Empire State of Mind [Beer]

You want some a dis?

A recent story of mine from http://www.examiner.com, Nov. 20th, 2009.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a city of more than 8 million people and some 30,000 restaurants and bars should take to the latest, full-flavored craft beers, but the fact is, it’s a relatively recent development. From locally-made craft beer to world-class beer lists, festivals, and beer pairing dinners, Gotham has gone certifiably beer crazy.

For starters, several reputable breweries now call the city home, which means beer lovers can drink the freshest beer, which affects flavor, especially in unfiltered, unpasteurized beers made in traditional styles. For starters, seek out the full-flavored beers made by Brooklyn Brewery, of Williamsburg; Kelso Brewery, in the area of Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant Town, andSixpoint Craft Ales, located in Red Hook.

Others are located just outside the city, such as Westchester County’s acclaimed Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, a family business run by Scott Vaccaro. According to the New York State Brewers Association, 54 breweries operate in the entire state, and some, like Ommegang, of Cooperstown, and Soutthampton, on Long Island, have achieved national prominence and earned scores of brewing industry awards. The NYSBA Web site features a downloadable map for those interested in seeing where the breweries are located.

Naturally, the best craft beer action is found in the pubs. There are now dozens of excellent ones to choose from. The best known in Manhattan include The Blind Tiger Alehouse, in the West Village, which brings in special casks and often noted brewmasters from around the world almost every week. DBA, in the East Village, has a hopping weekend scene and a deep list; it’s best experienced on a quiet afternoon. The Ginger Man, and Rattle N Hum make midtown more tolerable, especially Rattle N Hum, which has begun hosting several special events and mini beer festivals.

Brooklyn now boasts several excellent tap rooms as well, including Spuyten Duyvil, in Williamsburg, which is well known for Belgian beer styles. Bar Great Harry, in Carroll Gardens, has a list that seems to change by the day, and The Gate, in Park Slope has perhaps Brooklyn’s best outdoor beer drinking patio. Other notable, recently opened beer-centric bars include Der Schwarze Kolner, in Fort Greene, and Williamsburg’s The Diamond and Barcade. If in doubt on what to order, simply ask: the staff at these beer bars tend to really know their stuff.

But New York’s newfound love affair with craft beer isn’t limited to beer bars and brewpubs. Several of the city’s best restaurants have ambitiously scaled up their beer lists recently, too, from Thomas Keller’s three Michelin Star rated Per Se to Gramercy Tavern (which has a vintage beers list, for beers of higher alcohol percentage that are made to last), Resto, and even Daniel Boulud’s Daniel and the more recent addition DBGB, which Bouloud once joked stands for “Daniel Bouloud Good Beer” (it’s an homage to the famed rock club CBGB’s that once reigned down the street from its Bowery location). Where beer was once an afterthought, it’s now getting its own menus and even beer sommeliers.

For the home consumer, grocery stores and markets are also getting into the act. It’s not unusual to see relatively rare craft beers for sale in neighborhood bodegas. Whole Foods recently added an impressive Beer Room to its Houston St. location; consumers can fill up growlers of fresh beer or choose from thousands of local, national, and international beers. Park Slope’s Bierkraft has a similar taps and bottles set up, and homebrew supplier Brooklyn Brewshop has both a retail store in Sunset Park and regular presence at the Fort Greene Saturday Market and DUMBO Sunday Markets.

Still, beer could never be a New York standby without some good old fashioned glitz. But thanks to Brooke Shields, a Belgian beer lover, we’ve got that covered, too.

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