craft beer

Calling out Names: BierWax’s Beer Name Playlist Volume 1 (Monkish)

My first piece here remarked on the essential connection between hip hop and craft beer, and clearly, we are not the only ones who feel this way. One of the exciting developments that reinforces our belief that BierWax reflects the cultural zeitgeist is the emergence of so many beers with names inspired by hip hop. One of the breweries leading the way in this regard in Monkish, out in Torrance, California. 

With this trend in mind, here’s a quick feature and playlist covering beers brewed by Monkish (some in collaboration with Other Half) with names inspired by rap lyrics. 

 

2-1 & Lewis

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Nate Dogg & Warren G – Regulate

Lyric: “So I hooks a left, on 2-1 and Lewis. Some brothers shooting dice, so I said, let’s do this”

“Regulate” is a classic guilty pleasure that was either the most unlikely or likely hit off the Above the Rim soundtrack. 2-1 and Lewis is the intersection at which poor Warren G gets got after a whimsical decision to enter a dice game. Now, Warren should have known never to enter a hood dice game on a whim; it can only end poorly. Luckily, his ace, the G-Funkdafied Nate D-O-double-G was there to bail him out. What are the chances that you’re cruising down 2-1 & Lewis, strapped with “16 in the clip and one in the hole,” while your homie is getting robbed on the same block? …Probably about the same chances that some dude who goes solely by “Leon” can throw down reverse dunks like Dominique at the ’87 Dunk Contest and pull up from half court like Steph Curry at the Rucker – all in in god damn couduroys and a thermal! But, great art sometimes requires the suspension of disbelief. Still, “Regulate” goes down as the only hip hop hit, in which the protagonist gets jacked, but saved by a gun-toting crooner. In the words of a much better rapper, I’d say that’s Rather Unique.

 

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Notorious B.I.G. – Hypnotize

Lyric: “Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can’t you see? Sometimes your words just hypnotize me”

Perhaps no hip hop artist was ever more capable of making hits for both the club and the streets, the radio and the Walkman, the stick-up kid and the nine-to-fiver, than the livest one from Bedford Stuyvesant. While “Hypnotize” is plenty guilty of ushering in the “shiny suit era” that dealt a major blow to boom bap, and largely shut the door on the golden era, it certainly gets people off their asses and can still turn a club out to this day. While it’s nowhere on my essential Biggie playlist, it’s an undisputed hit – so much so that it actually inspired a second Monkish beer, a standard IPA, entitled Days of Underoos.

 

Blowin’ up the Spot

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – Blowin’ up the Spot

Lyric: “And you don’t wanna hear the burners go pop. Gangstarr, motherfucker, what?! Blowing up the Spot”

This is Monkish’s second collaboration with Other Half. Both titled after Gangstarr tracks, JFK 2 LAX (covered later in this entry) was the first collab. Driven by the success of the first collab, this beer was highly anticipated and drew quite long lines on release day. “Blowin’ up the Spot” was one of the standouts on Hard to Earn, which is one of several golden era classics from Gangstarr’s catalog. On this track, DJ Premier flips some funky George Clinton samples as Guru’s unmistakable voice and smooth cadence drops the lyrics, which are slightly more on the aggressive side, relative to Guru’s overall demeanor.

 

Bomb Atomically

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Wu Tang Clan – Triumph

Lyric: “I bomb atomically, Socrates philosophies and hypotheses can’t define how I be dropping these” (Inspectah Deck)

I first heard Deck spit this verse about a year prior to the release (promo or full) of this song, as he delivered it on the epic Tony Touch tape #50, which featured “freestyles” from 50 emcees. It got rewound several times on that tape (as did the Nine verse, in which he names checked tons of rappers), but when “Triumph” hit, it ascended the verse to a whole other level. The Wu Tang Forever album was quite possibly the most anticipated hip hop album of all time. It’s hard to conceptualize and compare pre-internet, but no hip hop artist or group was ever as big and omnipresent as Wu Tang Clan at their pinnacle. This is especially awe-inspiring given that there were tons of other incredibly dope artists in their primes at the same time. “Triumph” delivered on the hype and only further built expectations for the album. The premier of the “Triumph” video was like a national event; the video was the first rap video with a million-dollar budget. And, Deck led it off (as he did on “Protect Ya Neck”), spitting this verse while scaling a building. The verse inspiring this beer is the most memorable verse on hip hop’s most anticipated album, and one of the all-time best leadoff verses on a full-on posse track. …”Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics; graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths” still gives me chills!

 

Eric C is President

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Eric B & Rakim – Eric B is President

Lyric: Title of song

There is simultaneously so much, yet not much to say here. Off possibly the most influential album in hip hop history, we have possibly the most influential song from the most influential emcee. You can barely go four bars anywhere in the song without a line that was subsequently scratched into a chorus, or referenced in a subsequent lyric, or song or album title. Eric B is on the cut, and Ra is on mic – really doesn’t get better than this!

 

Ghetto Style Proverbs

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr feat Inspectah Deck – Above the Clouds

Lyric: “Heed the words. It’s like ghetto style proverbs. The righteous men sacrifice to get what they deserve.” (Guru)

An unexpected, yet welcome pairing, Guru and the Rebel INS trade verses over another Preemo masterpiece. I always thought Guru’s verse was extremely poetic – it’s not overly complex in lyric or flow, just well-composed and delivered, with each word carefully chosen. Deck follows in typical form, riding the beat with above average lyrical acumen, characteristics that make Deck well-suited for any and all guest features.

 

Intelligent Embellishment

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Blackstar – Re-Definition

Lyric: “Intelligent embellishment, follow the fire element from Flatbush settlement” (Mos Def)

It was very tempting to type out this entire verse. Though Mos Def’s peak as an emcee was somewhat short-lived, at his best he’s simply one of the most talented lyricists and performers to ever touch a microphone. This verse is a clinic on how to completely own the English language, as Mos finesses an educated form of braggadocio while modulating his voice and flow. This is on my short list of favorite Mos Def verses. Major props to Monkish for this one as well, because it’s a pretty deep and obscure reference.

 

JFK to LAX

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – JFK to LAX

Lyric: “Nothing happened. Mind your business – yo, step. You know we connect – JFK to LAX:

Gangstarr’s Moment of Truth is a great album that is somewhat slept on. The duo is largely defined by a string of three albums that preceded this release, but it deserves the same reverence as the other classics in the catalog. “JFK 2 LAX” is a fairly short, chorus-less jam that showcases an essential, introspective and refined Guru over impeccable Preemo production. Few combos throughout hip hop history have ever delivered so reliably and consistently.

 

La Schmoove

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Fu-Schnickens – La Schmoove

Lyric: “La Schmoove! We ain’t got nothin’ to prove!”

