Tag Archives: brooklyn

King of The LES

It’s been a while; got myself a beer job! Possible conflict of interest to say exactly who-what-when-where-how but, if you haven’t guessed by now, you’re not paying attention. So long as I don’t comment directly on that brewery or another as member of said brewery, problem solved. Beer And The City will proceed with tact without caution, or perhaps some caution but no tact. Either/or.

I thought about writing a bit on ‘why I returned to New York’ in response to all the ‘why I left New York’ articles recently, but most essays can be summed-up in a single word: ambition. I saw opportunity here unlike anywhere else, which is exactly why people always have and always will flock to New York City. And I was right—NYC is experiencing a homebrewers movement on par with California and Colorado in the late 80’s, early 90’s. We’ve come a long way from this…

WTF

In addition to Barrier and SingleCut, nearly a dozen nano to microbreweries and brewpubs have recently opened around NYC. Other Half is doing big, west coast worthy IPA in Brooklyn, bottle shops like Bierkraft are brewing on site and Grimm Artisanal Ales are nomads based in Gowanus. Gun Hill, the Bronx brewery that makes more than one beer, has a motto close to my heart: ‘all beer is NOT created equal’. Queens is experiencing rapid growth with Big Alice, Transmitter and Rockaway Brewing in Long Island City, as well as Finback Brewery in Glendale (feels as far away here as it did in Los Angeles). Flagship Brewing Company is reason to get off the Staten Island Ferry. One thing they all have in common is free reign to experiment with small batches of beer. Clearly, a brewer walks into a bank is no longer the start of a joke here.

There’s more. Chelsea Piers brewpub lost their 20 year lease; thankfully we have 508 Gastrobrewery and Dirck The Norseman brewing and cooking on premise. Nobody counts Heartland’s various locations just like nobody counts Kelso Beer, but even Paulaner threw their hat into the ring with a new Brauhaus on Bowery. There’s a choice of homebrew supply shops (unusual for any part of the country) providing various educational outlets. We’re also seeing increased distribution in New York, tastes of the Midwest to Pacific North. That’s Metal.

So much beer, such little time. Rest assured that when I’m not writing I am drinking. My new line of work has taught me there’s more to Brooklyn than Williamsburg, but Manhattan—specifically the East Village and Lower East Side–remains my HBO (home beer office, get it?). This neighborhood will survive all the rest, and there’s enough bars in every direction to make any man feel like a king. To be continued.

KingLes

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Q&A with BeerAndTheCity

Who are you?

It may not look like it, but my roots are German.

Deutsch

New York left me in a dry spell last year, drinking nothing but Yuengling and Heineken in bulk from Rite Aide. I moved to Los Angeles trying my luck as an actor, realized how much I hate casinos, and saddled-up to the bar. Fortunately, that bar belonged to The Brewery at Abigaile. The spice of life in their West Coast IPA was just the inspiration I needed to volunteer an extra hand on brew day. Milling grain at sunrise over the Pacific and listening to King Diamond during mash-in was probably the first honest day’s work in my life. I learned that good beer is as simple as quality and quantity ingredients. Instead of chasing auditions, I began to chase beer all over California.

Why are you here?

The west is best but NYC is home. Let’s face it—life is competition and there are few industries where competitors support each other like craft beer. That said, there is a gulf of taste between east coast and west, big as the difference between lagers and ales. California boasts double, triple, dry-hopped everything and created a distinctly American industry in the process. I found a shared vision and spirit in Colorado, south to midwest, but New York is comparatively dry.

BeerAndTheCity began as a travel blog to document my time on the road. The purpose is now to answer why NY beer is rooted in more traditional, conservative recipes and identify local brewers changing the grid and challenging their audience. With IPA as the benchmark, we hope to crown a definitive East Coast India Pale Ale. My goal is to support the critical, cultural rise of microbrew in a macro-city. And, just to keep things interesting, we’ll do it all to a soundtrack of heavy metal.

Metal—what’s that all about?

