Archive | March, 2013

East vs West Coast Craft Beer Tour!

13 Mar

 

                                        Image

Many of the craft beer events in my life are built around tradition.  The monthly meetings I attend, like my local, Staten Island group of beer enthusiasts, The Richmond County Beer Club (RCBC) who meet the last Wednesday of every month for over 3 years now, my ‘ventures into home-brewing with the great crew of Pour Standards, our local home-brew club that meets the second Tuesday of every month.  Everything from local beer festivals (this will be third year attending Sixpoint’s Beers for Beasts) or beer events like our NYC Craft Beer Week that just went by—these have all become a big part of my life.  And now, this Wednesday night, I’m more than just excited about another tradition: East Coast VS. West Coast!!

This year’s event (this is the third year now) has doubled in capacity!  Where there were once only four breweries (Smuttynose and Victory representing the East, and Ballast Point and Lagunitas reppin’ the West), the event has now expanded to 8 breweries (with the addition of Sixpoint, Oskar Blues, and Sierra Nevada)!  Holy Sh**t!  I can’t wait!  Why?

            Because this is an event that brings the craft beer community together: From the brewers to the reps to the craft beer fans and enthusiasts (aka drinkers).  Plus it allows us to taste an amazing line-up of beers and compare/contrast styles.  For example, it was two years ago that I first tasted Ballast Point’s Sculpin.  My life was forever changed.  And what’s as fun as tasting all these great beers like Lagunita’s “Sucks,” Smuttynose’s “Finest Kind IPA,” and Sixpoint’s “3 Beans,” is the punk rock music that will be accompanying the tasting.  Beer + Punk Rock= A wonderful pairing.

            If you can’t make it to tonight’s event at 120 Bay Café, located just a few block from the Staten Island ferry, check out the East Coast Vs. West Coast Facebook page for more dates. 

This year the “tour” is hitting cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Providence.  If you live in NYC though you will have several chances to attend one of these tour dates as the ‘reps will be hitting places like Greenwood Park in Brooklyn, and the Bronx Ale House in where else, but the Bronx!  Not only will I be there tonight at my local watering hole, I hope to hit maybe 1 or 2 other tour dates along the way.  Obsessed?  Maybe—but this is one of the coolest beer events I’ve ever been to!  Hope to see you there and can’t wait to try all the great beer that will be poured this year.     

 

(cover art by Brian Profilio, artist, teacher and drummer for the Budos Band)

Advertisements

NYC Beer Week Continues: Part 2

5 Mar

Part 2

After a week of great beer events (including the amazing Brewer’s Choice at City Winery on Wednesday) it was time to complete our mission.  After all, it was the second-to-last day of craft beer week and therefore our time was limited. 

Our first stop was Queens, to collect the only stamp from that borough at Sunswick 35/35.  It’s a long train ride from lower Manhattan but we were ready.  Here, we had a White Aphro, a tasty and refreshing Witbier brewed with lavender and just the thing to kick off another long day of drinking Empire beers.  I would’ve loved to stay here all afternoon—it’s a great craft beer bar and we were surrounded by other beer enthusiasts who were stopping in from Queens craft beer crawls and visits to Singlecut Beersmiths, whose taproom and brewery are close by.

Back into the city via the Q and transferring to the L at 14th street so we could head into Williamsburg and visit Crown Victoria.

This bar is a bit of a hike from the Bedford stop but totally worth it.  Our bartender, Erin, was great and poured us the Empire’s IPA and stamped our card.  The bar has picnic benches outside and must be a great place to hang out during the summer.  We’ll definitely be back.  It was here that we ran into some Empire people, Mike and John, who wished us luck on the rest of our journey.  We were in it to win it!

We were able to catch an elusive yellow cab and headed to Park Slope and 4th Ave Pub, located a couple of blocks from the Barclays Center.  Crazy town!  Another bachelorette party and friendly bartenders who were eager to stamp our card and pour us an Empire Amber Ale

Just a quick walk to Bierkraft as light flurries continues to fall from the sky.  While tempted to stock up on some great craft bottles and a growler or two, it would only slow us down at this point.  Three more bars to go and our mission would be complete! 

On to Washington Commons, a beautiful bar with great taps and a nice, mellow atmosphere.  Here we had our first Cream Ale of the day.  Not too far from the park in Prospect Heights, this would be a good place to grab a beer with a date in this area.  From here we walked a little north to Woodwork (and right past Bitter & Esters on our way which was thankfully closed or we would’ve spent an hour there picking up homebrew supplies).

This seems to be a sports-focused bar with a small food menu and some great brews on tap.  We had an Empire IPA and a quick sandwich and maybe a pickleback shot.  What?  We were almost done and it was time to celebrate.  Thanks to the dudes at Woodwork for just being cool guys—we had a great time.    

So back on to the 2 train and into Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  When you get off at the 72nd street stop you just have to get a Papaya Dog so that’s exactly what we did.  Into packed Dive Bar 75 for our last Cream Ale of the night and our last stamp to complete out journey.  Victory was ours!

So thanks to Empire for making my NYC Beer Week more interesting and of course, challenging.  I visited bars I’d never heard of and walked around neighborhoods I never get to visit.  Those postcards are going in the mail today and hopefully, I’ll be declared a winner.  I already feel like one. 