Fu-Schnickens may be best known as the established group that basically launched Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career. They were also notably used as a de facto insult when Nas accused Jay-Z of emulating his style, claiming that prior his influence, Jay-Z “rapped like the Fu-Schnickens.” But, Fu-Schnickens had a short, yet relatively meteoric run in the early 90s, defined by their rapid fire, energetic flows. Along with “La Schmoove,” ‘What’s up Doc” (featuring Shaq), “True Fushnick,” and “Ring the Alarm” all made waves at time of release.

 

Relax your Mind

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: EPMD – You Gots to Chill

Lyric: “Relax your mind, let your conscience be free, and get down to the sounds of EPMD” (Erick Sermon)

EPMD is one of the greatest duos in hip hop history, and “You Gots to Chill” is one of their most classic jams, girded by one of the most recognizable and recycled samples/beats in the genre. I’ve always considered EPMD one of the best examples of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Neither Erick Sermon nor Parrish Smith are exceptionally talented emcees, and their efforts independent of the group are largely lackluster. However, the EPMD catalog contains multiple classic albums and many boom bap classics.

 

Sip the Juice

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Rakim – Juice (Know the Ledge)

Lyric: “Sip the juice, I got enough to go around. And, the thought takes place Uptown.”

The hood classic, Juice, was Tupac’s big screen breakout. The lead single off the Soundtrack was this banger from Rakim. Pretty impressive credentials, I’d say. “Deep Cover” is likely the most famous and celebrated hip hop track off a motion picture soundtrack, but this joint featuring the immortal Rakim, still in top form, has as good an argument as any for second place on that list.

 

Stampede the Globe

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Raekwon featuring Ghostface and Nas – Verbal Intercourse. 

Lyric: “Through the lights, cameras, action, glamour, glitter, and gold, I unfold a scroll. Plant seeds to stampede the globe.” (Nas)

Nas’s guest verse on Raekwon’s classic, Only Built for Cuban Linx, basically stole the show on the track, and is one of the standout verses on the entire album. Some might consider this Nas’s best guest appearance of his accomplished and prolific career. The period between Illmatic and It Was Written may be my personal favorite iteration of Nas. Die-hards will also recognize this verse from the once tough-to-find, unreleased track, “De Ja Vu” …I must have dubbed that track, along with some other Nas rarities, pre-internet, for more than two dozen people – because you know I was not actually lending out the original tape!

 

Have you had any of these gems from Monkish? If so, tell us which are your favorites. Next, we will feature some hip-hop inspired beer names from a selection of other breweries.

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In explaining the concept of BierWax to friends, family, and colleagues, I often use the phrase “craft beer.” In fact, I’ve used it in previous posts here. But, what really is “craft beer?” How useful of a term is it? And, how should we describe our beer preferences?

When I first became aware of the wider world of beers with more complex flavors and a wider spectrum of taste and style, many of these products were referred to as “microbrews.” As I understand, that term fell out of usage because it was actually a legal term referring to breweries of a certain (rather small) size and many brewers of good beer grew out of that legal definition. So, our favorite microbreweries were no longer microbreweries. “Craft beer” emerged as the replacement term.

The Brewer’s Association defines a craft beer brewer as “small, independent, and traditional.” For their purposes, this definition is probably fine, but to me it doesn’t seem particularly helpful. For example, “small” is a relative term. As an example of the arbitrary nature of this definition, “small” currently means fewer than 6 million barrels, but this figure has been revised upwards as outfits like Boston Beer Company, better known as Sam Adams, outgrew previous caps.

By the industry definition, Sam Adams is craft beer. However, most of the community who identifies as “craft beer drinkers,” would scoff at the notion of Sam Adams as craft beer. In fact, this post was partially motivated by a sign I saw at a local corner store advertising “craft beer” and featuring a picture of several varieties of Sam Adams. At the same time, a brand like Ballast Point might be considered more accessible craft beer, but ever since it was acquired by Constellation, it is no longer independent, and therefore not craft. In addition to a proxy for good beer, some people value the distinction of craft as a way to feel like they are supporting smaller, independent businesses. With more and more mergers and acquisitions, this issue is becoming a bit tangled as well.

On the simple grounds of taste, there’s beer that fits our more practical definition of “craft” that isn’t so great. There’s also beer that we don’t consider when we think of “craft,” that’s can be adequate. So, we have a term that has a technical definition, which doesn’t really reflect its colloquial use and is generally of minimal help. So, why do we use it?

Pause for appreciation of this post’s namesake

It seems to me that the false precision of the term functions basically as a lexical crutch. Take the phrase, “craft beer revolution,” or “emergence of craft beer” – both of which I’ve probably written in previous posts. What’s the alternative? “Good beer revolution?” That seems highly subjective, so I’m not sure it’s preferable.

More serious craft beer drinkers seem to understand what is meant by the term when used in like company. So, one may argue that as long we understand one another, it doesn’t much matter if common use is somewhat at odds with formal definition. But, perhaps the opposite is actually true. Beer enthusiasts can just refer to products by their proper names when speaking among ourselves – we don’t need a catch-all, genre-encompassing term. Those who need to understand what we mean when we use the term are precisely those who are on the outside. And, as long as the rift exists, it’s kind of hard to blame your cousin who, when you visit, tells you, proudly, yet condescendingly, that he picked up some “craft beer” for you because he knows you “like that stuff,” only to reveal Sam Adams Cherry Wheat or something.

As a thought experiment, imagine your beer-naïve friend is getting supplies for a barbeque and asks you what kind of beer you want. How would you answer that question without appearing too high-maintenance? Replying, “craft beer,” you’re likely not to know what you will get. You might be best off either suggesting some actual brands, or varieties, “I like IPAs, especially black IPAs,” for example.

As we market BierWax, we will likely use the term “craft beer” as a shorthand, often for practical reasons. But, we’re eager to get down to the nitty gritty, select particular offerings and engage our friends and clientele to help learn exactly what you like and how we can both satisfy and expand your palettes.

 

36 Hours in LA: A BierWax Tale

It’s Thursday, and I’m already on a hastily put together overnight trip to Beacon. It’s dark, the road is narrow and winding, and we are trying to make up some of the time lost in traffic. In a moment of silence, I happen to glance at my Instagram feed and I’m reminded that Casa Agria Specialty Ales in California is releasing Guayaba de Oro bottles on Saturday. “Would you like to go to California tomorrow?”

NOTE: This is not necessarily a guide of what to do in Los Angeles, just what I happen to have done in the roughly 36 hours I was there.

El Albajeño – 4513 Inglewood BLVD , Culver City CA 90230

We arrived Saturday morning with no plans; just with the goal of making it to Oxnard, California. But first, we had to find food… We searched for best tacos and El Albajeño popped up. The place was relatively busy, with lots of locals. The menu was chock-full of Mexican dishes, but very few tacos. Once i got my food, I was immediately envious of the Menudo and the other soupy stews I saw at every-other table. I would come back to El Albajeño… just not for the tacos.

