Monday, May 28, 2012

Victory Beer Garden Open Again

It's become a much anticipated sign of summer -- the re-opening of the Victory Beer Garden in Battery Park, at the southern most part of the park, next to the Battery Gardens restaurant and beside the Coast Guard station!

This year they've done a very smart thing and created a gate into the garden from the most heavily trafficked pathway near the garden. In the past, the beer garden was quite hard to find unless you already knew that it was there. Hidden behind thick, high hedges, and with the entrance located behind the garden away from the pathways, it was no wonder that this gem of a watering hole was always so undeservingly empty.

On our Memorial Day visit, the garden was more busy than we've ever seen it. In fact, we wondered if we would find a seat, as we searched the tables for an opening, beers in hand. We spotted a large table with empty seats near a senior gentleman sitting alone in the shade of a tree by the hedges. We didn't even have to ask if the seats were free before he invited us to sit. After starting a friendly conversation, our table mate informed us that he'd just finished a walk from 110th St. down to Battery Park, walking the roughly 8 miles via Broadway -- no doubt he was thirsty!

B.R. and I both had the Summer Love ale, which was satisfying and refreshing -- malty, without being too heavy, and with plenty of hop flavor. Our new companion, who was on holiday from Australia, looked to be having a Victory Lager, which is what B.R. had next. The Lager was a bit more bitter and had a deeper amber color than the style which inspired it, the German Helles.

When asked what our Aussie friend thought of the American beers that he'd tried, he said that he'd quite liked them, finding them more flavorful than the average Oz-brew. When pressed for a favorite he mentioned Blue Moon. When he offered to get us a round, I insisted that we get him a round, he being a guest in our city. I asked what he'd like, and he allowed me to choose for him. So, considering his liking Blue Moon, I got him a Witte from Ommegang. And, as expected, he liked it very much!

I went for the Headwaters Pale Ale, which hit the spot on a very warm, muggy afternoon. Its soft, malty body -- unbothered by any aggressive, biting hop bitterness -- went down slowly and gently, like a lazy summer sunset.
And nature was gladly represented in the beer garden. A tiny orange spider, seen at the end of the superimposed arrow above, set up shop on our bikes with an impressive web, created in the short time that it took for us to enjoy our two beers! We carefully collected the spider onto a nice big leaf before riding off, sparing him a bike ride.

Also on tap at the beer garden was Hop Devil, and, as in recent years, other breweries' beers in bottles and cans, such as Sierra Nevada Stout and some Sixpoint varieties, to accompany the standard outdoor grilled fare -- hot dogs, hamburgers, and the like.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

ABC Beer Company

While walking to Petit Abeille for a dinner of beers and moules-frites, by way of the East River Park, we happened upon ABC Beer Company on Avenue C by 6th Street, run by the proprietor of ABC Wine nextdoor. It's one of those new hybrid drink-on-premises bar/take-home-bottles-and-growlers establishments that seem to be popping up everywhere lately. The Ale Street News has a great article about these kinds of shops, with an extensive list, on page 6-B of the latest issue, also available on-line.

The exterior of ABC is pretty stark and plain and gives no indication of the very comfy, warm, rustic, wood ensconsed interior. There were 11 items offered on draft, for consumption in the bar, or to take home. I ordered a pint of Newburgh Brewing Co.'s Smoked Stout, and found it suited the atmosphere perfectly. It was dark, smooth, mildly smokey and slightly creamy.

B.R. "hop-ted" for a different "hop-tion" -- the Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, which she noted was indeed hoppy! You can hear her comments about it in a bonus, very much abbreviated Beer Hear! podcast.

BR thought-bubble: "ce magasin a besoin de la bière plus français..."
ABC Beer definitely seems to be putting the focus on being a bar more than a shop, using the vast majority of their space for seating, including a massive common table with benches, in the European fashion. They also offer some light fare to accompany the beers. Everything on tap ranged from very good to great, with reasonable pricing.
The bottle selection -- for take away only, not to be consumed on premises -- was impressive, and the pricing was in line with what you'd expect in NYC. Though the selection is far from the variety and quantity offered by nearby Good Beer on E. 9th St. between Ave. A and B or City Swiggers on the East 86th just east of 2nd Ave., if you told me 15 years ago that you'd be able to buy Westmalle and Dogfish Head on Ave. C one day, I'd have found that hard to swallow.
 It's another welcome sign that people want to drink good beer, and harkens back to the day when it was common to go to the pub with a bucket to fill and take home.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Centerfold Revealed At Brooklyn Brewery

Rob, on the right, fills the glasses of the masses.
The Worshipful Company of Brewers is a "guild" of brewers at the Brooklyn Brewery. On a rotating basis, different brewers there are given the opportunity to brew a unique batch of their own creation, which is released on a very small scale and only in kegs. A launch party is held at the brewery for each new beer, to which friends of the brewers, supporters of the brewery and industry insiders are invited.

