Most of the news these days is dreary — but things are hopping good in Brew York State. New breweries are popping up everywhere, the hops industry is growing like a weed, beer festivals fill the social calendar, and brew masters are concocting ever-more-interesting styles and flavors. Yes, it’s a good time to love beer here in the Valley; here are eight highlights:
This summer’s World Cup introduced many soccer fans to the pleasures of the beer garden, and the Valley offers some great ones: Wolff’s Biergarten and City Beer Hall in Albany; Schatzi’s in Potown; the Gunk Haus (above) in Highland. Prost!
It’s easier than ever to get high-quality craft beers from around the world. Even the staid grocery chains now carry a decent supply, but real beer geeks have emporia like Half Time, which has a huge new store in Mamaroneck; and the Craft Beer Cellar, which opened in Warwick in October.
A top trend of 2014 was undoubtedly sour beer. Regional brewers like Captain Lawrence in Elmsford and Peekskill Brewery are crafting brews made with souring bacteria. They’re not for everyone, but they represent the creative possibilities in today’s beer world.
A marriage made in heaven
If there’s one thing we like as much as beer, it’s bourbon. So a tip of the hat to Chatham Brewery’s Bourbon Barrel Brown Ale, which ages for four months in charred-oak bourbon barrels. With this self-contained boilermaker in hand, we wish you a Happy Brew Year.
A growing number of beer festivals keep hopheads busy throughout the year. (Did you check out Beer, Bourbon, and Bacon, or the Hudson River Craft Beer Festival?) No surprise, then, that things have occasionally gotten out of control, as riffraff storm the ramparts, not to celebrate good beer, but to get snockered. Some fests are trying to control the rowdies by limiting ticket sales or otherwise clamping down on bad behavior. To which we say, cheers.
For those of a certain age, cracking open a can of crappy beer — Schlitz! Utica Club! — was a right of passage in high school. Now you can crack open a can of something actually worth drinking. Quinn’s, on Beacon’s Main Street, offers more than 40 canned beers, including two from Brooklyn Brewery. And just as we were going to press, the news came through that Newburgh Brewing Company’s cream ale is now available in cans — one of the first local brews to come with a pop top.
NYS hops to it
The state’s farm brewery law, which requires state-made beers to use 20 percent New York hops, has been a boon to hops farmers. Growers like Dutchess Hops — host of the Hoptember Harvest Festival — are helping bring the state back to its rightful place as the leading hops producer in the country, just as it was 150 years ago.
New and improved
Several new breweries joined the party in 2014. Mill Street Brewing Company (which actually opened in November 2013) certainly pumped up the Poughkeepsie brewing scene. The Last Stop Brewing Company, also in P’town, opened this year and promptly won a bronze medal in the Best Individual Craft Beers category for its American Rhine wheat ale at this summer’s TAP New York Festival. The 2 Way Brewing Company recently popped up on the Beacon scene; Blue Collar Brewery, which at press time had yet to open (although they have started brewing), soon will offer even more good beer to Poughkeepsians; in Sullivan County, the Roscoe Beer Company brews up its Trout Town Amber Ale in celebration of the town’s great fishing.
And established breweries and brewpubs are growing. In 2013, Peekskill Brewery moved to a bigger space, and now the Hop in Beacon has done likewise. Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy plans to open a new production facility in a converted 19th-century mill along the Walloomsac River in Hoosick.
What were your favorite local breweries and beer moments this year? Let us know in the comments section below.