Metal or not metal, that is the question. Metal is an all-encompassing term of approval, like the way women use *cute* but so much more hardcore. Wink. It’s no secret that I consider hops a magical desert island fruit, but instead of getting stranded in sensory analysis, I keep my rating simple. If a beer is Metal, it holds weight; a solid backbone with distinct voicing overhead. And just like hops, not all metal is bitter without imagination. In my experience, where there is good beer, there is heavy music and a brewmaster that plays guitar. I’m convinced working at a craft brewery is the only practical job for would-be rock stars. If beer is not metal, well, chances are it signed with a major label but kept the PO Box in Williamsburg.

So many potshots at Brooklyn; why all the hate?

Again—Williamsburg. And by Williamsburg, I mean hipsters. By hipsters, I mean PBR (though Modelo seems to be the next big thing). Pabst Blue Ribbon is a corporate product endlessly marketed with nostalgia, just like North Brooklyn these days. To my surprise, I recently complimented a guy waiting for the L train and wearing a t-shirt from Stone Brewing Company. Perhaps Bedford Avenue had finally swilled enough fizzy yellow beer. He scoffed thanks and explained to his friend it was one of the few shirts that didn’t look made for middle-aged brewers. If civilization can be judged by the beer it drinks, Billyburg has it coming.

OK…do you really believe beer is better than sex?

I’m glad you asked. So far, the strongest objection to my blog has been from a 76 year old radical (possibly 77 now), claiming that even the worst sex he ever had was pretty good and certainly better than beer. You’ll be happy to know he’s still virile. Please understand: the tagline is meant to be read as Beer is better than Sex [and the City], to undo any harm done by the ladies who lunch. As the microbrew movement began to pick-up speed elsewhere in the 90’s, ‘Sex and the City’ submerged New York in wine and cocktail culture. Doubtful that Carrie Bradshaw ever slummed it, but if she did I’m sure it was with the champagne of beers.

On a side note, I will say that sex is all the better now that my fiancé and I can talk craft beer to each other before…during…after…

Gross. Safe to say you’re a beer snob?

Yes. Not all beer is created equal. It’s amusing when commercial brands are praised for consistency even though what they do is consistently bad. So long as Pabst is cool, Blue Moon is craft, Sam Adams is anything more than a gateway beer and New York brewers stick to flagship lagers and blondes, murky/dirty IPA’s, the term beer snob is necessary. Every season is not meant to be sessionable.

I’ll probably regret asking, but what’s in all this for you?

I fully believe that beer will save my life, and hope to be writing you this time next year from the Great American Beer Festival.

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One Day In Brooklyn

The only acceptable use of the term ‘craft’ is in relation to ‘beer’. No hipster start-up dealing in chocolate bars, homebrew kits or potting dirt has any legitimate claim to the word, and though I’m open to arguments for craft spirits, for now let’s stick to beer. Every store front in Williamsburg boasts craft/artisanal/handmade everything including, of course, the Brooklyn Brewery. By definition, they are craft—independently owned, more malt than adjuncts, under 6 million barrels produced annually—but are they Metal? That’s exactly what I rode the L train to find out…

BB

I want to believe in Brooklyn but approach most of their 12 oz bottles with the same suspicion I do Sam Adams. Now I know why; contract brewing. The bulk of their beer is made upstate by FX Matt and has been since 1988. In BB’s defense—the rent is probably too damn high for their facility in Billyburg to brew for 25 states and 17 countries, but instead of opening a second location in Stockholm (with Carlsberg), how about a site exclusive to their own beer in greater NYC? For the sake of US relations with Sweden, we’ll give co-founders Steve Hindy and Tom Potter a yellow card since most of the group visiting that day was notably Nordic. Seems like a fair trade for IKEA.

