Fifty thousand people descended on Denver, Colorado for the 2013 Great American Beer Festival, a massive showcase of everything happening in brewing in this country that took place October 10-12. The event also pits beers against each other in competition, and this year, 4,000 beers from big and small breweries alike were entered in 100 categories. New York breweries took home seven awards; here are the details on the state’s medal-worthy brews.
Field Beer or Pumpkin Beer
Bronze: Splashing Pumpkin, Great South Bay Brewery, Bay Shore
Says Phil Ebel, chief operations officer at Great South Bay Brewery: “Splashing Pumpkin was first released in 2010 as our first seasonal beer. We wanted to make a pumpkin beer that was lower in alcohol, very drinkable, used real pumpkin and a pinch of select spices. We only use cinnamon and clove, whereas most other pumpkin-style beers use nutmeg and allspice. We’ve always been very proud of this beer, and our brewer Greg Maisch has always joked that if we won a GABF medal, it would be for our pumpkin beer. We’ve had great success with this beer, and it feels great to be the recipient of this award. This is the fourth season we’ve brewed this beer and we’re excited to brew it for years to come.”
The brew is only available on draft in Long Island, so those who want to get a taste will have to venture out to the source. The tasting room at Great South Bay Brewery is open 3 to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Bronze: RastafaRye, Blue Point Brewing Co., Patchogue
This is the second win for Blue Point Brewing’s RastafaRye, a silver medalist at 2009’s GABF. The flamboyantly marked beer–the label is shrouded in psychedelic rainbows and a Rasta head–is full of impeccable rye flavor, and the proceeds go to an honorable cause: They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO), an organization that benefits underprivileged children in the Caribbean with sports, health, and enrichment programs.
RastafaRye is available in Whole Foods and a number of restaurants, craft beer bars, and bottle shops around the city. It’s also on draft at Stag’s Head, Rattle and Hum, and Terroir Highline, among other spots. Look for the kinky dreads on the tap handle. Drink on and be happy.
Gold: Hops n’ Roses, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., Elmsford
Hops n’ Roses is one of Captain Lawrence’s most adventurous beers. The malty beverage is aged in oak barrels with rose hips, elderflower, and hibiscus, and the result is an immensely herbaceous sour ale balanced with floral notes. And don’t be surprised by its color: This brew looks more like carbonated grapefruit juice than your usual beer.
Hops n’ Roses is currently available at craft beer stores around New York, as well as by the bottle at Bar Great Harry and Keg and Lantern.
International-Style Pale Ale
Silver: Amazeballs, Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill
“Amazeballs is a single-hop pale ale dosed with galaxy hops from Australia,” Michael Benz, Peekskill’s Brewery Ambassador tells us. “It was first released last year at our old facility and instantly became our most popular beer. It’s brewed as a very drinkable pale ale. We wanted to showcase the juicy, tropical notes of galaxy hops.”
Amazeballs is not in distribution and can only be found on tap at the Peekskill Brewery. That said, call ahead to be sure it’s on tap before you make the journey. “Amazeballs takes a month to make,” Benz says, “And it usually sells out in a matter of weeks. It’s the only downside of focusing our efforts on one very exclusive hop.”
The next batch will be ready at the very end of October.
South German-Style Hefeweizen
Bronze: Brooklyner Weisse, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
Hefeweizen is not what many associate with Brooklyn Brewery, but the local beermasters are churning out a medal-winning version of the German classic. All Hefeweizens have lots of wheat and a little malted barley, and the Brooklyner Weisse is brewed with German wheat and barley malts. The Bavarian yeast added to the recipe produces familiar wheat bear flavors and aromas such as banana, cloves, melon, and a hint of smoke.
“Brooklyner Weisse was the first beer we brewed when we opened the brewery here in Williamsburg in 1996,” Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver tells us. “It later won a gold medal at GABF, and it was great to see it show through this year. It’s been years since we sent it into competition, but we’ve recently seen our Weisse praised by so many German brewers that I thought we ought to send it back into competition.”
The Brooklyner Weisse is available year-round. To find it near you, log on to BrooklynBrewery.com/find, or just keep your eyes peeled–it’s on draft in many bars and restaurants around Manhattan and Brooklyn.
French & Belgian-Style Saison
Bronze: Maggie’s Farmhouse Ale, Crossroads Brewing Co., Athens
Named after the Bob Dylan song, Crossroads Brewing Co.’s Maggie’s Farmhouse Ale was first released in 2011, the brewery’s first summer in business, and since then, it has been a recurring seasonal beer on the spring and summer roster.
“The recipe itself is something I’ve been working on over the course of my 11-year brewing career,making small tweaks to the batches until I finally arrived at the final product,” says Hutch Kugeman, head brewer. “Saison beer needs to be fermented very warm, like over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to create unique fruit and spice flavors and aromas, called esters. Those flavors are really the backbone of the beer. Most ales are fermented around 65 degrees to keep those fruit flavors under control. So it’s a fun beer to brew because it involves a leap of faith to turn the cooling system off and just let the yeast go do its thing.”
Most of Maggie’s Farmhouse Ale is sold at the Crossroads pub in Athens, New York, though some kegs are sold throughout the Hudson Valley and capital region, such as City Beer Hall in Albany, Terrapin in Rhinebeck, and Dutch Ale House in Saugerties. Kegs are also sent to American Beer in Brooklyn, which will be receiving a new stock next spring.
“We also release 750-milliliter bottles of Maggie’s Farm as part of our aged and bottle-conditioned Brewmaster’s Reserve Series,” Kugeman says.
Belgian-Style Abbey Ale
Bronze: Ommegang Three Philosophers, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown
Three Philosophers was first released in 2003; the name and recipe came from a national contest hosted by RateBeer.com. The site asked contributors to write a story describing a perfect beer. “The winner–Noel Blake from Portland, Oregon–described a beer using the character of the three philosophers in William Blake’s (no relation) play Island in the Moon,” Brewery Ommegang communications director Larry Bennett tells us. “Those characters are the Cynic–‘Why do we need to brew this beer?’–the Epicure–‘This must be the most wonderful and beautiful beer ever’–and the Pythagorean–‘OK, then how do we accomplish this?’ After the contest was completed, Ommegang was chosen to brew the beer. At first it was a one-off batch. But it did so well we made it a seasonal in 750-milliliter bottles. That did so well we put it in kegs. That did so well we now bottle in 12 ounces, 750 milliliters, and keg year-round.”
The quadrupel ale combines malty Belgian-style ale with Liefmans Kriek, an authentic cherry ale from Belgium. Brewery Ommegang describes the color of the beer as, “dark, mysterious cherry-chestnut … full carbonation with smooth, tan head.” The recipe combines four malts (pils, amber, caramel, and Munich) with the cherry Kriek to create a beer reminiscent of sherry or port, with a mix of dark fruit, coffee, and raisin flavors that will only intensify as the brew ages.
This isn’t the brewery’s first award for Three Philosophers. It also won a bronze medal for Belgian Strong Dark Ale at the 2004 World Beer Cup, and a silver medal for Belgian-style Strong Ale at the 2011 European Beer Star.