New York State Food & Beer Expo, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
I’m not going to lie, one of the of the best parts of being a beer writer is all the free beer. There was a whole lot of that going on at July’s New York State Food & Beer Expo at BIBA, a waterfront bar in Williamsburg. My press pass gave me and a friend instant access to dozens of well poured local craft beers and introduced me to some brand new and super exciting brewery startups from around the state.
We stumbled in around 1PM and the expo was well underway. Shaded booths lined BIBA’s sizable outdoor lot while already drunk patrons sat at picnic tables, clutching 10oz plastic cups and drinking in the postcard-perfect views of the Manhattan skyline. It was a hot, sunny day -- ideal outdoor beer fest weather. I ran into my friend Jessie Kieffer, the beverage director at Tribeca's Terroir and co-host of Heritage Radio Network’s The Morning After, who introduced me to the man of the hour, Jimmy Carbone. Owner of Jimmy’s No. 47 and host of the weekly Beer Sessions Radio, Jimmy is quite the craft beer legend around these parts. He recognized Beerded Ladies from the twittersphere and I managed to mutter “Big fan, big fan,” a few times while we chatted. I have to admit, those high fives we shared were the highlight of my geek-driven day. Jimmy, man, you rule. Thanks for the shout out.
Anyway, enough about my incoherent nerd babble. Let’s get to the beers!
My Top Five:
Tucked away in the VIP lounge’s back corner bar was a representative from Queens Brewery, a brand new outfit in Queens, New York. The gentleman touting their flagship lager could have stepped right out of a scene from Goodfellas, with his slicked back grey hair and thick outer borough accent. He was working the crowd, pouring samples and opening bottles while explaining the history and development of Astoria’s newest brewery, which was set to officially debut the following Wednesday to 26 hand-sold accounts.
Contract brewed upstate, the lager is similar to a Sam Adams in mouthfeel and aroma, with some burnt caramel on the nose and a dry finish. Crisp and refreshing for a hot day, this brew is easy-drinking and mellow and nicely balanced by a strong malt backbone featuring hints of maple syrup and rich molasses. A great golf course beer or maybe something to power you through an 11-inning Mets game. If you’re in New York, keep your eyes peeled for this pleasant, true-to-style lager to show up at your local pub.
Radiant Pig was set up smack dab next to big(ger) boys Peekskill and Newburgh, making them hard to miss. This two person outfit contract brews out of Connecticut’s Thomas Hooker brewery. They’re only five months old to date but have managed distribution in all five boroughs -- an impressive feat! As RP’s logistics guru Laurisa says, brewmaster Rob dropped his gym membership in favor hand delivering kegs to all their 60+ accounts. You can find Radiant Pig’s tasty brews at any of these fine locations: http://radiantpigbeer.com/find-us/
At the expo, RP offered their flagship Junior IPA, a sessionable ale at 5% ABV. The brew features a smooth, citrusy hop nose followed up by a surprisingly strong malt backbone for its style. I loved the light body and earthy undertones. Hops wise, it straddles the line between pale and IPA -- not a hop-head’s delight but perfect for enjoying a couple under all that hot sun. I also love the idea that a nano-brewery is trying to make a name for themselves with a session beer. If their Junior IPA is any indication, RP has a bright future for sure. Be sure to check them out.
Newburgh, I love you. I’ve sampled some offering in Brooklyn bars but I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting a Newburgh brew fresh from Upstate. CEO and Brewmaster Christopher Basso brought a couple of kegs down the Hudson for us fine drunk folks to try at the festival and I’m sure glad they did.
The Saison Farmhouse Style Ale was bursting with lemon and bubbles, just the way I prefer. For a farmhouse, it was extremely light in body and ABV, clocking in around 3.8%. I blew right through my 8oz pour while chatting about Newburgh’s impressive line up taht includes a coffee sour, a Berliner Weisse brewed with rye and 100% brettanomyces, a Chili Lime Stout(!) and a Scottish fall seasonal called Squashtober made with Belgian yeast, squash (duh) and spices. Good Lord! After all that talk, I was ready for another pour. The second sample was the Cream Ale, a hopped up version of the lawnmower favorite with a solid malt backbone for that bisquity, lager finish. Delicious. I can’t wait to take Chris up on that tour offer and drink my way through their catalog
2. Rushing Duck
Rushing Duck! This was the first booth Jimmy Carbone told me to check out -- convenient as it was also the first booth I gravitated towards on my own. Brewed in Orange County, NY (which I didn’t know existed), Rushing Duck was opened in 2012 by father-son team Les and Dan Hitchcock. How adorable is that?
The dudes behind the jockey box were pouring two styles but I only got the chance to try one of them: The Bauli Saison. It’s fair to say that this beer pretty much knocked me off my feet. I love a good saison, especially on a hot day, and the Bauli was a glorious example of a fantastic style. Full bodied with a spicy nose, this 6% ABV brew wasn’t the least bit shy. The kaffir lime and Champaign-like effervescence balanced out the peppercorns and sweet malt, making it both light bodied and rich. All I could say is, “More, please. Now.”
I have to hand it to Peekskill -- they never cease to amaze me. I tried their Simple Sour a few months back at a new beer bar near my house, Nostrand Avenue Pub. It was fantastic as I remember it, tart and fruity with a tangerine twist. When Jimmy Carbone told me they altered the recipe, I made my way directly over to their booth and offered up my cup. Assistant GM Brendan gave me the pour and yep - that sour was in a class of its own. Like a Berliner Weiss with an extra punch and Champaign-like carbonation, the brew was equal parts juicy and dry if you can believe it. Brilliant. Their second offering was their award-winning Eastern Standard IPA -- all hop-forward goodness with incredible citrusy and floral aromatics then some tropical fruits balanced by a slightly spicy malt character. Trust me, if anything is worth a scene trip up the Hudson, it’s Peekskill Brewery. They’re not just going places -- they’ve already been there, made some beer, blew everyone away and moved on.