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The Ten Best New York Beers of 2015

There was a time, not so long ago, when compiling a list of the city’s best beers was a breezy task, merely a matter of cataloging the limited amount of good grog the five boroughs had to offer. Things have changed. Drastically. As of 2015, the Tri-State area is brimming with micro-breweries, dozens of which released ales and lagers worthy of inclusion here. If you are currently drawing breath within the five boroughs, congratulations: There’s never been a better time to be a craft beer fanatic than right now.

Listed below are the top ten reasons — a selection of releases from throughout the year demonstrating how the scene continues its ceaseless climb. Ever upward, New York.

10. Flagship Brewing – Metropolitan Lager (5.6% ABV)

As a fairly uncontroversial style, lager often fails to captivate the attention of “loud” beer lovers. That’s a shame, as a brewer’s steady hand is never so apparent as in a gentle, nuanced offering. Staten Island showed the craft crowd how it’s done with its Metropolitan Lager: a smooth-bodied refresher with a beautiful balance between Old World malt and hops. No single ingredient takes center stage, yet each provides a pivotal supporting role in every sip.

Superf*cking Yawn
Superf*cking Yawn

9.Threes Brewing – Superfucking Yawn (9.5% ABV)

There’s IPA, and then there’s IPA! Entering a supremely dense field of highly hopped craft ales, Gowanus’s favorite brewpub knew they had to bring theirs with a bang. Mission accomplished. This explosive hop bomb with undertones of tropical fruit and sticky pine resin hits you hard. As it should, with its elevated alcohol content, hovering near double digits. But any brewer with a lone limb can dump endless amounts of hops into a batch. Setting Superfucking Yawn apart is its floral aromas, whisper-light body, and a satiating juiciness that lasts for days in the finish. Nothing sleepy about any of that.

Revenge of the Emu
Revenge of the Emu

8. Cuzett Libations – Revenge of the Emu (5.4% ABV)

It was quite an eventful year for brewers Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett. The two prominent members of the local craft scene formed their own brewery, tied the knot, and took a trip to Australia to explore the fermented flavors of the Southern Hemisphere. The voyage Down Under informed the couple’s second release, a sessionable blond ale named after the outback’s most notorious flightless bird. Revenge of the Emu was fruit-forward, hinting at white grapes and passionfruit. Reining in the sweetness was a dry blanket of kölsch yeast and pilsner malt. A thoughtful and complex arrangement suggesting a bright future — professionally and personally — for the newly minted husband-and-wife brewing team.

Seeking Alpha Triple IPA
Seeking Alpha Triple IPA

7.Captain Lawrence – Seeking Alpha (11% ABV)

Unapologetically bitter from start to finish, Seeking Alpha was the beer New York hop-heads were waiting for. When it hit shelves this past February, it didn’t stick around for long. Which is appropriate, as IPAs are meant to be consumed fresh. The name of the beer itself refers to the alpha acids responsible for bitterness. Yet Seeking Alpha was almost as much about its dank, citrusy aroma, courtesy of a dynamic bouquet of four separate hops, including bold Citra and assertive Tomahawk. A faint two-row malt backbone teased out dryness upon the discerning tongue. Be on the lookout for its return later this winter.

Long Island City's finest
Long Island City’s finest

6. Transmitter Brewing – H1 Zinfandel Harvest Saison (6.5% ABV)

Saisons are on the rise. Complex, with hints of fruit and funk, they come equipped with many of the characteristics to make connoisseurs gush with glee. And no one in this part of the world has the style on lock like the folks at Transmitter. In 2015 they flexed their muscles with this crisp, effervescent ale, aged in oak alongside a hearty dose of zinfandel grapes. The resulting liquid was brimming with berries, tannins, and any number of adjectives commonly associated with high-end wine. Although H1 will never be precisely replicated, if you missed it, learn from your mistake: When Transmitter releases a saison, you grab it, and you don’t let go for quite some time (the style ages gracefully in the bottle).

