March 25, 2017 is Orval Day, a toast to the Trappist beer and brewery born in the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval in Belgium. Ask any brewer, old school or new, and this beer is likely in his or her dream six pack. This beer, a Belgian-style pale ale, is regarded the world over as, essentially, perfect. Continue reading
Beer nerd on a budget? Us, too. The“Beer Tourism Index”—an online beercation guide to hotel and flight deals, beer tours and other booze-related activities in the country’s best large and small beer cities—was recently launched by Travelocity with help from the Brewers Association.
Would you use something like the Beer Tourism Index to plan your next beercation? Why/why not?
Learn more about the Beer Tourism Index in my latest for MensJournal.com.
New York may not win a lot of beer awards, but when we do, we win gold, baby.
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) celebrated its 35th year in Denver this weekend, bringing 60,000 craft beer enthusiasts and industry members together to sample nearly 3,800 beers from more than 800 breweries. The festival, presented by the Brewers Association, took place at the Colorado Convention Center from Thursday, October 6 through Saturday, October 8.
On Saturday morning, the GABF awards ceremony, now in its 30th year, awarded 286 medals to 254 breweries for exemplary renditions of 161 beer styles submitted in 96 categories. Though the top state winners by ratio of medals to entries per state were Wyoming (45 entries and 5 medals), Hawaii (28 entries and 3 medals) and Virginia (200 entries and 14 medals), New York walked off with gold medals in four categories: Honey Beer; Barrel-Aged Sour Beer; Belgian-Style Witbier; and Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale. Continue reading
At Mondial de la bière, an annual beer festival known around the world as one of the most prominent in North America (held for the 23rd year in Montreal at the Palais de Congres June 8-12, 2016), a new initiative was introduced to festival-goers this year: the Master Classes.
Launched in partnership with Goose Island Beer Co. and targeted to industry professionals (along with avid homebrewers and connoisseurs), the new feature brought three world-famous brewers to classroom settings to share their insights into different aspects of the brewing business: Yvan De Baets, Brasserie de la Senne; Leonardo Di Vincenzo, Birra Del Borgo; and Brett Porter, Goose Island brewmaster, who led a session on hops sourcing in a time of shortage, an issue which many craft breweries are facing today.
Along with filling in audience members on his history in the beer industry—which spans 28 years between Bunces Brewery in England, Portland and Deschutes breweries in Oregon, and the past six years at Goose Island—Porter stressed the importance of seeking out and cultivating relationships with hops farmers. In his experience, he said, hop growers are the most “open, welcoming and happy people” in the world, and knowing the right people to call will invariably lead to hops-sourcing success. Toward the end of the session, Porter shared a list of his favorite hops to brew with, along with (in most cases) the farms he works with to acquire them.
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.)
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 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.)
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:
- Finally becoming a full-time freelancer, devoting myself to the two most meaningful crafts in my life: writing and beer.
- 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)
- 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.
- Attending Chris O’Leary’s (AKA Brew York‘s) bottle share and blind tasting of IPAs, an intimate and gustatorily stimulating beer affair.
- 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.
- 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.
- Being interviewed for TV about the Queens Beer Book for NY1.
- 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.”
- Camping at Indian Ladder Farms with Other Half Brewing Co. & friends.
- 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.
- Attending our first American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Rally at Keegan Ales in Kingston, N.Y.
- Publishing my first piece for Thrillist, a guide to drinking day trips in N.Y.
- 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.
- Publishing my first piece for Ale Street News, a BCTC recap.
- 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.)
- Drinking an Otter Creek on Otter Creek.
- Signing on as the first Craft Beer Correspondent for Eventbrite Rally.
- Interviewing Julia Herz, whose many accolades inspired this story.
- Publishing my first long feature in Civil Eats, the James Beard Foundation Publication of the Year, about bringing hops back to New York State
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”
- 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.
- Appearing in an episode of That’s Odd…Let’s Drink It! with Other Half.
- Being appointed as a beer judge for the sixth annual Battle of the Belgians.
- Being quoted amongst admired New York beer experts in First We Feast‘s Best New Beers of 2015.
- 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!
- Being selected as the new NYC columnist for Ale Street News.
- 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!
Thanks for making it to the end of this gratuitously lengthy #humblebrag!
“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
On Saturday, Oct. 17, Connecticut craft brewers and out of town favorites filled Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Ballpark at Harbor Yard for the fourth annual Harbor Brew Fest. The high-spirited beer affair brought brew-loving locals the the latest craft concoctions from area favorites like Two Roads Brewing Co., Back East Brewing and Half Full Brewery, along with a impressive selection of food truck fare and live entertainment.
With local breweries joined by a selection of widely known Northeast, West Coast and international brands, the fest provided an impressively diverse selection—and proved that Connecticut brewers are standing up to the challenge of creating unique, experimental and well executed ales and lagers. Continue reading
This year’s BCTC festival, held August 7-9 at Brewery Ommegang, proved, in my opinion, to be the best yet. Read on to find out why the festival remains so successful, year after year, in “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown Boasts Successful Twelfth Year Turnout,” written for the Ale Street News October/November 2015 issue.