Once upon time, New York was a major beer producer. Prohibition, though, in addition to wiping out fun, destroyed the Empire State’s role as a leader among beer regions. Now, our great city appears to be angling for a comeback. Along with breweries in every borough and some great brewpubs, we have become champions of the great tradition of beer festivals. And on November 23 and 24, New Yorkers can take part in the NYC Craft Beer Festival – Winter Harvest held at the Lexington Armory (Lexington Avenue and 25th Street).
The event will feature 150 winter offerings from 75 craft brewers, including Ommegang’s new Game of Thrones-inspired brew, Take the Black Stout; Bronx Brewery’s Black Pale Ale; Six Point Global Warmer; and Lake Placid’s Nipple Top Stout. According to Sarah Annese, one of the beer curators for the event, the New York City beer scene has reached a point where “great craft beer permeates neighborhoods that previously were beer deserts.” She adds, “Now you can not only find great beer down the street at your neighborhood bar, but also at fine restaurants and bodegas alike.”
But while there will be a focus on New York beers, the selection at the festival won’t be limited to local breweries. “When curating this list we wanted to showcase local breweries and how they fit into larger craft beer landscape as well as some great brews from across the country,” says Giancarlo Annese from BeerUnion.com. “In fall and winter you like to have roasty and spicy flavors. But as always, the freshest beer is better beer.”
And there will be something for everyone, whether you’re new to craft brews, a beer connoisseur, or just looking for a fun, kid-free weekend activity. For those still settling into the craft beer scene, the main tasting room floor will likely suffice; aficionados should spring for the Connoisseurs ticket, which will get them access to the connoisseurs lounge for special additional samplings like Allagash Hugh Malone, Corsendonk Christmas, Southern Tier Choklat, Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve Porter, and a selection each from Cigar City, Hopping Frog, Aspall, and Wandering Aengus Cider Works. Those ticket-holders will also be treated to a special back room with an additional 10 to 15 rare beers, gourmet snacks, and live acoustic blues and folk music plus early access along with VIPs.
Educational seminars might teach you some impressive party tricks before the holidays. Join cocktail guru Jonathan Pogash for an exploration of beer-based cocktails, which will include a how-to seminar on making your own at home. Home brewers will especially enjoy the culinary brewing class led by Jared Rouben — former Brewmaster at Goose Island Brew Pubs and currently at Moody Tongue Brewery in Chicago — who’s a big fan of imbuing beers with food flavors.
Although this is the second year that the Lexington Armory will host this shindig, new building codes means fewer attendees are allowed in at the same time. To compensate, organizers added a special Sunday session on top of the two planned for Saturday. “As both Saturday sessions are very close to selling out every available ticket, we’re excited to see how people embrace the Sunday tasting,” says Robert Howell, one of the festival’s organizers. In other words, get your tickets fast!
The NYC Craft Beer Festival will offer two Saturday sessions, 2 to 4:30 p.m., and 7 to 9:30 p.m. On Sunday, there is only an afternoon session. Tickets are on-sale now.