New York Brewers Define Craft Beer at BCTC 2017

Passion.

Community.

Creativity.

Freedom.

Such are the words used by brewers and their representatives at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC), Brewery Ommegang’s annual beer festival that took place this year August 4-5, when asked the question: What does craft beer mean to you?

In the process of making this video, it became clear right away that even when put on the spot, brewers know exactly what craft beer means to them. Read a transcription of their answers below.

“Craft beer means a dedication to what you’re doing and a certain knowledge and skill level. I’ve worked in all different sized breweries…I firmly believe there’s craft in every size. I’ve met some of the best, smartest people in larger breweries. The common thread is passion for beer and making as high quality beer as you can.”

—Phil Leinhart, Brewery Ommegang brewmaster

Phil Leinhart was not available at the time of filming; we called him up afterwards so he could weigh in. 

What Is Craft Beer?

“Craft beer is love. It’s care. It’s quality…There’s no boxes. There’s no limits. There’s no, ‘you can’t do this,’ ‘you can’t do that.’” – Scott Luposello, Brewer’s Apprentice and Taproom Manager, Clemson Bros. Brewery, Middletown, NY

“Craft beer, to me, means a lot of pride from where you come from.” – Noreen Lanasa, Bartender,Oyster Bay Brewing Company, Oyster Bay, NY

“I was just so inspired by craft beer that I dropped out of college…it’s my life now, so it means everything.” – Austin Partridge,Red Shed AleRochester, NY

“It’s a lifestyle. I make it and I drink it, every day.” – Kevin Van Blarcun, Brewer,Red Shed Ales, Kingston, NY

“Good people. Good drink. Good times.” – Jamal Robinson, Director of Sales, Stony Creek Brewery, Branford, CT
“You really find, when you’re in it, it’s just this community.” – Richard Rogers, Brewer, Roscoe Beer Co., Roscoe, NY

“Really, it’s people creating things that they’re passionate about and interested in…It’s keepin’ it real.” – Tony Bellis, Co-founder and Brew Commander, Kings County Brewers Collective, Brooklyn, NY
“For the customer. Full of soul.” – Colin Herzog, Brewer, Flying Bison Brewing Co., Buffalo, NY

“Individuality, freedom of expression, stickin’ it to the man.” – Randy Schull, Packaging Manager, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.Elmsford, NY

“Freedom.” – Vincent Somoggi, Customer Safety Representative, Flying Bison Brewing Co., Buffalo, NY

“Independence and freedom, my friend.” – Jaye Beattie, Co-founder/Vice President, Four Mile Brewing , Olean, NY

“It’s creativity, it’s freshness.” – Kelly Taylor, KelSo Beer Co., Brooklyn, NY

“It’s about beer being at the cultural center of everything that’s creative.” – Gabe Barry, Beer Education and Community Ambassador, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY

Thank you to those who participated: Scott Luposello, Clemson Bros. Brewery; Noreen Lanasa, Oyster Bay Brewing Company; Austin Partridge, Red Shed Ale; Kevin Van Blarcun, Keegan Ales; Jamal Robinson, Stony Creek Brewery; Richard Rogers, Roscoe Beer Co.; Tony Bellis, Kings County Brewers Collective; Colin Herzog, Flying Bison Brewing Co.; Randy Schull, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; Vincent Somoggi, Flying Bison Brewing Co.; Jaye Beattie, Four Mile Brewing; Kelly Taylor, KelSo Beer Co.; Gabe Barry, Brooklyn Brewery.

Almost no global corporations were named in the making of this video.

Produced by Beer Affair.

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Sasions Are Still Cool, So Start Drinking Them

April 8 was Saison Day, a beer holiday created several years ago by Allagash as an ode to the Belgian-style farmhouse ale. As expert brewers of the stuff (you may have heard of their eponymous Allagash Saison), when Allagash says it’s Saison Day, we listen.

I remember when I started drinking saisons and was thrilled about the “new” beer style I was beginning to like. Soon, I grew confused: every saison I tasted seemed completely different from the next, with one dry and peppery, another fruity and sweet, and the next a bit spicy with hints of lemon.

And thus is the beauty of saisons: they are, at their core, seasonal —“saison” being the French word for season—and are inherently varied, each an embodiment of a time and place.

10 American Saisons to Drink Right Now

When I was tasked with planning out this recent feature for MensJournal.com (eventually headlined, “10 American Saisons to Drink Right Now”), I realized how much I like saisons and how little press they’re getting. IPAs are still dominating the craft beer market, while saisons, ever the underdog, are left to where they’ve long been destined: in the dust.