Our tour guide’s sleeve tattoos were a work in progress, as was the tour, and I’m still waiting for a straight answer on what they consider Vienna lager. Every sentence that began with “Brooklyn” ended with “cool”. Location, location, location. We sampled their flagship Brooklyn Lager as well as the silver anniversary edition, I Wanna Rye It (rye beer) and Scorcher #366, a session pale ale. The dominant flavor in all four was lager yeast and NYC’s municipal water supply. Brooklyn Brewery claims to strive for balance and a unique spin on traditional European recipes. The spin? Modern branding courtesy of Milton Glaser:

Lofi

Why is it so difficult for the bulk of tri-state brewers to make a non-sessionable pale ale or IPA? Bronx Brewery does extra dry pale ale, with flavor that stops the moment it starts; Greenport Harbor and Carton Co. taste like my first attempt at homebrew. I’ve said before that a cocktail of prohibition and Carrie Bradshaw set urban brewing so far behind, but it never occurred to me institutions like Brooklyn might prefer living history over creating it. Their brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, is certainly among the most scholarly, and much of his taste is a tribute to nearly 50 breweries that operated in Brooklyn prior to 1920. It’s not Metal, because Metal didn’t even exist. Now that BB is the only brewery to occupy a newly resurrected Brewers Row, I’d say it’s time to put down the ukulele and pick-up a guitar.

Bottom line—I want my IPA. No hopped-up lagers, no skimping on malt. I ❤ NY but not its most branded brewery. So long as I don’t have to settle for any beers typically sold by the MTA, we’ll see where else it takes me.

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Bitter is Better

I left New York City for the same reason I may ultimately return: pabst blue ribbon. Just like smoking cigarettes, I disagree with every possible message raising pabst to your lips is meant to convey; all it says to me is that you have bad taste and support big business. I was always one to side with Kyle MacLachlan’s character in Blue Velvet over Dennis Hopper. The problem in New York these days is ‘Jeffrey Beaumont’ now orders pbr, as does the guy at the bar who claims to not even like beer, as does the girl who silkscreens their logo on her shirt and rides the L train home. You know there’s something deeply wrong in a place where Whole Foods is selling captain’s piss by the bottle from a barrel.

pabst-bs

About me–there are three things I value (the fourth will be revealed as we get to know one another), all of which motivated my recent move to Los Angeles. Beer, Metal, Acting…let’s examine these from worse to better:

The Ugly: Acting

Acting is craps, literally; it’s a constant gamble with no guaranteed reward. My advice? Have a beer before your audition. Most actors calorie count in hopes of landing a light beer commercial, but I’d rather have a six-pack than a six-pack if you know what I mean (and I know you do). Admittedly, as an actor I am prettier than the average beer drinker; don’t hit me.

The Bad: Metal

Rock and Roll is the only thing I’ve believed in from day one and, in heavy metal, I hear the world as it truly exists. Thankfully, there are some craft brewers out there that couldn’t agree more. It’s not music you can dance to or even sing along with, but you most definitely drink to it and nothing pairs better with metal than beer. It’s good to be bad and, for our purpose here, all brews will boil down to a single method of evaluation and all encompassing question: is it Metal?

The Good: Beer

First and foremost, I like it. Wine drinkers never admit that; their first reply always has to do with food or terroir. I like beer from which all else follows—the craft, culture, camaraderie. It’s been rumored that beer is proof god loves us, though one can’t help but notice they don’t serve beer in church. Ale and lager are testament to the skilled hand of a brewer, individual mastery over the elements and raw materials therein. Where wine leaves room to wonder, beer provides the answer and continually evolves alongside us. Amen.

Now, at first glance New York is not a beer town. For the most part it looks like an overpriced cocktail. Beer money typically becomes rent money. A full-fledged brewery probably couldn’t operate in Manhattan without Disney being a primary shareholder, and much of the beer flowing out of Brooklyn seems like a plug for the borough over the bottle. That said, I know there’s more to the city than meets the eye and propose to rediscover NYC with malted barley as a road map. My hope is four basic ingredients will reveal a community unknown to me before, where it’s no longer cool to order pabst unless you’re dumping it into the east river. If there’s something for everyone in New York City, beer will show me the way.

In the meantime, New York could learn a lot from California brews, so I’ll draw from new experiences in the golden state. Most of my favorite things hail from that stretch between San Diego and San Francisco, so let’s see what L.A. has to offer. Cheers.

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