 

Finbacks aging in their Queens barrelhouse
Finbacks aging in their Queens barrelhouse

5. Finback – Plumb and Proper (6.3% ABV)

With a rapidly evolving sour-beer program, Finback brings serious street cred to the Queens craft scene. Originally brewed near the end of 2014, this dark and tart offering became considerably more accessible after a bottle release in August ’15. Made with plums and wild yeast, there are notes of brown sugar and molasses to accompany an unexpected smokiness. A creamy mouthfeel is accentuated by ever-so-slight carbonation. For those seeking a bold drinking experience, Plumb and Proper is not to be missed.

A taste of the dark side
A taste of the dark side

4. Carton Brewing – Irish Coffee (13% ABV)

Carton Brewing (out of Atlantic Highlands, NJ) continues to push craft beer in an unexpected direction with ingredient-forward releases, designed to emulate all sorts of food and drink heretofore unassociated with suds. In 2015, they tackled the classic combination of caffeine and whiskey, their Irish Coffee evoking the familiar flavors of its namesake. There’s an immediacy of mint on the nose, followed by acidic, roasted bean notes that are first to hit the tongue. The darker elements soon fade, however, revealing oak, hazelnut, and cream in a lengthy finish. And that creaminess will leave you coming back for more. To find a beer this smooth containing this much alcohol defies imagination. Par for the course for a brewery proving themselves as the Willy Wonka of craft.

Double Negative in the barrel
Double Negative in the barrel

3. Grimm Artisanal Ales – Barrel Aged Double Negative (10.2% ABV)

Overflowing with oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel, and anything else needed for a delicious dessert, Double Negative is the pinnacle of what a bourbon-barrel-aged beer can offer. The jet-black stout, produced by Brooklyn husband-and-wife gypsies Joe and Lauren Grimm, was injected into Heaven Hill casks in 2014, where it rested patiently until ready for 22-ounce bombers last winter. Some could come close, but you won’t find a more well-rounded imperial stout in the land. And after winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival this September, Double Negative now has the hardware to prove it.

Whole lotta hops
Whole lotta hops

2. Other Half Brewing – Street Green (7% ABV)

It’s hardly a secret how Other Half Brewing has ascended the ranks to claim the mantle of New York’s Greatest Craft Brewery: hops. A whole helluva lot of them. Although the all-star operation on the outskirts of Carroll Gardens excels at any number of more esoteric styles, they attract the greatest fanfare for consistently producing the freshest, fiercest IPAs in this part of the world. With so many of them deserving inclusion on this list, the primary reason why Street Green edges out the rest is because it’s, well, the freshest and the fiercest. Brewed with an ungodly abundance of Amarillo, Simcoe, Galaxy, and Equinox hops, Street Green hit cans just last month, reeking of grapefruit, pineapple, and kiwi juice. It flogs the palate in a wondrous, tongue-tingling tropical bath. You’re gonna want to sit down for this one.

1. Greenpoint Beer and Ale Company – Pendulum (6.1% ABV)

This one-off from early 2015 was a wild ale like none other. Brewed entirely with Brettanomyces, an unruly yeast commonly associated with funkier notes, Pendulum relied on a variant called Brett C. This offshoot strain endowed the beer with juicier esters, arriving as over-ripened citrus fruit on the tongue. Best yet, these tonalities tangoed effortlessly with the resiny hop strains at its core. In the aroma, and in the mouth, Pendulum provided an unforgettable drinking experience. Brewers of Greenpoint Beer: On behalf of New Yorkers everywhere, please bring this beer back in 2016!

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Captain Lawrence’s Seasonal Sour Collaboration with Stone Barns

To the craft beer enthusiast, sour ale is the source of obsession. But its pungent tonalities can be off-putting to the casual consumer. With their newest release, Captain Lawrence Brewing has bottled a sour capable of pleasing both camps. Hudson Valley Harvest Sour Raspberry is an ale aged in oak barrels, fermented with fruit sourced entirely from Stone Barns in northern Westchester County. This weekend, the Elmsford-based brewery unleashes a supremely limited supply of the beer for $15 a bottle.

