What to Drink at New York Craft Beer Week

Here's some tips to help navigate the 160 tap and cask offerings

Monday, Sep 14, 2009  |  Updated 2:45 PM EDT
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What to Drink at New York Craft Beer Week

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New York Craft Beer Week, a ten-day celebration of the city’s surging beer culture, begins today at 83 bars across the five boroughs. To help navigate the more than 160 tap and cask offerings, we asked three of the city’s leading beer experts — Josh Schaffner (NY Craft Beer Week’s founder and director), Justin Philips (owner of the Park Slope craft-brew temple Beer Table), and Jon Lundbom (New York Division Manager for the rare beer importer B United International) — to pick the most notable small-batch standouts.

Josh Schaffner

1. Rauch Porter, Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Available: Studio Square, (September 20 only, closing festival)
Influenced by the Rauch ales of Bamberg, Germany, Victory used traditional smoked malt that gives the beer a carefully charred flavor, “like a nice steak off the grill.”

2. Monster Ale, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
Available: Mug’s Alehouse
“Some beer really benefits from time, just like a fine wine,” Schaffner says. Brooklyn’s barley wine has been aged since 2003 and is now ready to be served. “The aging mellows it out and helps all the flavors meld together so it becomes a much more balanced beer. You’ll find a lot of plumlike characteristics in this one.”

3. Avatar Jasmine IPA, Elysian Brewing Company, Seattle, Washington
Available: Puck Fair, the Bell House, Blind Tiger Ale House
Schaffner recommends this ale for craft-beer newbies who are looking to branch out from heavily hopped pale ales like Sierra Nevada. “It’s a hoppy beer, but you don’t really notice the hops because you’re entranced by the floral quality. The jasmine flower gives it a real perfumey scent.”

4. Adoration Ale, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York
Available: Resto
Available to the public for the first time, Brewery Ommegang’s holiday ale will have a bouquet reminiscent of late fall and winter. Adoration was brewed with coriander, cardamom, mace, grains of paradise, and sweet orange peel.

5. White Gold, Ithaca Beer Company, Ithaca, New York
Available: Amsterdam 106
Most Americans associate wheat beer with an orange slice and the Coors-brewed Blue Moon. Ithaca’s White Gold, however, is “going to be a lot drier than that. A lot of wheat beers are like Rieslings, this will be more like a Pinot Grigio.”


Justin Philips
1. Collaboration Not Litigation, Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado
Available: the Habitat
In 2000, Russian River and Avery Brewing Companies discovered they were simultaneously brewing Belgian-style ales called “Salvation.” Instead of suing each other for trademark infringement, they combined forces, brewing the two beers side-by-side and then mixing them together to form a hybrid.

2. Cuvee de Castleton, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Pleasantville, New York
Available: Hop Devil Grill
An oak-aged, Belgian-farmhouse-style ale that’s “really bright and zippy, almost cider-like.” Cuvee de Castleton has so far only been bottled, “if he filled a keg for somebody,” Philips says, “that’s pretty rad.”

3. Little Thumper, Defiant Brewing Company, Pearl River, New York
Available: the Diamond, Bar Great Harry, Jimmy's No. 43, Sycamore
American beers are known for big, hoppy bites and high alcohol content, so it’s rare to find a domestically brewed English-style bitter. Little Thumper is just that, a “restrained session beer that’s on the lighter, more lemony side.”

4. Cuvee de Cardoz, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York
Available: Rattle & Hum
Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver and Tabla chef Floyd Cardoz combined forces to create a beer that owes a heavy debt to the spices of Cardoz’s Indian kitchen.

5. Joe Mama’s Milk Coffee Stout, Keegan Ales, Kingston, New York
Available: the Gibson
A heavy, full-bodied beer that gets it unique character from Keegan’s skillful use of milk in the brewing process. “Lactose won’t ferment,” Philips says, “so you get a milky sweetness and a full, unctuous texture that’s not from carbonation.”


Jon Lundbom

1. Big A IPA, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Available: Swift Hibernian Lounge
An Imperial IPA that’s 9.6 percent alcohol, Big A has “great fruit character” and avoids the pitfall of “tasting like a giant glass of sugar.” Lundbom says approvingly that, even with a high alcohol profile, Big A “is not nearly as monolithic as I was expecting.”

2. The Ginger Man Ale, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Pleasantville, New York
Available: the Ginger Man
Scott Vaccaro of Captain Lawrence, brews this exclusively for the Ginger Man in Murray Hill. “Too often bars have house beers that are just mass-produced brands with a different label,” Lundbom says, “but Scott went out of his way to create an elegant Belgian amber ale spiced with ginger‹befitting for one of the nation’s best craft-beer bars.”

3. Prima Pils, Victory Brewing Company, Downington, Pennsylvania
Available: Back Forty, George Keeley
One of America’s most celebrated Pilsners, the Prima Pils has a “really nice balance of hop bitterness and a crisp, clean profile that’s a wonderful distillation of the style.”

4. Triple, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York
Available: Resto
The Duvel-Moortgart Company of Belgium runs Ommegang as an American outpost to further the cause of Belgian style ales. The Ommegang Triple is full of the “esters and fenel you associate with the Belgian yeast strain” and candy sugar, which lets brewers “crank up the alcohol without adding alcohol flavor.”

5. Cane and Ebel, Two Brothers Brewing Company, Warrenville, Illinois
Available: Adobe Blues
This rye ale has “spicy notes from the grain” and a “very malt character.” As good American ale, it’s also “aggressively hopped.”

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