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Casa Agria Specialty Ales – 701 N Del Norte Blvd #310, Oxnard, CA 93030 | https://casaagria.com

It’s my first time in LA, so we drive through Santa Monica and Malibu up the Pacific Coast Highway. The sun is shining and I’m overdressed. The scenery is beautiful yet oddly familiar; I have seen it plenty of times in movies and video games. I want to stop several times at the beaches and canyons, but there’s a schedule to keep.

Casa Agria is a “boutique Ventura County based brewery, focusing on mixed fermentation farmhouse style ales and barrel aged wild ales.” I first had their stuff at Hunahpu Day 2016 in Tampa, Florida, and Guayaba de Oro was one of the top beers I had that day, and a definite crowd pleaser. Based on that experience, I promised myself that if it was ever to be released I would make my way to California to get it.

When we arrived to the Casa Agria address just 15 minutes shy of the release time, we almost drove past it. Casa Agria is nestled in a nondescript industrial park; the bold gorgeous logo affixed to the front window of the suite, is the only visible cue that a brewery lives there. Waiting for the doors to open, I was somewhat surprised about the relatively small number of people that were in a loosely formed line. It is a small brewery, and it is Oxnard, but this stuff is good.

The line moves quickly, I get my bottles, and I remark that I came from NY to get these. That gets the attention of some of the staff including Ryan (one of the owners) that asks if I was the one that said that on social media. We chat for a second and he admits that he had thought to himself “Yeah Right” and yet there I was.

I’m determined to make my way through the entire tap list, starting with Guayaba de Oro itself. It’s more sour and a bit more unbalanced that I remember but no less great. Grisita and Eclipse Solaire impressed, but I was blown away by Western Glow, an IPA dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Columbus, that comes in at an ABV of 7.5%. It’s juicy, it’s tropical, resinous yet soft. I regret not bringing my growler, and now I have other reasons to come back besides the sours. If you’re in California, Casa Agria is worth traveling for!

09

 

The LINE Hotel – 3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 | http://www.thelinehotel.com

We didn’t have sleeping accommodations, heck, we had booked the rental car while cruising at 39,000 feet. We had tried to book an AirBnB but, as expected, that didn’t work so well on last minute notice. The whole trip had been on a whim, so we ended up at the Line Hotel, in Koreatown/Downtown. The Line Hotel sits at the top of Travel + Leisure’s 13 sexiest hotel rooms in the world, and with good reason. It boasts poured concrete walls, floor to ceiling windows, and every room is artistically appointed. Opting in for the Hollywood Hills view may further cut into your beer budget (we did), but hey it’s LA.

As dusk settled, I finally gave in to jet-lag, and I went to sleep far too early for a person who is in LA for the first time, but I’m sure the clubs and bars did just fine without me.

 

El Huarachito – 3010 ½ N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

Well rested but hungry, I suggested we have chilaquiles for breakfast, so off we went to northeast LA, to El Huarachito, another mom and pop operation. The chillaquiles were good, but the Huevos Divorciados blew me away. I had never heard of the dish, but now I’m and instant fan. The meal checks all the boxes; you get two eggs over easy, topped with chilaquiles one with salsa verde and one with salsa roja, and separated by refried beans, and bacon (upon seeing it you may even say, ah, I get name now!). When in LA go there, do it! And don’t forget to bring cash along with your appetite.

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Monkish – 20311 S Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501| www.monkishbrewing.com

The next stop was Monkish, and as luck would have it there was a can release on that day. I was really excited and couldn’t believe my timing; however, we got there only to find out it was sold out. There was no room for lament though. I did not go to LA to sit and wait in a line, so I did the next best thing and ordered one glass of each as they had them on tap. They both were slightly disappointing, only because they tasted a little green, and frankly because my comparisons are the superb JFK 2 LAX (collaboration with Other Half) and stuff like Dreaming of the Usual, and Swap Meets.

The brewery was crowded, and I was surprised at its relatively small size. The brewery is tucked in an industrial park and a small sign over the door displays the name and logo. The taproom itself was cozy with a high exposed ceiling. There isn’t much space in the taproom, but the brewery floor sports a much bigger seating area.

Steeping out of the taproom and onto the brewery, I see a guy babysitting his haul as he chats with a group of friends. He says hi, and comments that he remembers me from the prior day at Casa Agria. We chat for a bit and I tell him I’m from NY and I’m visiting. He then goes ahead and pulls down on a can of Foggier Window and hands it to me. I feel my jaw drop and my eyes widen (this is why I love beer people). I offer him my eternal appreciation, and I offer to buy him a beer. He declines the latter and I promise to ship him something from NY. (Note to self: I have to do that)

I’m surprised to find out that Monkish started as a brewery focused on Belgian styles, and that they had even (infamously) displayed a sign in the brewery that read NO IPA NO MSG until early this year, since I’ve only known them for their sought-after IPA can releases. It’s crazy to fathom how much of a following and success they have enjoyed for the short amount of time they have been brewing IPAs. To honor that tradition (and really because I didn’t want to walk away with just the one can) I bought a bottle of Knowledge and Peace, a rice saison i cant wait to try.

 

Smog City – 1901 Del Amo Blvd B, Torrance, CA 90501 | www.smogcitybrewing.com

There are a few more breweries a stone’s throw away from Monkish, but the one I was most interested in visiting was Smog City. Typical for the area, it’s another brewery that calls an industrial park home. Access to the brewery and taproom is through a huge roll-up door. The space start relatively narrow but opens up to a sizable seating area stacked with barrels.

I try to sample as wide a range as possible, and I end up with very varying styles. Unbeknownst to me, Smog City is well known for its use of coffee and its Coffee Porter is a great example of that. I highly recommend it if you like a hint of beer in your coffee. Bottom line, there’s tons to love here. Bourbon O.E. was great if a bit sweet and boozy; Cuddlebug took me by surprise, perfect prickly carbonation, tart/sour juicy berries, and easy drinking.

They have bottles to go, which I considered, but my next stop was The Bruery, and I had only 1 suitcase to contend with.

 

The Bruery –717 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870| https://www.thebruery.com/

Before I knew anything about any west coast breweries, there was a name that always came up in conversation and online; The Bruery.

With their big bottle format, they have, in my mind, cemented an image of quality and class. With beers like So Happens its Tuesday and Reuze (just how do you pronounce this?) becoming more easy to find in NYC, this image is well supported. So needless to say, I was excited to finally visit them.

Located further out east in Placentia, CA, the ride provided some time in between breweries. This is a big brewery producing a huge amount of beer. The size and scope becomes evident as you enter the parking lot; all but one of the suites in the industrial park is taken up by The Bruery. Interestingly enough, they have recently split the operation into two; creating The Terraux brand in order to focus it on the production of sours.