On Friday May 18, 2012, Brooklyn Brewery's Cellarman, and brewer, Rob Lemery served up his own invention, the Centerfold, to a very enthusiastic, thirsty crowd. Rob's was the second beer in the series, the first one being Tom Villa's Oishi. Aside from Garrett, Tom is the longest tenured brewer at Brooklyn, and Rob is the most junior.

Can you handle this?
What Goes Into Making a Centerfold?

Centerfold is a 6% abv California Pale Ale, that's made with floor malted european malts -- pilsner and Marris Otter -- and treated to a wide array of hop varieties: Chinook, Cascade, Amarillo, Centennial and the not oft utilized New Zealand Pacific Jade. The beer is dry-hopped, generously, twice, and also picks up some unique flavors and aromas by the addition of Rose Hips.
The apprentice and the master.
Rob, a N.J. native, still homebrews whenever he can, and he said that his recipe was partly inspired by discovering Rose Hips at his local homebrew shop. He claims that the Rose Hips allow him to use more hops without over bittering his beer, while adding a nice tartness and floral quality. He also said that Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale was a favorite of his in his early years of beers, and that it also contributed to his decisions in recipe formulation.

You can hear all about it, and more -- and learn Rob's nickname since high school, and his relation to Pete Wilson (no, not the former governor of California) -- in this week's podcast!
Maia handles the tap.

Keep those hands where we can see them when handling the Centerfold!

Rob got a big boost on his big night.

Rob gets high with a little help from his friend.

Garrett ponders, "Why didn't I think of that..."

"Excuse me sir... can I have another?"

Add bartender to the resumé.
Where's Bobby Cuza to report on Cuzme and Bobby?

The mug doesn't stay full for long.
On offer in the tasting room.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Paul Cantillon's Great Grandson: Lambic 101

While on (working) vacation in Brussels, we had the privilege of speaking with Jean Van Roy, the head brewer and progeny of the Cantillon Brewery. Jean's family has been blending and brewing lambic beer for many generations. His beer is considered by many to be THE authentic lambic.
A boy and his gueuze.
And what is this "lambic" beer? Most who have tried it -- at least the more well known version of it called gueuze -- know it as a very sour, acidic, lively carbonated, somewhat sulfery concoction that one either loves or hates. (We LOVE it!!!)
Try to steal the Cantillon recipe -- get scratched!
Jean gave us a brilliantly simple explanation of the mysterious, ancient, spontaneously fermented beverage called lambic. Even if you think that you know a thing or two about this rare style of beer, I'm pretty sure that you will learn something new from Jean's brief but informative interview. 

A business meeting, with the (operational) potbelly stove in the foreground.

Romantic Saturday morning at the Cantillon Brewery!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cantillon Amphoras

Our 8 day trip to northern France and Brussels began auspiciously with a visit to the Cantillon Brewery, where brewer Jean Van Roy showed us an exciting brewing experiment that he's undertaken. He's fermenting and conditioning about 2,400 liters of lambic in custom made amphoras.
Amphora of lambic.

Jean got the idea from a wine maker friend of his in Sicily. He said that the wine he experienced which had been aged in the ceramic vessels was dramatically different from wine aged in wood barrels, and that he instantly wondered what his beer would be like if aged the same way.
While beer used to be fermented and stored in such vessels a few thousand years ago, we've not heard of any brewery using such ancient vessels in modern times. For Jean, it's a pure experiment, with no idea about what the end result will be. Hear the whole story of Cantillon's bold exBEERiment in this week's podcast. There are lots more great photos of the amphoras on Cantillon's Facebook page.
B.R. and Jean Van Roy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nøgne Ø In Nøw Yørk

As part of a very hectic north-eastern US visit, Kjetil, the brewer of Nøgne Ø of Norway, took time to speak to us at a tasting event at Swifts in downtown Manhattan, where two of his beers which were cloned by Bitter & Esters a few months earlier were on hand to sample side by side with the originals -- the Sunturn smoked barley wine and the Nøgne Ø Porter.
Let's not ever piss off Norway, least they eat us whole.

L-R Small Sunturn Clone, Sunturn Clone, Sunturn.

Kjetil and Tim. (Don't upset the Norwegian, Tim...)

Clone station.

Ø, Ø, Ø!!!!