The Top Beers Brewed in New York City: BierWAX Edition

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With all of the new breweries popping up in New York City, how can one figure out which breweries and beers are a cut above the rest?  Luckily, the blog made it easier for New York craft beer drinkers to see which breweries are churning out product of the highest quality. In their October 28, 2014 article titled “The Top Beers Brewed in New York City: Fall Edition,”  they used data from the popular craft beer app Untappd to rank the best beers and breweries in the Big Apple.

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Here is the methodology they used for their rankings:

We pulled the ratings for every beer brewed in New York City and their ratings. We also had a cutoff of minimum check-ins (100) for a beer in order for it to be included, so we could get a fair sample size. This means some smaller, newer breweries weren’t included, and only beers brewed in New York City by breweries that also brew outside (Brooklyn, Sixpoint, Bronx) were included. We also excluded one-off beers that are out of production or have been relatively inactive on Untappd for more than one year.

Breweries that have several beers on rotation with stellar ratings on Untappd found themselves at the top of the list. I wasn’t surprised by Other Half claiming the coveted number one position with their recent incredible releases such as Green Diamonds and All Green Everything. However, for Brooklyn Brewery to come in at number two makes me question the integrity of Untappd data and reminds me that the New York City craft beer scene has a long way to go.

Here is the Brew York breakdown by brewery:

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I wasn’t satisfied with this ranking at all. I trust Brew York’s methodology, but I don’t think Untappd as a craft beer community could provide reliable data. (More about that later.) What I decided to do is to use a similar methodology as Brew York, but substitute Beer Advocate for Untappd.  Here is what I uncovered.

Brewery Weighted Rating Beer Advocate Rating
Other Half Brewing Co. 93 98
Sixpoint Brewery 90 92
Singlecut Beersmiths 87 95
Brooklyn Brewery 87 87
Kelso 86 not rated

The weighted rating was based on each brewery’s five most rated beers on Beer Advocate. I calculated the weighted average of the five beers for each brewery. Some of my favorite new breweries in NYC didn’t make the cut, as they didn’t have nearly enough ratings. Finback, Transmitter, and Gun Hill do not have any beers that have been rated by at least 50 people on Beer Advocate. As you can see, Brooklyn Brewery is second to last using Beer Advocate data.

Here’s a comparison of the highest rated beers on Untappd and Beer Advocate. Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops is a great beer, but number one beer in NYC?  NO WAY!

Brew York’s List (based on Untappd)

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BierWAX’s list (based on Beer Advocate)

Brewery Beer Rating
Other Half All Green Everything 97
Other Half Green Diamonds 94
Other Half Citra 93
Other Half Hop Showers 93
Sixpoint Hi-Res 93
Singlecut Beersmiths Billy Full Stack DIPA 93
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout 93
Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops 93
Kelso Industrial Pale Ale 93
Sixpoint Resin 92

I do have to give props to Untappd for their slick and easy to use app. Compared to the design of the BeerAdvocate app, stylistically Untappd is miles ahead. I am very interested in a demographic comparison between Untappd users versus Beer Advocate members. Which community is comprised of more seasoned craft beer drinkers as opposed to craft beer newbies? Indeed, this would impact the accuracy of the site’s beer ratings. My hunch, not grounded in data at all, is that Untappd has a large number of members who are fairly new to the craft beer scene. I’m all for an app that makes it easier for new craft beer drinkers to explore other beers, beer styles, and breweries. Untappd has done a great job building on the momentum of the exploding craft beer scene across the country.

Beer Advocate is not without its own flaws. The site as a whole tends to favor DIPAs, Imperial Stouts, and one-off beers that are almost impossible to find unless you wait on line for half a day. Very good lagers and other excellent lower ABV craft beers barely pass the high 80s grade on Beer Advocate, so no beer rating community is without its own idiosyncrasies.

I salute Brew York for doing this regular rundown of the best beers and breweries in NYC. I’m curious to see how things change by next season. I wonder if they would consider utilizing Beer Advocate and perhaps RateBeer in addition to Untappd for future editions of this NYC best-of list?

Addendum:  I have been in touch with Brew York via Twitter and they offered these comments with regard to why they feel Untappd is the better craft beer community to rely on for drinking data.  Read from bottom up!

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Thanks to the good folks at Brew York for offering their contrasting point of view.  Hey, I might even rejoin Untappd now!