The taproom is spacious and the tap list challengingly huge. As I strategize how to tackle it, there’s an announcement made that tours would start soon… and that beer, may or may not be served on this tour, so we decided to jump on it. The tour was led by Josh who was as funny as he was informative. There were only four of us total, so the tour beer stops meant we got large pours. I learned, I laughed and when I came out I needed to hydrate and reconsider the idea of hitting the tap-list.

If you’re in the area, The Bruery is not to to be missed. However, do come early, do the tour, and stay a while. There’s a huge tap list that’s sure to please.

 

El Farolito – 201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870| http://www.elfarolitomex.com/

After the tour we also found ourselves hungry. We had long decided we would only eat Mexican food on this trip, and the online search led us to El Farolito. This highly ranked restaurant boasts a great menu and a good family vibe. It’s definitely popular, and on peak times expect to wait in line. We had a flight to catch that night and so we took the food to go. We ended up with a Carnitas platter that we lovingly devoured back at The Bruery since we needed a place to sit, and we had to make sure we took some of those bottles home with us.

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In California or the West Coast as a whole, San Diego gets a lot of love for their beer scene, and rightly so, some of those San Diego breweries have been pioneers in the craft beer movement, and the community is big and vibrant. However, LA is putting out really great stuff, and making a name of its own. My first time in LA was amazing, given the time spent there I did most of the things I wanted to do. I do wish I had visited Bottle Logic, and had a chance at the Monkish cans, as well as visiting/discovering some breweries and beer spots I hadn’t heard of, but there will definitely be a next time!

A BierWax Guide to Barcelona Beer

As soon as we exited the Barcelona airport, the shining tanks at Estrella Damm’s brewing facility greeted us. And that’s the last you will hear about the most popular beer in much of Spain. This guide, though not exhaustive, will focus on the exploding craft beer scene in Barcelona which has experienced a rapid growth spurt during the last couple of years. I wish we had more time to tick off a few more spots on our list. The following photos and words will highlight a handful of spots that we explored before and after an epic Spanish wedding. Based on the quality of the beer and the ambiance of these spots, I think we visited the best of the best (for the most part).

Abirradero – Carrer de Vila i Vilà, 77, 08004 Barcelona | http://www.abirradero.com/

We were eager to try Barcelona-made craft beer. Abirradero was our very first stop and it surely did not disappoint. With 40 taps for your imbibing enjoyment, we focused on sampling their roughly 20 house beers. The brewpub’s beer is brewed right next door in a space that is part brewery part brewing school. El Instituto de la Cerveza Artesana (I.C.A.) is the official name of the brewery, so we intentionally only ordered beers labeled I.C.A., not beer from their several guest taps. We had two flights.  Nearly everything we had was above average and spot on for the style. Our bartender, once he discovered our special love for craft beer, scribbled a few names and addresses on a napkin. We then had a few more spots to add to our list and find. Next time we return to Barcelona, we’ll certainly try their food menu.

 

Brew Pub Le Sec – Carrer de Margarit, 52, 08004 Barcelona, Spain

Per the Abirradero bartender’s recommendation, we made our way to this tiny brewpub a few blocks away. It was a charming space; however, their two house-made beers were forgettable.  The space was extremely cozy and I appreciate their nano-brewery sized set up. I’d return again to give another two beers a shot.

 

La Rovira – Carrer de Rabassa, 23, 08024 Barcelona

What a kickass beer bar!? We loved their tap-list and thoroughly enjoyed their food menu. I was even able to stomach (and enjoy) olives for the first time EVER! I had a fantastic mouth-puckering Biere de Garde from BFM (Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes) and sipped on a few other really great beers. If La Rovira was located in NY, I’d be a regular for sure.

BrewDog Barcelona –Carrer de Casanova, 69, 08011 Barcelona | https://www.brewdog.com/usa/bars/worldwide/barcelona

I was excited to finally visit a BrewDog location. I only really had BrewDog beer a few times in the states. I enjoyed their TV show on the Esquire Network and appreciated their penchant for pushing boundaries. This visit was a complete letdown. We ordered two flights to try as much as possible. The beers were all lackluster and the server was even more of a letdown. During our layover in England, a few local beer-heads also spoke badly of the brand. Bollocks!

 

BierCab Barcelona – Calle Muntaner, 55, 08011 Barcelona | http://biercab.com/

After drinking Sevilla’s own Cruz Campo for most of the wedding, we craved something with more hop bite and ABV once the reception was over. A fellow craft beer enthusiast at the wedding pointed us in this direction and we were in for a treat. BierCab, short for Bier Cabron, has an extremely impressive bottle-list and beers on draught that are tough to find in the U.S. I started off with Westbrook’s Mexican Cake on tap. Manuel, the super gregarious owner/manager, opened up the next door bottle shop for us and we were mesmerized. I hear the food at BierCab is equally excellent, so put them on your must-visit list.

 

Mikkeller Bar Barcelona – Carrer de València, 202, 08011 Barcelona | http://mikkeller.dk/location/mikkeller-bar-barcelona/

We’ve brushed shoulders with Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso and the folks at Tørst numerous times, so his twin brother’s bar in Barcelona was high on the to do list. I’ve enjoyed all of the Mikkeller beers I’ve tried and I adore Keith Shore’s art which adorns most Mikkeller labels and the walls of their bars. The bar is simply gorgeous. We were able to observe each corner since the bar was totally empty, in complete contrast to Tørst in Greenpoint. Each beer we tried was excellent. Yet another place we could have spent much more time at.

 

Barcelona Beer Company – Carrer de Muntaner, 7, 08011 Barcelona | http://www.barcelonabeercompany.com/en/Taproom

Based on the name alone, we had to visit. Pretty taproom, decent beer. We didn’t have any food, but the options looked great. I wasn’t blown away by the beer, but it’s another much-needed alternative to Spanish lager. It is important to note that there is no such thing as a “flight” in Spain.  Just ask for a “mix.”

 

Garage Beer Company – Carrer del Consell de Cent, 261, 08011 Barcelona | http://garagebeer.co/en/

Garage Beer Company is churning out amazing beer, collaborating with top-notch American breweries such as Other Half, and is certainly making a name for itself in the growing Barcelona craft beer scene. Their American IPA, Slinger, was excellent. Blacksmith, their Imperial Stout, was also solid. They will be expanding to a larger space in the near future. Garage Beer Company successfully crowd-funded over 490,000 Euros, 90,000 more than their original goal. They will soon be able to move out of the garage, but keep their name.