Sour ales are often bottle conditioned, meaning they are packaged with active yeast, allowing them to develop with time as they sit on the shelf. But Sour Raspberry actually hit the bottle almost a year ago. The beer sat patiently in the brewery awaiting elegant, updated labeling. Now it is rearing to go, ready to please palates with all its glorious complexities.

“This is far and away one of the best sours we have produced to date,” says Scott Tobin, brewhouse manager. “It’s got this crisp mouthfeel that lets the freshness of the fruit shine through every sip.” And those raspberries really do assume centerstage, delivering a tartness only slightly subdued by faint traces of wood in the finish. Never overwhelming on the tongue, its an optimal gateway sour to share with the uninitiated.

“With the current demand for sours at the brewery, this one’s going to be fetched up fast,” warns Tobin. So if you’re hoping to secure Sour Raspberry as a stocking stuffer this Christmas, steer your sleigh towards the brewery post haste. Enjoy a few classic Captain Lawrence offerings on tap while you’re there.

The tasting room is open from noon until 6 p.m. on Saturday, and noon – 5 p.m. every Sunday. Click here for details and directions.

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Why This Triple IPA Is a Good IPA — And What You Should Be Looking For in Hoppy Beer

This week, Westchester’s own Captain Lawrence Brewing Company released its annual triple IPA, Seeking Alpha. It’s a palate-smashing beast of an ale designed for those times when a lesser IPA simply won’t cut it. But rather than just sprinkling irrational amounts of hops on it, and running away, this annual release offers more than just boatloads of bitterness. There is a complexity and drinkability here that could be easily dismissed and even misunderstood — not unlike hopheads themselves. Seeking Alpha demonstrates how there’s so much more to our favorite flower of brewing than meets the tongue. And so craft enthusiasts owe this beer a debt of gratitude, making the world safe, once more, for hopheads. At last, you can emerge from behind the shadows.

OK, so hopheads aren’t really in hiding these days. In fact, they’ve helped pushed the craft pendulum too far in one direction, according to prevailing thought in the industry. But that notion stems from the practice of using the bittering agent ham-handedly to drown out imperfections in lazily brewed beer. In that regard, hops have become the performance-enhancing drug for otherwise mediocre brewers.

The undeniably great IPAs on the market attain cultish status not by simply supercharging their IBUs and alcohol contents, but by harnessing an artful assortment of hops, and propping them up with a suitable quantity of the proper malts. This is the true palate that the IPA artisan has to work with; the Bob Ross of craft brewing, peppering happy little trees atop our taste buds.

Seeking Alpha paints with this brush. Is it bitter? You bet your sweet ass it is. The name of the beer itself is derived from the alpha acids responsible for bitterness. But there’s also a sensational floral component to its aroma, courtesy of a dynamic bouquet of four separate hops, including the power-hitting Citra and Tomahawk. Then there’s that faint two-row malt backbone, teasing out dryness from the discerning tongue. For a beer that is now upwards of 11 percent ABV, it plays unexpectedly well with nuance. Couple that with its limited, annual release, and you’ve got the recipe for a cult craft classic.

Hopheads are encouraged to turn up from their hidden, subterranean lairs and head to their local package shop, where Seeking Alpha is now available in four-pack bottles priced around $14.

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Here’s Why Big Brew NY Beer Festival Is Worth a Weekend Commute

Hopping a weekend train north to White Plains is a tough sell to many New Yorkers. But for beer enthusiasts, it’s a short journey worth considering this Saturday afternoon. One of Westchester’s largest craft beer festivals is coming to the County Center (198 Central Avenue, White Plains; 914-995-4050) in the form of the Big Brew NY Beer Festival. Tapping upwards of 250 brews from 5 until 8:30 p.m., the event features a heavy focus on the suds of the Tri-State.

General-admission tickets, priced at $70, can be upgraded to VIP for $25 more, adding an extra hour of tasting, along with admittance to an all-cask lounge. If you appreciate or are even aware of a difference between keg and cask, it’s certainly not a bad deal. (Less so for folks just enjoying whatever is poured into their take-home “souvenir” glasses.)

