Here is an article I've written to appear in the Edmonton Homebrewer's Guild Newsletter on my trip to NYC:
New York, City of Awesome
The word "awesome" is certainly by far overused in society as well as my vocabulary these days. However, there isn't a better word to describe how I feel about my recent trip to New York City. The word "awesome" means "something which inspires awe", and New York City certainly does that. The city is about being big -- big skyscrapers, big money, big population, big parks, big traffic headaches, and most importantly: big beer selection.
First off, a little about the city itself. I had the fortune to be able to stay with a friend who lived on the the East side of midtown Manhattan. From that point pretty much anything you would want to do was within 45 minutes walking distance, if not closer. The NYC Metro is... interesting, but functional. Once you figure out the difference between "local" and "express" trains you're set (you figure this out quickly after you see your stop whiz by... and the next two stops too... and find yourself in a sketchy-looking spot of Harlem). Oddly, Manhattan seems to be a very safe place, even at night, which surprised me. I wandered the streets alone for a few hours very late at night and never felt "in danger" -- in fact, I saw several young, attractive females jogging alone in the wee hours of the morning. That certainly defies the stereotype that I had of the city. I could walk around the city for hours, and see something interesting every few minutes. Every couple of streets brings something new.
Of course, one of the reasons I went to New York was to try some great beers. I visited almost 15 bars/pubs on my visit, but I'll only write about the highlights. My first stop was at Heartland Brewpub in Union Square. While they have what looks like a full brewery in the back, they don't actually brew there anymore. Most of the beers I tasted there were not "awesome", and in fact some of them had a very soda-like flavour I disagreed with. Their "Cornhusker" lager is actually advertised as being brewed with corn being an advantage somehow. Not surprisingly, it was a very corny and horrible beer. However, they did have a couple of gems. They make a very good IPA as well as a decent seasonal Saison. They also produce an Imperial IPA (7.75% abv), which was by far one of the best beers I had during my entire stay. It seemed unfiltered, amber-brown, nice flowery hop aroma (but not too strong), and a beautiful balance of sweet malty goodness on the forefront with a great bitter finish that sticks like glue. Every other Imperial IPA I've had seems to put too much effort into the hops and ignores the malt to balance it, I think this brewer got it perfect.
My next stop was to a German pub called Zum Schneider. I had the opportunity to try many German beers I've only heard of on TAP (including Weinsephaner Hefeweizen and Spaten Doppelbock). Definitely book off an afternoon + evening at this place if you're ever in NYC.
One of the best stops I made was to Sixpoint Craft Ales in lower Brooklyn. Located in a somewhat run-down industrial area, this very small brewery produces some excellent beers. I spent the afternoon with Aaron Stumpf, the head brewer. I helped them move their bags of malt around, and was well-rewarded with some of their fine beers (so much so that my ability to find my way back to the metro was hindered). They don't filter any of their beers! They use a combination of highly-floculant yeasts and longer aging of each batch to achieve a semi-clear beer. One of the best beers that I had on my trip was their Brownstone Ale, a very complex malty beer made with 10 specialty malts. I am currently trying to replicate this beer, however I can't get any samples out here to compare to! They sent me home with several bottles of some of their beers, I will bring one to this month's meeting (unless I drink them all...)
Last, by certainly not least, I visited The Ginger Man Beer Bar. This bar boasts ~66 draught beers plus 1-2 cask beers, and >130 bottled beers from around the world. I was in heaven... my only mistakes were to visit this place only once, which was on the second last day of my trip when I was pretty much "over-beered" (yes, it IS possible). Their cask ale was the Sixpoint Ales Bengali Tiger... a MASSIVELY bitter beer that was even too much for me. I also made the mistake of ending my night with two half-pints of barley wines on draught... Victory Old Horizontal 10.5% (the name is quite suiting for my position an hour or so later), and the Rock Art Ridge Runner (7.5%). Both very excellent beers, especially the Victory... it didn't taste like an 10.5% beer, and it went down very easily, which is a very bad combination.
Certainly, New York City isn't known for having a lot of breweries, but because of the large population (8.5 million) the beer selection is great. Even the nearest pub or grocery store will have some Dogfish Head or Stone in bottles. I imagine within the next year I will return to New York City... amongst all the places in the world I think I had more fun there than anywhere else!
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