 

NaparBCN – Carrer de la Diputació, 223, 08011 Barcelona | http://www.naparbcn.com/

Hands down, this was our best beer and food experience in Barcelona. I do have to admit a minor bias: Our friends who were recently married are friends and neighbors with Sven, one of the owners of Napar, so we were able to really get to know Napar’s food and beer quite well. Sven, a Spaniard of Belgian descent, is a beer fanatic. We spent time with Sven, trying various Napar beers and sampling an assortment of tapas. Sven wanted NaparBCN to stand out in Barcelona’s emerging beer scene, creating a locale that is recognized not only for great beer but also for its gastronomy. He is pairing cloudy Vermont-style IPAs and Imperial Stouts with plates that push the boundaries of traditional Spanish cuisine. Napar’s beer cellar list is the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time, with bottles of La Trappe from as far back as 1968 mingling with Westmalle Dubbels from the 1990s. His most prized cellared beer is an Oude Geuze that is allegedly 55 years old. As the story goes, the bottles were found in an old barn in Belgium under piles of hay and wrapped in newspapers from 55 years ago. Sven told us that he is the only person who has paid the 195.00 Euros to see what the beer actually tastes like. The photos don’t do NaparBCN justice. The brewpub is unlike any beer venue I’ve seen before. Immaculate!

 

Ale-Hop – multiple locations in Barcelona | http://en.ale-hop.org/

If you are looking for beer, don’t go here! If you need an emoji pillow or mole-skin notebook, you’ve found the right place. Apparently, there is an actual Ale-Hop beer spot in Barcelona. I wonder if it also has a life-sized cow to greet customers in the front.

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Vale?

The Inspiration

It has certainly been quite a while. I apologize for the long hiatus. I’ve been busy business planning, working at two breweries, home brewing, and focusing on making this dream a reality in the very near future. (I failed to mention my duties as the director of a pregnancy prevention program, husband, and father of twin three year old girls.) I’m juggling it all and happy to be nearly finished with the Bierwax business plan.

Right from the business plan, here is our mission statement…

Bierwax is a craft beer tasting room and vinyl record listening room. We are as passionate about our beer as we are about vinyl records, with a finely curated tap-list mingling with over 3,000 vinyl records. Bierwax is malted grains, water, hops, and yeast mixed with a pinch of 45s, a cup of boom-bap, and a heaping tablespoon of funk. We respect beer and aim to preserve the legacy of analog music.  

That’s what I will be opening in a year or two. Here are two bars that have been tremendous influences on what Bierwax will be…

Inspiration Numero Uno:                         

A few years ago, a couple of friends and I rented bikes in Amsterdam and somehow managed to find our way to Cafe de Duivel. We were intrigued by the description of the bar online and decided to see firsthand what a hip hop bar in Amsterdam would be like. The bar was pretty traditional with the exception of the music. There was a live DJ at the back of the bar spinning early 1990s and underground hip hop vinyl records. He was seamlessly mixing and cutting in and out of each track. The crowd, who I assume were mostly local Dutch folks, was going crazy and even knew the lyrics to some of the pretty obscure hip hop songs. That’s Europe for you! I remember wondering why something like Cafe de Duivel doesn’t exist in New York. Since I don’t travel to Europe with much frequency, I’ve longed to revisit Duivel or another venue just like it.

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Inspiration Numero Dos:

Nearly ten years ago, I was invited to spend a few days in Hong Kong with a close friend of mine. We had a layover in Tokyo for a few hours and the airport alone was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One day we’ll stack enough cheddar to actually afford to spend some time in Tokyo. Until then, I’m living vicariously through culinary/travel shows like No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and Mind of a Chef. I stumbled upon photos of this place below, dubbed Jazz, Blues and Soul (JBS). While explaining an early iteration of Bierwax to a friend, he asked if I ever heard of JBS in Tokyo. I hadn’t and was completely blown away when he showed me a few photos on Instagram. This was basically what I had been dreaming up all along, except JBS mainly serves whisky and is on the other side of the world. The sole owner and manager of the bar, serves up both an excellent whiskey selection and an impeccable collection of vinyl records. You might find Kobayashi-san throwing on a Charles Mingus LP or Nas’ classic debut Illmatic. It all depends on his mood at the time.

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As I round third base with my business planning, expect to hear more from me. I appreciate all of the support and good vibes as I make something like Duivel or JBS a reality in New York.

Cheers,

Chris Maestro

From 10 Gallons till Infinity (A Visit to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery)

Dogfish Head continues to occupy an iconic place in my own personal history and relationship with craft beer. 90 Minute was the first Double IPA that I fell in love with, years before I ever tried Heady Topper, Pliny, or Abner. After reading founder Sam Calagione’s book “Brewing up a Business,” I was inspired to start laying the foundation for my own beer business. Sam’s TV show, although pretty dorky at times with his terrible rapping, painted a picture of a world I saw myself in; a field of creativity, drive and extreme passion. I don’t drink 90 Minute as often these days, but I continue to be impressed by Dogfish Head Brewery’s unique approach to brewing and I appreciate Sam’s commitment to the independent craft brewing community. Of course, Dogfish Head is by no means a small company.  They employ hundreds of people and have a brewing operation that is much larger than anything I have ever seen in person, with the exception of my visit to Golden, Colorado as a teenager. However, our recent visit to the Delaware brewery, brewpub, and inn further solidified my respect for what Sam has built.

The following are photos I snapped from the visit juxtaposed with some of Sam’s own words from “Brewing up a Business.”

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Dogfish Head’s humble beginnings – The 10-gallon brewing system which was the genesis of Dogfish Head Brewery.

“My original brewing system produced 10-gallons of 0.3 barrels per batch. When brewers I met while visiting other breweries would stop by the brewpub, I felt like a boy among men. I suffered from an acute case of brewery-envy, but I would not be discouraged. It’s not the size of your brewing system that matters; it’s what you do with it…or so they say.” 

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The very first 10-gallon brewing system now lives alongside the current (slightly larger) system.

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“Brewing has continued to be a great outlet for my artistic expression. But I’m proud to say I’m the least technically proficient brewer of the many brewers who work at Dogfish Head today. I am better at conceptualizing recipes and beer ideas than I am at physically making a batch of beer. I still brew occasionally for two reasons: so I can call myself a brewer with a straight face, and so I can continue experimenting with new recipes, which is a strength of mine.”

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“My inmost thought when I was first enrolled there (Northfield Mt. Hermon School) was: ‘Rebel against authority in order to express yourself.’ This is pretty much the same defining instinct that drives me today, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find a constructive outlet for this angst. I’ve created a company that subverts the definition of beer put forth by the so-called authorities at Anheuser-Busch and Coors.” 

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“The other line in the sand that we drew is refusing to sell to private equity. About two years ago, we were approached with a number that Mariah and I could have retired very comfortably with forever, and we said no. We’ve been approached by folks on Wall Street who wanted to take us public, and we said no. We want to try to keep this a family business, with the hope that someday maybe we can make it last into the next generation–and we want to keep this a company that’s owned by the people who run it.” 