I couldn’t let this beautiful beer style go unnoticed, so, I sat down to think long and hard about what to recommend to MensJournal.com’s national audiences (you can check out those recommendations right here).  But then I faced another problem: I was writing for a crowd craft beer drinkers that spans the country, and couldn’t shout out all of the local saisons I’m currently drinking, which are really good!

5 More Saisons to Drink Right Here in NYC

In addition to the recommendations I made for Men’s Journal that span super esoteric (looking at you, Arizona Wilderness/Other Half collab) to grocery store staples (hey, Hennepin), I thought I’d share a separate list over here with a few saisons that have been standbys for me in NYC.

Interboro Saisonnier

This is one of the first brews to debut from Interboro Spirits & Ales, a brewery and distillery (New York City’s first) that launched late last summer in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood. Saisonnier is a perfect appropriation of the saison style: bright gold, hazy, and a little bit hoppy, the farmhouse style ale is well suited for the urban palate. (PS: watch this video about Interboro Pat and I produced last summer!)

Threes Table Beer

Threes Brewing brought table beer to Brooklyn, or at least, gave it a name and made it cool. This purpose of this simple saison is to have it with food (on the table) and enjoy its fresh flavors of wheat and light bitterness without thinking about it too much, which is exactly what happens when you order one. Try it out sometime.

Transmitter S8

They may not be boasting about it, but Transmitter has been crafting excellent Belgian-style ales (in fact, almost exclusively excellent Belgian-style ales) since they started. One of my all-time favorites from them is the S8, a light and spicy rice saison brewed with pilsner malt and flaked/toasted rice, along with a liberal amount of “new school” German hops.

KCBC Sun Wizard

Kings County Brewers Collective came out the gate with a great portfolio of approachable ales. One the OGs was the Sun Wizard, a bright yellow saison with a fruity tang and citrus bite from El Dorado, Galaxy and Chinook hops. KCBC also recently released the Beggar’s Gold, a Belgian-style blonde ale. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I hear good things. 

Folksbier Magdalena

Folksbier has quickly become one of my favorite breweries. Their beers are simple, clean, and solid German-inspired classics, ranging from roasty-yet-refreshing dark rye ales or Berliner weisses with fruit (check out the Glow Up series; each one is fermente with a different fruit, and they are all delicious). As pretty much sums up their style, Magdalena blends new school and old school hops, high quality malts and offers slightly sweet and biscuity flavors balanced with a crisp, dry finish.

 

SAISONS POUR TOUJOURS!

Cheers,
BeerAffair

3 Brooklyn Beers Make Men’s Journal ‘Best Beers in the World’

It’s always fun to read “best beers” lists, but it’s especially exciting to see your own local breweries floating to the top of beer media’s best picks from around the globe.  In this year’s 100 Best Beers in the World from Men’s Journal, three beers from New York City-based brewers made it to the list of the world’s finest, and all three of them were from Brooklyn. Continue reading

What I Do As a Beer Writer

Taking notes at Moeder Lambic, Brussels, Belgium.

Taking notes at Moeder Lambic, Brussels, Belgium.

Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. I figured I may as well publish it here, too. 

As a craft beer journalist and blogger, I’m often met with mystified expressions and questions when I explain what I do: “A beer writer? So, you drink beer and write about it? That must be fun!”

Well, yes, I do write about beer, and I do drink a lot of it in order to write about it. But, much like food writers don’t spend all of their time seated at fancy restaurants with a sea of courses stretching before them into waves of table infinity, beer writing isn’t all about bellying up to the bar. Continue reading

Queens Beer Book 2 on NY1 News!

The Queens Beer Book was recently featured on NY1 News.

The Queens Beer Book was recently featured on NY1 News!

This week, the Queens Beer Book made its second annual appearance on NY1 News in an interview with Josh Schneps, owner of Schneps Publications and publisher of QNS.com and Brokelyn.com (co-publishers of the book), and myself, Cat Wolinski, curator, writer, editor and obsessor over this little book of big dreams.

I’m still getting the hang of TV appearances, but I’m sharing this for the sake of the bars and breweries featured in the book. What I hoped to communicate in the interview was that the Queens Beer Book was created to promote local businesses who are making and selling great, independently produced beer, making the craft beer community a possibility in Queens. What came out was more like, “There’s great beer here, and it’s not Budweiser.”

