My search for the best beer made in or around New York was probably my most audacious search yet. It’s an impossible mission for a number of reasons.
First off, to compare one style to another and say one is the best is ludicrous. That’s part of why I love beer so much. The flavors can range from a light crisp lager with sweet cereal notes (like Kelso’s phenomenal Pilsner) to smoky and bitter dark stout (Greenport Harbor’s Hoppy Stout) to a rich spicy seasonal ale that tastes just like Thanksgiving (Chelsea’s Pumpkin Pie). Beer is incredibly versatile and depending upon my mood, my surroundings, and the weather, I could crave any number of beer styles.
Secondly, the ever growing number of breweries in and around NYC (I limited myself to a 90 mile radius) are becoming increasingly more and more prolific. Many are not technically brewed within the city limits, but places like Bronx Brewery and Sixpoint are certainly representing the city with their quality beers and NYC-pride.
And there’s just no way to taste every single beer a brewery like Brooklyn or Sixpoint releases. With all the creativity and special brews (like the Mad Scientist and Brewmaster Reserve Series), there’s always something new. So needless to say, my journey (or my excuse to drink lots of beer) will continue on a smaller scale (perhaps forever).
Some highlights for me included Brooklyn Brewery’s three regularly produced bottle-fermented beers (Local 1, Local 2, and Sorachi Ace) – they really stretch the imagination and the limits of what beer can be. And it’s awesome that they have the space and manpower to invite guests to tour the facilities and sample the beer. Kelso’s beers are pretty solid and while they do some experimenting, it’s their simple and consistent beers like the Pilsner and Nut Brown Lager that show why quality ingredients are important when it comes to these often-produced styles.
Barrier Brewery, out in Long Island, blew me away with their prolific range and tasty creations, like the Unimperial IPA and the Cairn Scotch Ale. Just two guys brew all the beer and they have more than 20 styles at any given time. Pretty mind blowing! Most of Empire’s beers are made in Brooklyn (although the brewery is in Syracuse) and I’ve loved their local Tap Takeovers, which fully immerse them in the NYC craft beer community. 508 Gastrobrewery is also doing brewing mighty interesting beers (I really like their Cream Ale), with limited space in their basement and the advantage of pairing their beers with the kitchen’s gourmet food.
With so many exciting breweries starting up everyday (there are so many that a NYC’s Brewer’s Guild was formed), great craft beer bars popping up all around the city (everybody must visit Pony Bar) and exciting and approachable beer stores (same goes for Good Beer), New York City is once again becoming a place to drink fresh, local creative beer. And I dare you to find just one favorite beer! Check my current beer and brewery ratings here.