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This photo doesn’t really capture how immense the Dogfish Head warehouse is. It is incredible to witness in person.

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Every batch that is brewed is saved in here for quality control. Sam also has a private cellar where he ages various releases. Some are a decade old.

“The sheer magnitude and sameness of mass-produced and mass-marketed goods that Americans have grown to expect can be really disorienting…This is the big-box retail reality that the alt-commerce businessperson is up against: the awe-inspiring, ubiquitous presence of these stores and the homogenizing effect they have on the consumer landscape…People patronize these places because they are easy and predictable. While many people wish to simplify their lives on some level, you must have faith that some people are not always looking for what is easy and predictable to bring joy to their lives. The humble success of Dogfish Head specifically, and the craft brewing industry in general, is a tribute to this faith.” 

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The Steampunk Treehouse moved to the entrance of the brewery in 2009.

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“Effective brand building, like effective writing, revolves around a few central ideas. Developing believable, interesting characters–these are your products. An effective and easy-to-follow narration–this is your advertising and marketing. Strong plot development–this is your business plan and budgets. Singular and memorable writing style–this is your brand identity.”

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“We recognize that we aren’t brewing for the status quo. We recognize that the average beer drinker will probably never try our beers, even if we were to have a significant 5, 10, or 20 percent market share in the United States. We are “off-centered,” meaning that we’re not going to appeal to the majority. That said, we’ve been able to carve out a very healthy niche, growing by catering to a very small but increasing and very engaged minority beer drinking population–those who want more flavor, more diversity, more complexity, and more food compatibility in the beer.” 

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Where it all started – Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats in Rehoboth Beach

“I first decided to open my brewery when I was 24 years old. I was very focused from the moment I made this decision. I read everything I could about breweries and restaurants. I worked as a brewer’s assistant as I wrote my business plan. I wrote a menu and tested different pizza-grilling techniques on my backyard barbecue. I made pilot batches of beer and developed recipes, homemade labels, and brand names. I met with countless banks and raised all of the money to open the business. I signed off on the loans and was personally responsible for the debt.” 

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A very fresh batch of 120 Minute! That’s how we got started on a very cold afternoon.

Recipe:

Ingredients & Directions for

sampling, exchange, exampling,

and change.

The ingredients in our recipes come from

The earth and the oven,

They come from interfering

and letting be.

We use organic and natural

ingredients wherever possible

and our recipes are blissfully inefficient.

We spend premium prices on

the finest barley, hops, and herbs.

We use no extracts.

For us, brewing is not a process

of automation,

but of imagination and passion.

We wrap our hands around plastic

shovels to clean out our mash tuns.

We wrap our hands around sticky

clumps of whole leaf hops

and toss them into the boil kettle. 

We wrap our hands around our work

because we are proud to make 

something with our own hands.

We hope you enjoy drinking

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed ales

as much as we enjoy making them. 

                                -Sam Calagione

The Cistercian Monks of Ridgewood, Queens

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Co-owners Joe Figliolia and Dan Berkery have opened up something very unique in Ridgewood, Queens. Even with the numerous craft beer bars and gastropubs that have opened up recently in NYC, the monk is a standout in the fairly untouched Queens enclave. As the name suggests, the monk specializes in Trappist beer and other Belgian brews, with a small selection of local craft beer. Ridgewood’s craft beer scene leaves much to be desired, so the monk is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood.

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Why focus almost exclusively on Belgian beer? Besides the fact that Belgian beer is so damn good, there aren’t many bars that know how to curate their Belgian beers properly – They don’t know the history and cultural significance of these unique beers they are serving. The monk’s mission is to celebrate Trappist and Belgian beer in a welcoming environment. As founder Joe points out, “We don’t want people to be intimidated by the beer. It’s extremely satisfying when someone is initially unfamiliar with the beer but then becomes delighted when they discover and enjoy something new and different.” Spreading the gospel of great beer is a noble cause, indeed.

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For a primer on Trappist breweries, visit here. Some of Joe’s favorite Trappist beers are the extremely rare Westvleteren 12, which he had the pleasure of drinking on two occasions, and Westmalle Tripel, another classic of the style. The bar has all of the Trappist mainstays available, including Rochefort, Orval, Achel, and La Trappe. Other solid Belgian offerings include Saison Dupont, Gulden Draak, Duvel, La Chouffe, Corsendonk, and many others.

Definitely make it out to Ridgewood to visit the monk: 68-67 Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood, Queens (M Train to Fresh Pond Road)

Deconstructing Budweiser’s “Brewed the Hard Way” Commercial

There has been a lot of talk about the second Budweiser commercial that debuted during Super Bowl 49. This is not the one featuring a cute little dog to sell beer – now it’s officially a dog and pony show. I’m referring to the one that explicitly takes aim at the craft beer movement in the United States. If you missed it, here it is: Brewed the Hard Way

For Anheuser Busch InBev to spend several million dollars (still a drop in the bucket) on an advertisement mocking craft beer, then the small guys are really starting to bother the macro beer giant. Of course, with the recent acquisition of Elysian by AB InBev, the entire commercial is a slap in the face to their new craft beer portfolio. Allow me to break down some of the main themes and images below…

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Running throughout the sixty second slot are sounds and images that are grounded in history, humility, and pride. We are “proudly a macro beer” flashes early on in the commercial. This is the beginning of the juxtaposition that follows, with good ol’ Bud being pit against the snobbery of craft beers and their drinkers. Budweiser is clearly a populist drink for the everyday person.

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One of my favorite lines is “It’s not brewed to be fussed over.” As my wife pointed out, isn’t this message already admitting Budweiser beer is of inferior quality? I get it, though – Budweiser makes beer for people who like to drink. Simple folks who just want to throw a few back and care less about intellectualizing what they are drinking. Why bother having a deeper appreciation for the appearance, aroma, body, and taste of a beer? Beer is not to be fussed over, just consumed mindlessly. A few seconds later, “Brewed for drinking, not dissecting” flashes across the screen. They are really driving home the message. Like many other things in life, ignorance is bliss. Just drink it; don’t think about it too much!

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Upon closer inspection, our beer connoisseur is actually a hipster. He had to have a handlebar mustache, didn’t he? Just perfect!

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The commercial is titled “Brewed the Hard Way” after all. What does that really mean? I’ve been told that it actually takes a lot of work to make macro beers taste so consistently bland and water-like. I can’t necessarily badmouth automated brewing, because some of the larger craft breweries can afford computer-driven brewing equipment, as well. However, if you have ever been to a brewery that makes less than 50,000 barrels a year, you’ve probably witnessed an operation that takes hard work, patience, and extreme attention to detail to run smoothly. (Not to take away from the larger craft breweries in any way.) This message is probably the most offensive, in my opinion, as it undermines the blood, sweat, and tears micro-brewers around the country devote to their craft.