 

The Empire Challenge: A NYC Beer Week Adventure

5 Mar

 

NYC Beer Week is now officially over and I hope that you enjoyed the events (and of course, the amazing beer) as much as I did.  While I do have a full-time job (which I should take vacation from next year during this week), I still managed to attend a few events and best of all, complete the Empire Brewing Company’s 12 Pack Challenge.

The task was to visit 12 (and a bonus 13) bars listed and order an Empire beer at each location.  After ordering the beer, one received a stamp on a postcard indicating your purchase.  Completed entries will have the chance to win a slew of prizes including being “Brewer for a Day,” up at Empire’s Syracuse location or a Grand Prize of “Beer for a Year,” a growler full of an Empire beer for each month of the year plus other fun stuff.

If you know me, you know I like a challenge.  I also really like beer.  And Empire is one of my favorite breweries.  So, naturally, I had to do this, no matter how intimidating the task seemed.

The first day of Beer Week I was browsing through the events: I had my handy “Voice” guide in hand and a desire to not miss anything this year’s beer week had to offer.

While it may be the 5th year this city has held a beer week, it’s the first year that it was organized by the New York City Brewer’s Guild (NYCBG)—basically a conglomerate of our city’s brewers, who joined forces to become even more awesome and share their craft with the city and beyond.  It’s like “The Fellowship of the Ring,” but even better because it involves drinking great beer, not trying to rid ourselves of some evil force (unless of course, that evil force is bad beer, which if that’s the case then it’s a very honorable mission).

Anyway, after reading about this challenge (thanks to Brew York, New York for the head’s up), I decided it was on, and no matter what happened this week, I would collect all 13 stamps!

First, I had to figure out where to start.  This was fairly simple, because I live on the North Shore of Staten Island, lower Manhattan is a cinch to get to.  Taking the 6 train to Spring Lounge was easy enough.  It was here we picked up our postcards and had our first Empire beer: the awesome Nitro-fueled Cream Ale (Yes I said “we” because I dragged my bf through the whole thing with me—two entries is better than one!  And if he wins, I hope he takes me up to Syracuse with him).

Spring Lounge has always had a solid craft beer selection—I attribute it as one of the first places I ever had craft beer back in college.  Unfortunately, on this particular Saturday afternoon, the bar was packed full of bachelorette parties and bros hugging each other.  Needless to say after we collected our first stamp, the challenge was on and it was also time to move on.

To Puck Fair, another great NoLita bar with a decent craft selection (Brooklyn Blast!, anyone?) and Irish bartenders.  Empire Cream Ale again—and also confused bartenders with no stamp in sight.  Ok, well, a signature validates our visit and its on to the next—no time to linger with 11 more bars to go.

After a pizza pit stop (one can’t forget to eat in drinking challenges like this) we visited Randolph Beer, a bar I had never been to.  Their prices were a bit steeper than the other places we visited (this place is FANCY) but our bartender, Surendra, was gracious and excited to help us complete our journey.  Here, we had both the Deep Purple (one if not my favorite from Empire) and Empire’s newest brew, Local Grind: A Scotch Ale brewed with coffee beans.  So good!  We had a great time here and will definitely be back.  But it was time to travel on.

While we could’ve (should’ve) walked to our next stop, it would have been a long stroll through the East Village and we were desperate to get to our next stop, Upstate.  This is a destination I’ve been dying to get to and I thank this challenge in forcing me to visit for that elusive 13th stamp, which would enter us into the “Baker’s Dozen” portion of the contest: a chance to be “Brewer for a Day” at Empire’s home brewery in Syracuse.  Sure, we’ve been up there before, but the winner also gets a farm-to-table-dinner with Brewwmaster Tim Butler and Founder David Katleski.  I want that!

Upstate is more of a restaurant than a bar with a focus on local seafood and local (New York State) beer.  I don’t eat really seafood (deathly allergic to shellfish—could be worse—I could be allergic to beer) so we asked the guy at the door (who happened to be one of the owners) if we could just grab a beer.  Problem with a place like this on a Saturday is that it’s tiny and it was PACKED.  The small bar is more of a place to hang out while  waiting to be seated at a table, but they were able to and kind enough to seat us at a table even though we didn’t plan to eat.  Awesome.

Well, one beer turned into an order of ceviche (beautiful) and a nice little dessert of their famous whiskey cake (so tasty!).  Our server was a sweetheart and we were able to drink the There Will be Bock, a delicious bock beer that one doesn’t see often in the Empire line up.  We were happy—happy enough to trek to our next spot: Taproom 307.

Another place I was excited to visit—Beer Sommelier Hayley Jensen and chef (and husband) Stephen Durley have created a “Beer Emporium,” at this Gramercy tavern, and again, being Saturday night, the place was packed.  We ordered up our Empire brews and received our stamps but didn’t linger too long.  We’ll have to go back to this place soon and when it’s a little easier to move around.  Their beer list is impressive and they hold numerous beer events weekly.  A more ideal time to visit would’ve been this past Saturday, March 2nd, when they held an Empire Brewery brunch and New York State beer tap takeover!

Our next and last stop on February 23rd was The Pony Bar, again one of Manhattan’s premier craft destinations (with a tap list that sticks to American craft beers).  After an Empire here it was time to throw in the towel for the night and figure out how (and when) we’d finish this adventure.