Either way, it’s hard to go wrong at a craft beer festival, particularly one of this magnitude. With limitless tastings, there’s never any shame in pouring out some inferior offerings. And that presents a perfect forum in which to explore expressions not easily available, like the Bourbon County Barleywine from Goose Island, or the Hop’deded Double IPA from Brooklyn’s own Other Half Brewing. Doubtful that anyone would dare waste a drop from those guys.

Connoisseurs will also appreciate limited-release one-offs like Brooklyn Brewery’s Quadraceratops, a 10 percent Belgian-style Quad brewed with dark candi sugar, and the Unorthodox Russian Imperial Stout from Two Roads Brewing. Not to be forgotten, the increasingly popular cider-loving crowd will be catered to with a number of apple-based beverages — the dry varieties of Long Island’s Wolffer Estate are noteworthy among them.

A limited selection of food will be provided by Handsome Devil BBQ and The Cow and the Curd, who promise a variety of Wisconsin-based cheeses. VIPs get to enjoy beer-infused dishes from Tuckahoe-based Broken Bow Brewery. Slim pickings, it would seem, but certainly the type of fare that fits into an evening of prolonged beer guzzling.

In addition to the great NYC breweries on tap at Big Brew, the location’s proximity to Metro-North makes it an ideal weekend excursion. The White Plains stop on the Harlem Line is an easy, well-lit two minute walk from the steps of the County Center. Round trip from Grand Central will set you back $17. Given the steep price of a pint these days, you could drink that off within your first ten minutes at the festival, depending on how thirsty you are. So if you’re looking for a reasonable escape from the city this weekend, and you love craft beer, file Big Brew Fest at the top of your to-do list.

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This Week’s Five Best Food Events – 1/12/2015

Learning. Cooking. Eating. If you made a promise to yourself to start being active in one of these categories, then consider five of this week’s most intriguing events.

Your Liver, Your Health, National Gourmet Institute, 48 West 21st Street, Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Now that the holidays are over, work on treating your liver right by picking up a few tips from natural medicine expert Dr. Peter Bongiorno. The class will focus on identifying foods and remedies that best support liver function and detail the benefits of undergoing detoxification. Reservations are $45.

Spicy Sichuan Cooking, The Brooklyn Kitchen, 100 Frost Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday

Tame the winter cold this week by learning how to cook with spicy Sichuan pepper. Instructor Diana Kuan, author of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, will cook up a variety of dishes focused on the ingredient, such as dan dan noodles, mapo tofu, and cucumber salad. Class attendees will also learn how to properly store and prepare the Sichuan peppercorn. Students receive beer pairings alongside each dish; reserve your seat for $85 through the Brooklyn Kitchen website.

Williams-Sonoma Presents Road to Lyon featuring James Beard Award Winning Chef Paul Qui, Williams-Sonoma, 10 Columbus Circle, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

In preparation for the the 2015 Bocuse d’Or Culinary Olympiad, Austin-based chef Paul Qui is hosting a fundraiser for Team USA complete with wine and select appetizers. Guests will have the chance to watch Qui prepare several dishes for the worldwide chefs’ competition as part of a live demonstration. Reservations are $75, and your ticket includes wine and small bites.

Captain Lawrence Beer Dinner, Whole Foods, 214 3rd Street, Brooklyn, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Head to the Gowanus Whole Foods for a five-course meal complete with beer pairings courtesy of Elmsford, New York–based Captain Lawrence Brewery. Dishes include poached shrimp, pear and winter squash salad, and lamb bacon; beers include a smoked porter and the 12 percent ABV “Frost Monster.” Reservations are $50.

Burns Night Celebration Dinner, The American Scottish Foundation, 575 Madison Avenue, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Celebrate Scotland with an evening of music, Balvenie whiskey, and traditional bagpipes before sitting down for supper. The event also includes a reading of Robert Burns’s poem “Address to a Haggis,” complete with a ceremonial presentation of the famed Scottish dish. Festivities include a raffle and traditional Celtic dancing. Additional information, including ticket package options, is available through the event’s website.

