As New York Craft Beer Week continues rolling on (I swear liver, its over soon) last night I found myself in good company at the 2010 NYC Brewer’s Choice night. The evening pitted fifteen breweries – many with brewmasters in attendance – with small plates and snacks from some of the city’s finest bootstrapping kitchens. The individual offerings alone were more than exemplary as special beers were poured by award winning breweries such as Goose Island, Ballast Point and Brooklyn Brewery along with vittels from Jimmy’s No. 43, Lucy’s Whey, Mile End, Brooklyn Larder and more.
“NYC Brewer’s Choice, at City Winery on September 30th, will be the highlight of NYC’s Craft Beer Week this fall! It will feature food and beer pairings as well as discussions on specific beers. The event will consist of over 15 top brewers representing their own select, rare and small-batch beers. These brews will be paired with gourmet food prepared by select chefs for the ultimate beer tasting and food pairing experience.”
Overall, the pairings were a bit hit or miss. Successful ones met on common ground through location (Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel brewery paired with Mile End, a Montreal-transplanted deli from Brooklyn), contrasting flavors (Stillwater Artisanal Ales Stateside Saison paired with spicy shrimp cocktail from Brooklyn Larder) and even common ingredients (Sixpoint Brewery’s Pilsner paired with Our Friend’s Mustard made with Sixpoint Ale). Other’s however, seemed a bit awkward. For example, Ommegang’s amazing Cup O’ Kyndness – a smokey Scottish ale – was paired with gherkins from Rick’s Pick. Individually, both were amazing but combined they were just… awkward.
But, overall, this was an event about beer and that was available in abundance. One of the standouts was the aforementioned Ommegang Cup O’ Kyndness (above). An overly smoked – yet incredibly balanced – scotch ale brewed with Ommegang’s house strain of belgian yeast and the addition of heather, a late summer flowering plant often found in traditional gruit recipes. The result was a very easy drinking, smokey, malty beer with an almost buttery finish that would pair perfectly with caramelized meats.
Another outstanding surprise offering was from Long Island’s own Southampton brewery. Phil Markowski was on hand to pour rare bottles of Hommage, an over-hopped trappist style ale aged for in excess of one year in merlot barrels with wild yeast. The result was incredibly complex balance of musky barnyard notes over flavors of oak, citrus, toasted malt, honey and the aforementioned merlot. Bottle conditioned, the beer was quite dry and finished very smooth. This is one to seek out and there are rumors that bottles will be poured again at their annual Russian Imperial Stout release.
But what made Brewer’s Choice a great evening (as if the food and beer were not enough) was the intimacy of sharing these beers with their creators and learning their amazing stories. For example, Jeff O’Neil – head brewer at Ithaca Brewing Company – was on hand to discuss White Gold from their Excelsior series. This wild ale apparently began as an accident at the brewery when a batch of belgian pale ale became infected with some local wild yeast. Now in its seventh batch, new beers are constantly “infected” with the previous release for an ever evolving take on the American sour.
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