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“Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale.” Another classic line. If you didn’t think they are going after craft breweries and craft beer drinkers with this commercial, now there is no mistaking it. Twitter was filled with great commentary in response to this particular line…

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And lastly…

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At the very end of the commercial, when they really start playing the Budweiser classic/historical card, the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses break through a gate. Why is none other than Adolf Hitler and possibly a highly ranking SS officer riding high on top of the majestic horses? I understand invoking German symbolism and even the Reinheitsgebot to sell beers, but this Nazi imagery just has no place in a beer commercial of any kind. (I was threatened with a defamation lawsuit in the past – I am not being serious. However, I’m still disturbed by that image.)

It’s pretty clear that falling beer sales, a 4% drop since 2008, is causing macro beer companies to be worried. This hypocritical and asinine commercial is further proof that the rise in the craft beer movement, especially during the last five years, is becoming a serious threat to the two major macro beer companies, SabMiller and AB InBev. The craft beer industry will continue to experience surging growth as more and more people develop a beer consciousness, caring more about the quality and integrity of the beers they consume.

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15 in 15: Fifteen Breweries to Watch in 2015

New York City is just not the same anymore. With landmarks like Bereket on East Houston, Gray’s Papaya, and Pearl Paint shutting its doors forever last year, the NYC I grew up in is quickly vanishing. Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York has a complete list of popular sites that are gone forever. The site is also known as the Book of Lamentations: a Bitterly Nostalgic Look at a City in the Process of Going Extinct. Let’s see what gets added to the 2015 list.  Oy vey!

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As comforting as it is to see a familiar NYC, a city I grew up in and ran through the streets as a teenager, I do welcome some change with open arms. The craft beer scene in NYC has exploded in the past two years. When I started writing about beer a couple of years ago, I couldn’t keep up with the new beer spots that were popping up across the city. Now some of these spots have already become legendary, attracting craft beer aficionados from across the globe. Just sit at the bar in Torst for two hours and you’ll likely run into a few tourists. The quality of New York beer can now rival the other great beer cities in the country (San Diego, Denver, and Portland to name a few). If you don’t think NYC is on the map with world-class breweries, you’re missing out on a lot of fantastic beer being brewed in the boroughs of the Big Apple. The fifteen breweries below are my picks for the New York breweries to keep a close eye on in 2015. I am eager to see what surprises they have in store this year.

Author’s Note: I have included a few breweries from Long Island and the Hudson Valley in my list of 15. They can all be reached from NYC via LIRR, MetroNorth, or automobile in an hour or less.

1. Barrier Brewing Company (Oceanside, Nassau County)

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As I write this, I’m thinking about the half growler of Barrier’s BBHCFM sitting in my fridge. The Black Double IPA was so good, I took a growler home from Hoptron Brewtique, something I rarely do. Barrier rarely disappoints me and I’ve had a lot of their beers over the past few years. Every time I visit the brewery, they have offerings I’ve never seen before. Barrier seems to churn out new stuff all the time and I don’t remember drinking a beer that I disliked. Brewers Craig and Evan have mastered such a wide range of styles, but they also devote ample time to crafting regular favorites such as the fantastic Money IPA. If Barrier was located closer to NYC, this self-distributing gem would be receiving even more attention.

Try: Dunegrass (DIPA), Daddy Warbucks (DIPA), or the two ridiculously good beers mentioned above

2. Bridge and Tunnel Brewery (Maspeth & Ridgewood, Queens)

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The future of Rich Castagna’s Bridge and Tunnel Brewery is bright. 2015 will be a defining year for the nano-brewery veteran who is in the process of setting up his larger brewing headquarters in Ridgewood, Queens. The new space will allow Rich to increase production by 500%. Yes, you read that right! From 50 to 300 gallon batches. He also has several new beers being released this year, including a Habañero IPA named Phoenix on Starr. (If you ever visit The Sampler in Bushwick, ask Rafael what the name stands for.) I’m super excited for increased capacity because Bridge and Tunnel beer will soon be in more bars, restaurants and beer shops in the NYC area very soon.

Try: My all time favorite brown ale is Tiger Eyes Hazelnut Brown. (I’m working on a longer feature, spotlighting Bridge and Tunnel’s upcoming releases. Try any of those, as well.)

3. Bronx Brewery (Boogie Down Bronx)

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I’ll be completely frank… I’m not the biggest fan of the Bronx Brewery. I’ve found their beers to be mediocre and I wasn’t happy about their contract brewing situation. (Until now, all of their beers have been brewed mainly in Wisconsin.) Contract brewing is a layered issue and has been debated within the craft beer community for quite some time. I appreciate Chris O’Leary’s balanced approach to contract brewing in his Brew York post. After visiting the recently-opened brewery and tasting room in the Bronx, I’ve had a slight change of heart. In the tasting room’s bathroom, “we made it” is stenciled into the wall. The brewery is a fine example of what determination, hard work, and some good luck can bring to those who dream big. It’s amazing to see Bronx Pale Ale being served at Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium. I’m hopeful 2015 will be a watershed year for these guys who are now officially brewing beer in the Boogie Down.

Try: Head to the brewery/tasting room and try anything fresh from their recent Bronx batches.

4. Captain Lawrence (Elmsford, Westchester)

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Scott Vaccaro, founder and head brewer of Captain Lawrence, has been commanding a solid line-up for the past 10 years. Scott and his brewing team have a vast repertoire of brews, from award-winning sours to solid barrel-aged beers and plenty of crowd pleasers in between. An ideal reason to jump on the Metro-North, the Elmsford brewery is a quick ride from Grand Central Station.

Try: Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA or Cuvee De Castleton

5.  Finback Brewery (Glendale, Queens)

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Two years ago, I stumbled upon news of a new brewery opening up in Queens. I happily realized it would be located blocks away from our apartment in Glendale, a locale devoid of good beer. I kept a close eye on their progress and opening date, eventually getting in touch with founders/brewers Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee. I battled a cold and blustery winter’s night and rode over to get a tour of the brewery before it opened. (More on that visit here.) After a year of grinding and hustling, the hard work paid off. Finback recently released two bottled beers (Smoke Detection and the highly coveted Barrel-Aged BQE Imperial Stout). They also were recognized as the New York brewery of 2014 in the stellar Brew York site. Visit the brewery and bring a few friends.

Try: Moby Hop is excellent. Try to get your hands on the Barrel-Aged BQE. (It currently has a well-deserved 97 on Beer Advocate and is the highest-rated NYC beer on Untappd.)