But, foot in mouth or not, I always feel great knowing that people may be catching a glimpse of my efforts to support and encourage the progress of craft beer; that they may retain a little bit of awareness about our local beer makers and the bars, restaurants and shops who are supporting them; and that maybe, just maybe, the next time they reach for a beer menu, they’ll ask for a SingleCut, Rockaway, LIC Beer Project or Bridge & Tunnel, or a Finback or a Transmitter, and they’ll leave the Bud Light behind for the days when better quality, better intentioned beer wasn’t available here.

Check out the video here and the words below from NY1.com:

Queens Beer Lovers Now Have a Guide for Best Brews in the Borough

Beer lovers in Queens now have a go-to-guide to help them find some of the best brews in the borough.

The Queens Beer Book is back for a second year. It showcases more than 30 beers at more than 30 of the best bars, breweries and beer-centric eateries across Queens.

Brooklyn has had its own similar beer book for a few years. Publishers say they’re ready to show off what Queens has to offer.

“The beer scene in Queens is exploding, so right now you have at least a half dozen breweries in Long Island City [and Astoria] alone,” said Josh Schneps , QNS.com publisher.

“The criteria, first of all, is having great beer. That means beers that are made locally, made regionally—things other than the normal Budweiser [and] Bud Light that people might be used to,” says Queens Beer Book curator, Catherine Wolinski.

The book can be purchased online for $30.00. It’s good for one year. For more information visit http://www.QNS.com.

Buy a Beer Book here: Brokelyn Beer Book Store

Cheers,
BeerAffair

Brewery to Watch: Brasserie Dunham

Brasserie Dunham bottle lineup at Mondial de la bière 2016.

Simon Gaudreault, co-owner of Brasserie Dunham, with a bottle lineup at Mondial de la bière 2016.

Among the 536 beers and 586 total beverages offered by more than 85 breweries present at the 23rd Mondial de la biere in Montreal, none stood more than those of Brasserie Dunham (Dunham Brewery), a microbrewery specializing in farmhouse style and wild ales located about an hour southeast of Montreal.

The brewery first caught our eye (along with our nostrils and tastebuds) at Les Terrasses Flaveurs, a beer and caprices tasting organized by Quebec-based beer and gastronomy expert, author and speaker, Philippe Wouters. The pairing experience was organized in stations, the second of which paired caprices from Au Petit Extra  with two of Brasserie Dunham’s expert creations:

First Pairing:  Spring roll with mango, ginger and tempeh, paired with Brasserie Dunham Saison Fleurs Sauvages.

This spring roll was the best either of us have ever had in our lives—no, seriously. Nothing like the greasy, crispy cylinder stuffed with cabbage and carrot that we’re used to. Refined yet approachable, this roll was fresh, delicate and grease-free, prepared more like a maki with miniature rice noodles in place of the rice and a moist,  translucent rice paper skin in place of the seaweed. The best part was the fresh ginger, first enveloped within the spring roll’s fragrant folds, then bursting to life on the tongue with that quintessential ginger zing. (We weren’t the only ones talking about this roll all weekend.)

The Saison Fleurs Sauvages label. Each bottle label is designed by a different local artist. Image via brasseriedunham.com.

The Saison Fleurs Sauvages bottle label; each beer label at Brasserie Dunham is designed by a different local artist. Image via brasseriedunham.com.

Saison Fleurs Sauvages, or saison with wild flowers (6% ABV), was a perfect pairing, equally fragrant and refined at its delicate core, with its own set of unique nuances. According to Dunham co-owner, Simon Gaudreault (who is also an accomplished wine sommelier and writer), the saison includes three types of wild flowers: raspberry (little white flowers that grow with the berry); elderflower (also little and white, often used in herbal remedies and recently, in craft beers); and berce flowers, for which he nor I could find an English translation.

Second Pairing:  Dark malt bread with smoked salmon “nuggets,” paired with Brasserie Dunham Assemblage #1.

The caprice here was essentially a small piece of rye bread toast with a shmear of butter, lox-like smoked salmon pieces, and topping of dill-weed. Like fancy lox on a bagel with a hearty crunch, the fat of the butter and salt of the salmon were cut exquisitely by the funky, dry and bitter formulation of Assemblage 1.

Assemblage Numéro 1

Assemblage Numéro 1, a wild beer blend aged in Zinfandel barrels.

Assemblage 1 is a blend of American Pale Ale and saison with honey (or more accurately, propolis) aged in Zinfandel barrels with brettanomyces yeast. Read that again. It’s delicious! Funky, rustic, fruity, hoppy…it’s all there, and it’s truly special. According to the brewery, Assemblage 1 is the first “assembly” or blend in which the effect of the barrels transcends the two base beers. Voila.

