Sunday, March 11, 2012

NYC American Craft Beer Festival: My Impressions

Aaaaah, craft beer festivals. A lovely collection of beer enthusiasts, beer brewers, volunteers who don't know anything, and pretty much every different kind of beer your alcoholic dreams could ever even think of. 

Unfortunately, the night of the festival, I only managed to update my tumblr, not my blogspot, so that's why this lovely piece of beer'mericana was missing from my blog. But no more!

Behold, the NYC American Craft Beer Festival, held on March 3rd in the Lexington Ave Armory.

No, Hunter students, the OTHER one. 

Yes, there is apparently another one. Didn't know that 'til the last minute.

...If by "every different kind", I meant IPAs, Belgians, IPAs, porters, IPAs, blond ales...
Did I mention IPAs?

Seriously though, somehow, out of the extensive list of brewers and cider houses, you'd be hard-pressed to find a stand that didn't have a yellow to golden brown brew that was dressed to the nines in sharp citrus-y hops. However, seeing as this seems to be par for the course with craft beer, I didn't think anything of it. 

I went by myself, so I passed the time by talking to a lot of people there, and while there, I learned quite a lot. I learned that all of Weyerbacher's blends contain some amount of Simcoe hops. I learned that Farum Hill's Extra Dry Cider uses all english apples and specifically avoids Granny Smiths and the like. I learned that singles, dubbles, triples and quadrupels were originally a marketing ploy from belgium so they could created a varied market in the 20s and 30s, and they are characterized by their strength (which usually increase with each level) and darkness, which runs with singles being light, dubbles being dark, triples being light and quads being dark. I learned that I actually remember the difference between a hopback and dry hopping. 
I also met some quite nice people, none of which I got a picture with because I'm a complete idiot. I met Beer Chick of NYC, I met Chris Cuzme (again) and Alex Hall from Wandering Star Breweries, who also is affiliated with (last I checked) the NYC Homebrewers Guild and the New York City Degustation Advisory Team. I talked to Joshua Bernstein, who has a very extensive knowledge of the history of craft beer and occasional Home Brew Tours, and his current partner in crime Rich Buceta of the up-and-coming Singlecut Beersmiths. Stay tuned. 


I know you don't. 

After the water ran out and the blood alcohol content ran high, some of the many blends started to mesh together on the tongue. But here are some of my picks, and what I feel like made the giant crowd, inhumanly long women's restroom line, and hop-induced tastebud incineration all worth it. Drumroll please.

Also, thank god for the website's list of breweries because after a while I kinda-sorta forgot to write the names of the breweries and beers. Ooops. 

I tried many more, but these really stood out. 

Left Hand Brewing Company Fade to Black- Volume 3 pepper porter
Chili chocolate in a beer. I am not even joking. 
This lil' number was my absolute favorite of the whole night. This was a porter with jalapenos added to the boil. The porter itself tasted of roasted malts and indulgent chocolate, and the spice itself was not unnoticed on the swallow at all. It lingered in the back of the throat wonderfully, but not overpoweringly. Absolutely divine. 

Wandering Star Mild at Heart
It's deep, rich coffee in beer form. Beautiful mild dark ale. Very soft bitterness but the malts are really the star of the show here. Medium bodied and quite lovely. Excellent session beer.

Wandering Star Zingari Wit.
Ok, I'm cheating a little bit, seeing as I've tasted these before, and each of these will get a feature of their own at some point. However, I mention them now because they were both the features for this brewery and they are absolutely both worth persuing. 
OH! Another thing I learned. These are supposedly always at Taproom No. 307. Fun fact.
Anywho, Zingari Wit is an old favorite, and really what got me into Belgian style and yeasty beers in the first place. It has the spiced cider taste of red apples and aromatic hops and sweet, light malts. Also, the lemongrass. Chris is quite fold of the lemongrass in this brew, but it is quite subtle. It adds balance more than a specific flavor. Still, well worth trying. 

Founder's Dirty Bastard
This is a pretty common one to find, but there's a good reason for that. This was a delicious, full bodied malty brew with smokey notes. It's definitely a decent session beer. 

Goose Island Matilda
The lovely boys from the brewery told me that this is made with a 100% isolated yeast strain, and this really and truly stands out with this one. The citrusy hops peek through, but the yeast is the star of the show with this Belgian style. 

Goose Island Mildwater 
This was a spiced rye number. The malts push through with a bit of a yeasty aftertaste. I quite liked this one. 

Jonas Bronck's Beer Co. Kingsbridge Kolsch
So a kolsch is apparently a german pilsner lager. The hops really got you on the swallow, this was a clean tasting light malt beer. It was a master of subtlety.

Green Port Spring Saison. 
So a saison is apparently a french/german style beer. I do love learning new things. This one was light and fruity. Citrus-y aftertaste. 

Narrangansett Bock
Like caramel in a cup. This was malty and sweet, but it was well balanced and stopped just short of being cloying. 

Butternuts Heinnieweisse
This had a signature breadiness that is characteristic of wheat beers. But this had a sharpness to it from a heady hop presence. This is definitely worth a try. 

Long Ireland Celtic Ale
This was smooth and malty. The hoppiness was subtle and barely there. It added more character than bittering. I do taste caramel in this one, and I would love a full tap of this one day on a warm fall day. 

So there you have it. My picks for that particular evening. Let me tell you, coming out of there that day, I was exhausted! But I hope this helps on your beer escapades. Happy drinking!

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