Long Island

A Toast to Long Island

SurgeProtector-Label-Final

This post originally appeared on Craft Beer New York.

After a long, well-lubricated holiday weekend, the last thing I need is another beer in my belly. I should stick to water, with a cleansing salad thrown in for fun. But common sense has never been my strong suit. Tonight, I'll no doubt find myself with a beer in hand. After all, it's the charitable thing to do.

Today marks the release of Surge Protector IPA, which was brewed to benefit the food bank Long Island Cares and Barrier Brewing. Though the Oceanside brewery is now back up and running after getting socked by Sandy, the bill for repairs topped more than $100,000. To help defray the costs, Long Island's best brewers gathered at Blue Point in December to brew a collaborative beer.

Representatives from Greenport Harbor, Blue Point, Blind Bat, Long Ireland, Spider Bite, Port JeffGreat South Bay and Barrier all bandied about ideas for the brew, settling on an easy-drinking IPA that checks in at a quaffable 5 percent ABV. Each brewery donated ingredients for what became a 30-barrel batch of Surge Protector.

While most of the beer is earmarked for bars and bottle shops on Long Island, a small amount of Surge Protector will wash up in New York City. Look for the IPA at Brooklyn's 61 Local and Alewife Queens, as well as the Bronx Alehouse and the Hell's Kitchen location of Pony Bar.

Don't feel guilty for having a second, or even a third pint. After all, drinking is merely the charitable thing to do.

P.S. Check out this video detailing the process of brewing and bottling Surge Protector.

Port Jefferson Comes to Brooklyn

Brooklyn We Go Hard_600x444_scaled_cropp A decade ago, the Long Island craft brewing scene could be boiled down to two major players: Blue Point and Southampton. Besides them, craft brews were tough to come by on Long Island, much less New York City. But in the last few years, breweries in Long Island have been popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Greenport Harbor, Long Ireland and Blind Bat are among the many breweries that are crafting excellent beers for Long Island residents and New Yorkers alike. And the latest Long Island brewery to expand distribution to New York is Port Jeff Brewing Company, the brainchild of Port Jefferson's Mike Philbrick.

After more than a decade spent homebrewing, Philbrick decided to go pro. He turned a Christmas-supply shop into the first brewery in this harbor-hugging town on Long Island's North Shore. On a seven-barrel system, Philbrick crafts full flavor, no-hops-spared beers that honor the town's shipbuilding past.

The flagship Schooner Ale is the most approachable beer, a malty-citrusy marriage of English and American brewing traditions. Better still is the Runaway Ferry Imperial IPA, which is made with smoked malt, and the Low Tide Black IPA that receives a tropical edge due to Citra hops. The honey-sweetened porter also ain't half bad, and come summer you'd be happy to sip the White's Beach Wit.

Tonight at 7 p.m., Bierkraft hosts the brewery's big Brooklyn debut. Seven Port Jeff beers will be on tap, including Schooner, Runaway Ferry Imperial Smoked IPA, Low Tide and a couple cask ales, notably the Starboard Oatmeal Stout primed with Port Jeff Birch Beer.

Trust me: This brewery will be your favorite new port of call.

This post appeared in my iPhone app, Craft Beer New York.

Rebuilding Barrier Brewing

image012 One of my favorite breweries in New York is Barrier, which Sixpoint vets Evan Klein and Craig Frymark have built up from a one-barrel nanobrewery to a five-barrel brewhouse with an eye on spreading their inventive, hop-forward ales across New York City and the region.

Well, that was the case until Sandy socked Barrier. Its name proved scant protection. Water rushed into the brewery, knocking equipment asunder and coldly, quickly destroying everything. This blow hit doubly hard, mainly because Barrier had just moved into its larger, newer—and more expensive—space four months earlier. The damage was to the tune of $100,000, a tough nut to scrape up for a couple brewers barely scraping by.

But the New York brewing community does not allow disaster to knock down its brothers and sisters. What Barrier needs to do is sell beer on the double, which is where Brewery Ommegang comes into the story. The Belgian-focused brewery has opened up its brew kettles to the crew from Barrier.

"Ommegang is a brewery we’ve always been inspired by and have admired and to actually be here on the ground making a beer with them is a really exciting thing," said Barrier's Frymark.

The crew designed Barrier Relief Ale, a Belgian-style IPA that Ommegang will cook up. There will be around 400 kegs, which will be sold under the Ommegang label with the proceeds directly benefiting Barrier. The beer should be hitting tap lines shortly after the New Year. Hopefully, Barrier we'll be back in business before then.

"We're rebuilding. We've reordered all of the equipment that we need to be operational again," explained Barrier's Klein. "The goal is to be up and running before the year is out."

And we'll drink to that.

P.S. Also of note: Ommegang will soon release a Game of Thrones–inspired beers.

A Long Time Coming

In the latest issue of Imbibe, I tackled the tale of Long Island beer. In recent years, the biggest island in the contiguous United States—it 118 miles, from New York Harbor to the eastern edge, encompassing Queens and Brooklyn—has become a brewing hotbed. More than a half dozen breweries and counting have sprouted to serve a massive underserved market: around 4 million people live on Long Island, with another 8 million in New York (counting Queens and Brooklyn). “Long Island is set up to be a great region for craft beer,” says Rick Sobotka, the founder and brewmaster of Great South Bay Brewery.

