate we could imagine
    -Attending the Modeste Festival in Antwerp, meeting Belgian Family Brewers like Brasserie de Blaugies
    -Taking a late night trek in the rain to Kulminator, an impossibly magical beer cellar helmed by an old Belgian couple, and drinking a 27-year-old lambic

    -Hopping in the van of the owner of Belgium’s best lambic bar, who delivered us to the world famous Cantillon Brewery 

    -Staying at St. Bernardus brewery, a bed and breakfast and the most beautiful, profoundly quiet countryside on the Belgian-French border.
    De la Senne, De Struise and 3 Fonteinen…and finally…
    -Sipping the sweet St. Sixtus Abbey’s Westvleteren 12, voted “the best beer in the world”

  21. Attending the premiere of First We Feast’s‘s That’s Odd…Let’s Drink It!, where I met and interviewed Sam Calagione for my next Ale Street News piece: the Rise of the Beer Web Series.
  22. Appearing in an episode of That’s Odd…Let’s Drink It! with Other Half.
  23. Being appointed as a beer judge for the sixth annual Battle of the Belgians.
  24. Being quoted amongst admired New York beer experts in First We Feast‘s Best New Beers of 2015.
  25. Finding out my parents went to a beer shop, the Craft Beer Cellar in Port Washington, Long Island — special thanks to Darwin Goh (Darwin’s Beer Reviews) for showing them the way!
  26. Being selected as the new NYC columnist for Ale Street News.
  27. And finally, meeting Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin at Tørst, and telling him I chose his and Two Roads’ Geyser Gose as best beer of the year.

And a bonus no. 28: finishing signups for the 2016 Brooklyn Beer Book, on sale in February!

BeerAffair AHA Rally

Thanks for making it to the end of this gratuitously lengthy #humblebrag!


There’s Finally an LGBTQ Group for Craft Beer Lovers in NYC

LGBT Craft Beer

For many craft beer drinkers, it’s not hard to find a bar where one is immediately at ease, knowing that beer brethren and sistren are nearby to talk hops, barley or brettanomyces. Bars specializing in craft beer abound in New York City; apps like Untapped and Instagram connect craft beer lovers at astoundingly specific points of interest; festivals occur frequently across the country; and there seems to be a meetup group for every beer drinker, whether you’re a bottle sharing single dad in Brooklyn or a young woman with a penchant for artisanal ales.

But for some, the craft beer community leaves something to be desired: a designated group for LGBTQ beer fans, where non- hetero, binary or cis identifications are overtly accepted and celebrated. Here, members would feel they were among their kindred spirits as beer lovers, with the added comfort of a common bond.

In Long Island City, Queens, Alexa Blair Wilkinson is filling that void with NYC LGBT Craft Beer, a Meetup group created in partnership with well-known craft beer bar, Alewife. Wilkinson, who describes herself on the Meetup page as a “craft beer nerd with the heart of a unicorn,” is also an executive chef and certified Cicerone, a professional credential for serving beer and pairing it with food, similar to a wine sommelier.

Says Wilkinson in the NYC LGBT Craft Beer description, “Whether it’s friendship, a spark, a bottle share, or some nerdy yeast loving talk…this meetup is for anyone who likes or wants to learn more about the growing craft beer movement within a safe environment.”

LGBT Craft Beer meetups will include beer tastings, beer dinners, tasting competitions, charity events and seasonal parties. For the most part,  Wilkinson plans to hold the events on Sundays in Long Island City, but is open to different times and locations, the event description says.

Wilkinson’s Meetup is not only an opportunity for queers to get together for a beer, but an answer for a community that has been lacking solid stance in New York City’s craft beer scene. More than that, the group will be working with its partner venues to host charities and fundraisers; at the debut event in January, attendees are encouraged to bring winter coats for a New York Cares drive.

The debut NYC LGBT Craft Beer Meetup will take place at Alewife in Long Island City on Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 7pm. The meetup is also sponsored by Troegs Brewery, who will be donating a keg to the event. Specials for the group include $5 pints and snacks on the house, along with “a chance to get together and talk craft beer,” Wilkinson said.

Holiday Beers at Haymaker: Sip These Christmas Miracles One Ounce at a Time

My friends, Jimmy and Dee joined me for a tasting at Haymaker last week.

My friends, Jimmy and Dee joined me for a tasting at Haymaker Bar & Kitchen in Manhattan Wednesday evening.

“These aren’t your typical winter warmers,” Tristan Colegrove, bar manager and resident beer geek at Manhattan’s Haymaker Bar & Kitchen, told me as he placed a neat row of six Christmas beers on the bar in front of me. As is proven par the course at Haymaker since its inception in October, the beer bar and gastropub is doing the “seasonal” thing a little differently.

December is winding down its final days, but Colegrove is ramping up his repertoire by including more impressive beers on the sophisticated list than ever before.

Yes, he has De Dolle Stille Nacht, the slightly sweet, boozy Belgian Strong Pale Ale that beer bars clamor to have on tap each holiday season—but then, so do Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village and Brouwerij Lane in Greenpoint.

True, he’s managed to get his hands on two rival brothers’ very different takes on winter ale: Mikkeller Winbic, a blended Spontan Ale and saison from Denmark that you won’t find anywhere else in the city (imported by the Shelton Brothers) and Brooklyn-based Evil Twin‘s Xmas Eve in a NYC Hotel Room, an imperial stout that’s oily, delightfully dry and delicious without being aggressively spiced—but the latter can be found all over Brooklyn.

What really stumped me on the menu — even among such stuff that beverage managers’ and drinkers’ dreams are made of (Prairie Christmas Bomb! Chesterfield Dreams by Other Half and Garage Brewery in Barcelona!) — was La Vermontoise. Continue reading

Calagione Taps the Hill-Side and Other Half for Fashion-Crafted Beer Collaboration

Pat Phillips and I in the "craft beer confessional" for episode 6 of Thats Odd, Lets Drink It.

Pat Phillips and I vote carrot beer in the “craft beer confessional” in That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It episode 6.

In the sixth and final episode of That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It!, Sam Calagione comes to Williamsburg to create a collaborative craft beer with GQ’s ‘Best New Menswear Designers in America,’ the Hill-Side and Other Half Brewing. Spoiler alert: I’m in it! Continue reading

Drink Booze, Eat Cheese, Learn Things at Local Shops in Manhattan


The Cannibal, 113 E 29th Street in Manhattan. (Photo by Gabi Porter)

Do you like booze? Do you like cheese? Have a moderate amount of expendable income? (I’m talking under a hundo here.)

Beer and cheese classes (and wine and cheese classes, and whiskey and cheese classes) are happening in New York all the time. Check out these easygoing, easily giftable eating/drinking events in December.  Continue reading

Beer Judging and the Battle of the Belgians at Jimmy’s No. 43

A lineup of secret Belgian and Belgian-style brews awaited our expert palates.

Battle of the Belgians: our beer expert panel judged a total of 28 Belgian and Belgian-style brews.

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. Continue reading

Two-Brew Debut at the Hill-Side With Other Half Brewing and Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione

‘Wabbit Saison’ and ‘To Much Blueberry’ Launch at the Hill-Side for That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It Series

the Hill-side - 1

Last night, First We Feast‘s new web series, That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It brought together brewers, fashion fans and beer acolytes as Dogfish Head‘s Sam Calagione, Other Half Brewing‘s Sam Richardson and Matt Monahan, and fashion designers the Hill-Side celebrated their recent collaboration at the label’s new retail location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Continue reading