At last week’s New York Beer Fest, three men arrived wearing their own snack food, pretzel necklaces they proceeded to gnaw on between beers. Maybe it’s a sign that these events are just another incarnation of the drunken, college block parties of our youth—that magical mix of beer, sun, and overtaxed Johnny-on-the-Spots. The key difference, however, is the Beast and Schlitz have been replaced with “sippin’ ” beers: complex, nuanced brews that can only come from the blood, sweat, and tears of the underappreciated microbrewer. Brooklyn Brewery played host last Saturday to the day-long festival, which featured all the choice microbreweries in New York state. Clearly, you needn’t go beyond New York to find some of the greatest brewers in the business; each of their products is worth trying out, either in the city or on a quick trip to the brewery itself. Pretzel necklace optional, of course.
Blue Point Brewing Co., Long Island’s only microbrewery was created back in 1998. In addition to their flagship Toasted Lager, they’re known for their sweet selection of ales, including a blueberry one that uses a whopping 132 pounds of fruit per batch. Hit the tasting room in Patchogue to sample all 12 beers.
Ommegang Brewery Heady Belgian ales, straight from . . . Cooperstown, New York? All are bottle-conditioned and good for aging in your cellar. Plus, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is just a few minutes down the road.
Chelsea Brewery Most of us are familiar with Manhattan’s largest microbrewery. Their Checker Cab Blonde Ale, made with imported Noble hops and 10 percent wheat malt, is a fine summer beer; the slightly heavier Sunset Red is for those who prefer a strong caramel taste.
Flying Bison Brewery The Buffalo brewery’s big beer is Aviator Red, a decent, somewhat nutty red ale.
FX Matt Brewing Co. Since 1885, the Matt family of Utica, New York has been brewing their Saranac beers up in the Adirondacks. The limited edition Belgian White is a lighter beer made from oats, wheat, and barley malt—and a nice alternative to the popular Hoegaarden White.
High Falls Brewing Co. We never realized the makers of that college-coed favorite, Honey Brown, actually hail from Rochester.
Ithaca Beer Co. The prize beer of this Ithaca brewery is the Nut Brown, a rich brew with detectable hints of chocolate and caramel.
Southern Tier Brewing Co. The Lakewood, New York company specializes in seasonal brews, like the Hop Sun Summer Ale, a light wheat beer with delicate citrus flavorings.
Sixpoint Ales The big success story at the moment, Sixpoint Craft Ales hails from right here in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Sixpoint Brownstone, a deep ale with chocolate and toffee notes, is an ideal brew for the colder fall months.
The next big beer fest, Beer on the Pier, will feature beer from over 100 breweries; tickets are $41.50 for the several-hour event.