A beer festival that offers dozens of different brews from local producers? That’s a good thing. Throw in the fact that a local charity benefits from all the imbibing and suddenly it’s a great thing. The Five Boro Craft Beer Fest, held Friday night at Studio Square (35-37 36th Street, Long Island City), welcomed a few hundred thirsty souls to drink to their hearts’ content while feeling philanthropic: Event proceeds went to GrowNYC, the organization that sponsors greenmarkets, urban gardens, recycling, and environmental education programs across the city.
The connection between local brewing and GrowNYC has never been stronger since the non-profit’s Regional Grains Project took off a few years ago. Up until recently, grain-growing in the Northeast was virtually nonexistent. Thanks to the efforts of GrowNYC to encourage bakers, brewers, and other producers to seek out locally grown ingredients, more and more farmers have begun planting and selling wheat, rye, spelt, and other grains. Simultaneously, malting facilities have sprung up to process the grains needed to make beer, and GrowNYC helps connect farmers, maltsters, and brewers to facilitate access and exchange.
“We love beer and we love local products so we’re excited that brewers are getting more involved in it, ” says Laura McDonald of GrowNYC. “We think it’s definitely the next thing on the horizon of the local movement.” To that end, last summer the organization partnered with Brooklyn Brewery to produce Greenmarket Wheat Beer, made with 70 percent New York and 100 percent Northeast region ingredients. They hope to continue similar initiatives in the future.
In the meantime, many of the brewers at Friday’s festival use local ingredients in their beers — some exclusively — so there’s plenty of choice for those looking to support regional producers in a tasty way. Established breweries like Brooklyn, Southampton, and Captain Lawrence poured alongside newer names, including Flagship and Finback, so young their tasting rooms aren’t even open for business yet; recent additions Rockaway, Bridge and Tunnel, Big Alice, Other Half, Gun Hill, and Dyckman Beer Company; and “gypsy brewers” Grimm, Radiant Pig, and Queens Brewery, who don’t have their own spaces but work with other breweries’ equipment to craft their beer. A smattering of breweries from beyond the five boroughs — such as Sly Fox from Pennsylvania and Two Roads from Connecticut — added their brews to the mix, and a newly revamped Coney Island Brewing Company showed off recent changes in both bottle design aesthetic and the beer itself.
With a limited number of tickets sold to the event, attendees enjoyed a bustling but not packed setting, rounded out with local food vendors and live music. Find more photos from the Five Boro Craft Beer Fest on the next page.