Fun fact: Dunham brewery is located in Dunham, Quebec, not far from the U.S. border. As such, the brewery has done a few collaborations with American brewers—Hill Farmstead and Cambridge Brewing Co. among them. Trust me, you’ll want to keep your eye out for these guys.

They never stop experimenting, either: in fact, on May 22, 2016, Dunham released no fewer than 22 beers for an event Gaudreault described as a bottle release that was enhanced for its attendees with games, giveaways and other merriments meant to make waiting in line less miserable. Plus, the releases were all pre-order, so no one walked away empty handed.

I’ll close with this video created for the brewery last June : “Brasserie ze film” by Alex Chabot. (Disclaimer: it’s in French.)

Cheers,
BeerAffair

Craft Brewers Pick Their Favorite Shower Beer

The shower beer can be many things: post-workout hydration, multitasking before a night out, or simply a refreshing pick-me-up while washing. For Lewis Kent, the Beer Mile world champion, shower beers are both post-race liquid trophy and pregame ritual. “After a race or a hard workout, when I come home and I’m getting ready to go out with friends, it’s nice to have a little reward,” says Kent.

Craft brewers have caught on to the concept, and a growing number of craft beers billed as “shower beers” are hitting the shelves, providing more flavorful, stimulating options to take into the tub. With warm weather approaching, now is the perfect time to indulge in these palate-scrubbing brews — from a hoppy pilsner to a lime-zested gose to a pale ale bursting with citrus — made for good, clean fun, in the shower and out. Read more on MensJournal.com > 

It’s National Beer Day!

A double flight ensured we were able to really get a taste for each new brew.

Try something new on National Beer Day. (Photo courtesy of Coney Island Brewing Co.)

It’s National Beer Day.

What does that even mean?

April 7, 1933 marked the first day in 13 years that the manufacturing of low-alcohol beer and wine became legal. In other words, Americans could legally buy, sell, and drink beer. This happened thanks to FDR signing the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 22, 1933, which went into effect 16 days later. The stipulations and facts:

  • Beer could only contain up to 4.05% ABV. (Interestingly, alcohol content was actually measured by weight then – the legislation called for 3.2 alcohol by weight.)
  • States had to enact the law on their own terms. In other words, it was not legal everywhere, but in states that deemed it so (or “wet” states).
  • 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed that day, which is a fun idea.
  • This is not the day that Prohibition ended. The 18th Amendment and National Prohibition ended later that year, on December 5, 1933, when the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

Supposedly, the designation of the “holiday” began in 2009 when Justin Smith, a beer enthusiast in Richmond, Virginia, started a Facebook page to celebrate the day. After that, his page, and the designation of National Beer Day, were recognized by 1) a craft beer blogger in Colorado, Eli Shayotovich; 2) the beer check-in app, Untappd, which made a “badge” for the day in 2011; and 3) Twitter, where the hashtag, #NationalBeerDay has been annually trending since.

What a time to be alive.

All the “days” we endure online and in life are mostly trivial, but this one, we guess we can get behind.  So today, if you’re looking for a reason to make this different from any other day, raise your glasses to FDR, to beer makers in the 1930s, to that guy in Richmond, and to not ever having to live through 13 beer-free years.

Cheers,

BeerAffair

Victory and Southern Tier Merger

“Craft brewers took a world where people didn’t care about flavor or freshness in their beer, and changed it dramatically.” – Victory Brewing Company co-founder, Bill Covaleski

Last month, Victory Brewing Co. of Downington, Pennsylvania and Southern Tier Brewing Co. of Lakewood, New York merged to operate under a holding company formed by private equity firm, Ulysses Management. The two breweries’ new owner, Artisanal Brewing Ventures (amusingly abbreviated ABV), provides “management advice, assistance and vision to a select but growing list of independent craft brewers and distillers,” according to the Ulysses Management website.

The merger can be seen two ways: another pair of craft breweries surrendering their independence to the almighty dollar; or,  two craft breweries joining forces to continue fighting the good fight against macro brands, with more money and power behind them than if they continued operating solo. One facet important to note is that ABV is a parent company, and won’t be producing any goods or services itself.

Whether you’re of the “another one bites the dust” camp or the “I’m not surprised/devastated/outraged, business is business” camp (I tend to lean toward the latter, in this case), consider this quote for a moment and let it tell you one sure thing: the beer world is changing, it  will continue to constantly change, and a long as we have lots of options for good beers to drink and good people making them, we’re doing alright.

Read more of Covaleski’s response in Men’s Journal’s coverage of the merger here. For the full release, head to stbcbeer.com.