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The 10 Best Beers of 2014

2014, I miss you already. The years seem to go by faster and faster, but at least the beers keep getting better and better. Especially here in the city, where our craft beer scene has blossomed into one of the nation’s most vibrant. Not long ago, NYC-based breweries were overshadowed by more prominent players from neighboring regions. But the past half-decade has been defined by a renaissance of first-class fermentation. We now boast dozens of producers with global significance, and even more exciting newcomers on the horizon. As we struggle with the inevitable hangover of a new year, here’s a little hair of the dog to help you through. In no particular order, here are the ten best local(ish) beers I drank in 2014.

10. Grimm Artisanal Ales – BFF Husband-and-wife team Joe and Lauren Grimm — self-described nomadic brewers — consistently produced some of Brooklyn’s best beers in 2014. The dynamic duo’s skills were handily showcased in this hop-heavy Tripel. A thoughtful melding of styles, BFF has the aroma and bitter-forward action of an American IPA, but manages to round itself out with a yeasty, Belgian backdrop. The most disappointing characteristic of this spring seasonal one-off is that it, like most Grimm beers, will probably never be brewed again.

9. Evil Twin Brewing – Sour Bikini

This unapologetically sour pale ale is not for the uninitiated. If you’re a noob looking to delve into the curiously complex realm of wild beer, look elsewhere. This is a sour beer for sourheads. It’s tart, it’s tangy, and it’s terrific. It’s also usually on tap over at Torst in Greenpoint, where it’s safe to go through several pours of this unexpectedly sessionable tongue-tickler.

8. Sixpoint Brewery – Barrel-aged 3Beans Baltic Porter

Ironically, if it wasn’t for a last minute trip to Portland for the annual Oregon Brewers Fest, I might not have ever tasted this robust Baltic porter. Although it was available briefly in cans and on draft throughout New York, if you blinked, you would’ve missed it. This unique concoction was partially brewed with cacao and coffee beans, resulting in a rich, roasted finish. Far more direct than your typical coffee-infused affair. [

7. Captain Lawrence Brewing Company – Golden Delicious

As a matter of personal taste, I despise ciders. Or any liquid that’s even remotely apple-like, for that matter. So Captain Lawrence really threw me for a loop when I found myself drawn to the 2014 rendition of their annual Golden Delicious release. Aging this Belgian Tripel in apple brandy barrels didn’t result in any cloyingly sweet undertones. Instead, there was a crisp dryness to accompany swirls of tropical fruit and tannins. Its alluring drinkability is belied by a formidable 12 percent ABV.

508 Gastrobrewery Brewmaster Chris Cuzme at Brooklyn Pour
508 Gastrobrewery Brewmaster Chris Cuzme at Brooklyn Pour

6. The Hop Whisperer – 508 Gastrobrewery

The award-winning Manhattan brewpub created this dry-hopped saison in collaboration with Brian Strumke of Stillwater — a man known for his devotion to the style. Traditionally associated with peppery spice, this particular saison offers more in the way of barnyard funk and pine-laced bitterness. Those added flavors come courtesy of heaping portions of citra hops and yeast collected from the bottom of Spanish Sidra bottles.

5. Void of Light – Gun Hill Brewing Company

Perhaps the most provocative stout I drank in 2014 came from this Bronx bomber. Oozing with caramel and cream, it’s nothing less than a decadent dessert for beer lovers. And I was hardly the only one impressed; Void of Light took home gold in the Foreign Stout category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.

4. Barrier Brewing Company – Tenderfoot

A big blast of bitterness is to be expected from a Double IPA. But Tenderfoot shirks expectations by leaving the tongue to consider a pronounced dryness, rarely tasted in a beer this heavy. It was a standout among a slew of solid releases from this Oceanside-based microbrewery. Once ravaged by the effects of Hurricane Sandy, Barrier Brewing — like its surrounding community — has declared itself a proud survivor.