Long Island beers defy simple categorization. Blind Bat Brewing incorporates homegrown herbs and smoked malts in its rustic ales, while Great South Bay’s lineup includes the juniper berry–dosed Sleigh Ryed red ale and silky Snaggletooth Stout made with local apples, licorice and cinnamon. Paying homage to its aquatic location, Port Jeff Brewing Company turns out the Runaway Ferry Imperial IPA and lightly citrusy Schooner Ale. Long Ireland specializes in stouts and traditional Irish ales, while nanobrewery Barrier Brewing’s distinctive brews count the salty and sour Gosilla and the ruby-toned Vermillion Saison Rouge.

Care to read the rest of my story? Here's the PDF: IB36_Cover+Beer62-69

New York Press' Gut Instinct: A Little White Whine

Like a plague of locusts descending upon crops, a peculiar modern pestilence assaults my email inbox: pesky missives from public relations firms, touting the latest and supposedly greatest in food and drink.

In a perfect world, these words would be custom-tailored to suit my journalistic needs. Publicists, tell me about restaurants, craft beers, cocktail bars and spirits! This helps me divine trends, allowing me to make judgments and disseminate pertinent info to readers—a filter in our data-clogged days. But for each relevant email, dozens more tidal wave into my inbox, breathlessly announcing news I find as off-putting as Glee. It's marketing by machine gun: Spray the message wildly and hope to hit a few targets. Recent misses include luxury spas, health-food restaurants and wine. Wine! Allow me to whine.

Over the last decade on the booze beat, I've been as clear as vodka concerning my liquid passions. I adore craft beer and distilled spirits, from China's fiery bai jiu to oaky, warming bourbon. As for wine, I avoid writing about grape juice. This is partly due to economics. When I first started down this drunken writing road, I was busted broke. I could scarcely afford to order from the McDonald's value menu, much less buy decent wine. (This predated the arrival of Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck, bringing quality, Night Train–cheap wine to the masses.) I fell under the thrall of affordable craft beer such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Brooklyn Lager, which sold for less than $10 a six-pack. Flavor and quality: What more could I crave?

Wine was, and remains to me, a costly, confusing crapshoot. With seasonal variations in yields and quality, the wine you loved this year may be vinegar the next. Keeping track is a full-time gig, and the wine field is filled with men and women eager to use adjectives like "wet slate," "pencil shavings" and "cat pee"— it's an arms race of adjectives to describe a varietal. Wine writing is sprinkled with heaping tablespoons of pretension; I grew up in suburban Ohio, where pompousness was seen as a character defect. Beer won. Wine lost.

But last Sunday, I was forced to come face to face with a beer lover's greatest fear: spending an entire day drinking wine. My friend Emily was turning 30, and her greatest wish was to visit Long Island's North Fork wineries. "What could be better?" she asked. Wisely, I kept my yap shut. Over the ensuing weeks, the outing was planned. Emily assumed we were traveling in a busted-up van. (Last summer, we ventured to New Jersey's Seaside Heights in a van that had disconcertingly damp seats and a scent best described as "mildew strip club.") Yet a 30th birthday only occurs once.

Thus, the attendees rented a stretch SUV limo—you know, the sort where prom-going teens stick their heads out the sunroof and scream. The vehicle pulled in front of Emily's apartment, looking like a beached whale. "Oh, no—really?" she said, agape. Like clowns climbing into a circus car, we stuffed ourselves inside, arranging ourselves on smooth leather seats. Bloody Marys were mixed. Screwdrivers were distributed. The new Girl Talk album was cranked to 11. "I always thought that driving around in one of these would be douchey," one friend said. "But I certainly don't feel like a douchebag."

As the city's buildings diminished in the distance, we alighted toward Southold, home to the northern location of Duck Walk Vineyards. In the sunny facility, which was flanked by rows of grape vines, we bellied up to the bar to sample a buttery chardonnay, crisp and strawberry-like rosé and a smoky pinot meunier.

"It's as close as you'll get to Scotch or beer," the sommelier said, pouring me a toot. I took a taste. It was masculine and campfire-esque, but it was as close to beer or booze as a Gardenburger is to beef. When a musician broke out a saxophone to serenade us with muzak, we took it as our cue to skedaddle.

Our driver shuttled us down the road to Pindar Vineyards. In the tasting room, we tippled the full-bodied, blended red wine Pythagoras and the nearly tropical Sauvignon Blanc. But better yet was the sparkling, wildly effervescent Premier Cuvée, which we bought bottles of to glug al fresco in the backyard. Across the tables we spread cheese and meats. Corks were released, exploding like popcorn. This was a moment of celebration, a time where beer and booze had no home. Sipping wine in the sunshine, this was a Great Gatsby moment—well, with less suicide and murder.

"More bubbles!" Emily shouted, her glee so infectious that, despite my wine-averse ways, I couldn't help but extend my cup too.

Read—and vote for—the original story at the New York Press website.