6. Greenpoint Beer and Ale Company (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

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Greenpoint Beer & Ale Company is the brewing arm of Ed Raven’s Dirck the Norseman, a fantastic restaurant and bar that opened in March 2014. Ed is no stranger to the Brooklyn craft beer scene. He also owns beer shop Brouwerij Lane and Raven Brands, a beer importing company. Brewers Chris Prout and Erik Olsen are cranking out some really great beer at the Greenpoint brewpub.

Try: For some smokey goodness try their Grodziskie.

7. Grimm Artisanal Ales (Brooklyn-based gypsy brewery)

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I don’t remember when I had my first Grimm Artisanal Ale. Honestly, it was the label that probably drew me in. Gretta Johnson is crafting some of the prettiest labels in the game right now. I had to snatch up a bottle on the strength of the artwork alone. Lauren and Joe Grimm brew test batches in their Gowanus apartment, eventually bringing their recipes and ingredients to partnering brewing facilities to make magic happen on a grander scale. The gypsy brewing duo recently earned a GABF silver medal for their Double Negative, a key win in the highly-contested Imperial Stout category. With the exception of Double Negative, their small-batches are intended to be one-off releases. What’s here today will certainly be gone tomorrow, so don’t hesitate to pick up a Grimm bomber if you see one at your local beer shop.

Try: Grab anything you can find!

8. Gun Hill Brewing Company (Williamsbridge, Bronx)

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I met Chris Sheehan, Gun Hill brewmaster, at a Manhattan bar while trying some of his beers for the first time. After chatting for a while about all things beer, he invited me up to the Bronx to visit the brand new brewery on Laconia Avenue. The tasting room just opened the week before and the first batches of beer were eagerly awaiting consumption. This is before Chris’ Void of Light won a Gold Medal at the 2014 GABF. We excitedly talked about Void of Light which was actually still in a fermentation vessel, unbeknownst of its future glory. I’m a big fan of Chris Sheehan’s beer and I know Gun Hill will continue to make noise in 2015.

Try: Of course, grab yourself a Void of Light Stout or try the solid Gun Hill IPA.

9.  Newburgh Brewing Company (Newburgh, Hudson Valley)

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The folks at Peekskill (below) advised me to check out Newburgh Brewing Company if I wanted to experience another superb Hudson Valley brewery while in the area. After returning to the area a few months later, we were able to spend some time with Christopher Basso, co-founder and brewmaster. He walked us through the immense space, a former paper-box factory, and talked about some of his upcoming special releases. Christopher, who spent time working under the renowned Garret Oliver at Brooklyn Brewery, is certainly carving out his own legacy with a phenomenal rotation of beers.

Try: Cream Ale or Hop Drop Double IPA

10.  Other Half Brewing Company (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)

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The best India Pale Ales in New York are being made by Other Half Brewing Company. I don’t think this is a subjective statement. If there was a scientific way to prove this, my statement would be vindicated. Just look at Other Half’s Untappd or Beer Advocate scores if you need some sort of concrete data. The brewery and tasting room is open to the public from Thursday through Saturday. If you see any Other Half beers on tap around town, order one right away.

Try: Green Diamonds or All Green Everything (rated the number one beer in 2014 by the Village Voice)

11. Peekskill Brewery (Peekskill, Hudson Valley)

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I freaking love this place. Great food and really great beer = jump on the MetroNorth and spend an afternoon at this fantastic brewpub. I’m a big fan of their IPAs, but their Simple Sour was a game changer for me. After reading this New York Times article about Peekskill’s Simple Sour, I had a dream of enjoying sour beer. Prior to this dream, I was not a fan of the mouth-puckering variety. I was compelled to look for the nearest bar serving Simple Sour that same day and realized that my palate was forever changed (all thanks to a very random dream and Peekskill’s awesome Berliner Weisse).

Try: Simple Sour is a great sour/wild ale gateway beer. I love Eastern Standard (IPA) and Higher Standard (DIPA).

12.  Port Jeff Brewing Company (Port Jefferson, Suffolk County)

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After Blue Point Brewing Company was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev, I’ve made a concerted effort to only support independent breweries in my new neighborhood. I do want to support local industry, and Blue Point provides local jobs, but I’d rather my dollars go to the smaller guys. One such “small guy” is this wonderful operation in Port Jefferson, Long Island. I had a few of their beers before, but gained a much deeper level of respect when I finally visited the brewery. I’ve had “try em all” flights on two separate occasions. Both tasting sessions left me with the impression that Port Jeff Brewing Company is certainly a force to be reckoned with on Long Island. Port Jefferson is a fantastic Long Island destination for a day trip or an overnight getaway. Don’t forget to add Port Jeff Brewing Company to your itinerary.

Try: Party Boat is their flagship beer and it’s a solid IPA. I really enjoyed their Porter which is available in 22oz bottles.

13. Singlecut Beersmiths (Astoria, Queens)

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I was born in Astoria, so I have a soft spot for Singlecut Beersmiths. On top of that, their tap handles are guitars. How cool is that? The beer, let’s talk about the beer! Singlecut has solid offerings that often go unrecognized. Their Billy IPAs are all excellent and so are their Bon Bon offerings. The brewery, although a trek from the subway, is an ideal beer destination if you haven’t visited yet.

Try: Michael Dark Lyric Lagrrr! (regular or rum barrel aged) or any of the aforementioned beers

14. Threes Brewing (Gowanus, Brooklyn)

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The most recent addition to the NYC craft brewery scene among this list, Threes is already bringing the heat.  Brewmaster Greg Doroski is serving up sought after saisons and a variety of other styles. Their farmhouse inspired ales are some of the best I’ve tried in recent memory. I highly recommend visiting Threes Brewing even if it’s just to see their multifaceted and simply gorgeous space.

Try: You can’t go wrong with either saison – Wandering Bine or Mechanical Spring

15. Transmitter Brewing (Long Island City, Queens)

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I must admit, I haven’t had a chance to try many of Transmitter Brewing’s beers yet. I do know that founders and brewers Rob Kolb and Anthony Accardi are onto something very special, poetic, and downright sublime. They focus on farmhouse style beers and offer their ales in beautifully designed bottles. Their Community Supported Brewery program ($175 + tax) gets you twelve bottles, two every month for six months to be picked up at the brewery. (After a recent visit to the brewery, I plan on completing a full feature very soon.)

Beer is much more than the sum of its parts. At its most pure form, it’s just four simple ingredients: hops, malt, water and yeast. It is only through the synergy of process and those basic building blocks that unique and interesting interpretations of beer styles are possible. Through the process of brewing, it is possible to make an infinite number of flavor combinations and styles. It is this endless creative possibility that fuels and flames our passion for fermenting beer. Our satisfaction comes from the combination of the basic understanding of the ingredients and their interactions and the “aha” moments of discovery of the synergy between them. – From the Transmitter website

Try: Anything you can get your hands on

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