Newburgh Brewing Company: A chat with Chris Basso, CEO and Brewmaster

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Anniversary weekend with my wife – beer was definitely on the agenda. With the GPS set for the Catskills, we managed to sneak in a few detours. The first was a brewery that I’ve been meaning to visit, which became one of the major highlights of our weekend sans babies. I heard great things about the Newburgh Brewing Company and my interest was certainly piqued after recently having two of their beers at the Harlem Tavern. Newburgh Brewing Company’s space is nothing short of wonderful. Located in an old paper box factory, the building exudes history and charm. It’s an immense space for a brewery’s tasting room, making its guests feel transported to a beer hall in Germany. With live music, foosball, and great food, it was very difficult to leave to continue our trek up north.

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When I reflect on my past brewery experiences, the main factors determining my contentment, of course, revolve around the beer: quality, variety, and availability. You can place a check next to all three at Newburgh. With twelve beers on rotation, it’s difficult to figure out what you should try first. That’s a good problem to have. All of the beers I tried were superbly crafted. My favorite beers were Hop Drop IPA, a 9.5% ABV Double IPA, and Sterk Aal van Hoodie, a delicious 10.2% Belgian Strong Ale. Their flagship beers, the Cream Ale and Brown Ale, were also excellent representations of the style, although I often crave something with more of a pungent punch. (Admittedly, I can never turn down a nitro-poured cream ale.) In terms of availability, there is something special about traveling to taste beer that is impossible or at least very difficult to find back home. I guess that’s why I didn’t mind spending over 14 hours in my car for a one-day trip to Waterbury, Vermont to load up the trunk with Heady Topper from Alchemist. We’ll make a similar trip to Hill Farmstead one of these days.


Before continuing our journey towards the mountains, we had a chance to sit down with Chris Basso, the creative genius responsible for the beers we enjoyed that night. Chris paid his dues in the gastronomy and craft beer world, graduating from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and later spending seven years behind the brew kettles of Brooklyn Brewery. The former experience provided a keen culinary lens which has allowed him to think creatively about new beer ideas. The latter experience, working very closely with the renowned Garret Oliver…well, you can only imagine what that was like. While working at Brooklyn Brewery, helping to brew some of their much lauded beer, he longed for the freedom to brew his own stuff. After several years of dreaming, business planning, and fundraising, all in collaboration with friend and co-founder Paul Halayko, the duo broke ground on the brewery. They wanted to keep much of the original structure intact, building tables from existing factory pieces and allowing the rich history of the building to return to life.


Chris embraces the duality of brewing. He tries to strike an even balance of artist and scientist. He explained that a beer crafted with science but no artistic soul, could potentially be formulaic and boring, like many beers hailing from Germany. An artist that doesn’t respect the science of brewing could potentially churn out sloppy and uneven beer. Chris deftly maintains this balancing act while embracing experimentation. The artist/scientist/chef loves to experiment with new styles of beer, pushing the envelope a bit, while maintaining approachability. “Sessionable” is a beer mantra he lives by, but you will often find him working on a Double IPA, Belgian Tripel, or Imperial Stout. For Chris, local is key. He is working on a Gose, a rather sour beer originating from Leipzig, Germany. His version will include locally sourced Coriander and sea salt from the coast of Long Island. The beer will have a special release at Hoptron Brewtique.


Towards the tail-end of our conversation, we spoke about the future of Newburgh Brewing Company and the New York craft beer scene. Newburgh should be canning beers within a few months. The label approval application is probably sitting on someone’s desk. Be sure to look for Newburgh in a can very soon. Chris often wonders why craft beer bars in NYC have a hard time opening up more tap lines for local craft beer. Bars in other regions do a better job of supporting local craft breweries, from Boston to Colorado. We both hope NYC catches up with the other thriving craft beer regions of the country. If you see one of Chris’ beers on tap, order one right away! If you live in New York or plan to visit soon, consider taking a day trip to the Hudson Valley and definitely visit the Newburgh Brewing Company.




Empire Brewing Company

From the Archives

I had Empire IPA from draught at NYC restaurants in the past, so I was curious to see what the brewery would be like. I did some prior research and found out that they don’t bottle or can their beer. They do well enough with keg distribution and selling directly to customers at their brewpub. Their best known beer is perhaps their Cream Ale, which has the creamy goodness of a Guiness without being a Stout.  To meet New York City demand, Empire has been contract brewing at Brooklyn Brewery. Empire hopes to finalize the purchase of a few acres of land in Upstate New York to increase their barrel output and to possibly start canning their wide selection of craft brews.

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Their food menu is pretty amazing. After sampling most of their beer list, we worked up an appetite and were not disappointed with the food. If you are in the Syracuse, NY area, I highly recommend visiting the Empire Brewing Company.

Enjoy these other photos from our visit.

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