3. New England Brewing Company – Fuzzy Baby Ducks

While it pains me to include a Connecticut beer in this list, what with so many fantastic offerings to choose from here in the five boroughs, I simply cannot ignore what might be the best IPA to come out of the Tri-State Area. It’s everything the style should be: juicy, aromatic, offering a glimpse of resiny bitterness without going off the reservation. I had been chasing this whale for quite some time, and was thrilled that when I finally slew it, Fuzzy Baby Ducks was worthy of the hype.

2. Carton Brewing Company – Rav

Far and away the most redeeming release to emerge from the reviled season of “pumpkin spice everything,” Rav was unlike any fall-themed beer I tasted in 2014. That’s because it was inspired by zucca ravioli, and brewed partially using its deconstructed parts. The flavors of squash, sage, cinnamon, and even Italian biscotti aren’t just hinted at, they’re actually in the beer. Long past their prime, Bruce and Bon Jovi should beware; nothing from Jersey is rocking quite like Carton Brewing these day.

1. Other Half Brewing – All Green Everything

Long established as the Cultural Epicenter of Everything Ever, it’s difficult to imagine that Brooklyn somehow managed to up its game in 2014. But the arrival of Other Half Brewing along the industrial outskirts of Gowanus did just that, bringing the city’s best new craft brewery to the county of Kings. Of all the magical brews the brewery flooded the scene with this year, none impressed quite like this hypnotic double IPA. Initially evoking a different tropical fruit upon every part of the palate it meets, All Green Everything encores with a thoughtful dose of pine sap. New York will doubtlessly be seeing a lot more of this beer in 2015. But I can’t wait that long. I need one right now.

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Set Your Clocks Straight With Hopsomniac IPA

“There goes the sun,” the Beatles famously sang…Oh wait, no they didn’t. Because no one wants to see less sunshine — save for vampires, goth kids, and the sadist ninnies who enjoy setting their clocks back this weekend. Sure, they’ll say, the extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning will be swell. But it’s all downhill from there. Starting next week, you can expect afternoons of early-onset darkness to help get you through those final few exhausting hours in the office. That’s certainly nothing to sing about.

It doesn’t mean we can’t drink to it, however. There is a beer for that. It’s Captain Lawrence’s brand-new Hopsomniac IPA, brewed with Stumptown cold-brew coffee.

Let’s toast this one to good ol’ George Vernon Hudson, native New Zealander and inventor of Daylight Savings Time. Never before nor since has a Kiwi wielded such influence over the affairs of man. Such a powerful chap would surely have appreciated a strong adult beverage such as Hopsomniac. Clocking in at a 6.5 percent ABV, with a solid 65 IBUs, the beer tames the bitterness of fresh-brewed coffee with the lemony zing of Sorachi Ace hops. Ever enjoy a zest of lemon with your espresso? Now you can get drunk off it. Ahh, the joys of craft beer.

Nine times out of 10, when coffee meets beer, it’s to form a stout. When Captain Lawrence Brewmaster Scott Vaccaro decided to bring the bean of caffeine into a pale ale, folks must surely have thought him crazy. It was those same haters who pooh-poohed Vernon Hudson when he proposed tampering with our temporal reality. But it takes fearless warriors such as these to shun the naysayers and drag society forcibly into a bold, hour-adjusted future. Early Sunday morning, as the clock on your smartphone magically jumps from 1:59 back to 1:00, please think of these trailblazers. Also, enjoy that additional hour between you and last call.

Hopsomniac IPA, brewed with Stumptown Coffee Roasters cold-brew coffee, is available in bottled six-packs exclusively at Whole Foods Market throughout the Tri-State starting in November. Alternatively, you can hit up the Elmsford-based brewery to taste it on tap. Forget Folgers — the best part of waking up is IPA in your cup.

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StilltheOne: A Journey from Hedge Fund to Honey Vodka

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is well known in the New York food world as the emblem of fine food and quality ingredient cooking, and the empire’s reach is about to expand into custom spirits, distilled with the help of StilltheOne Distillery. StilltheOne opened the doors to its vodka and gin distillery in August 2010; since then, proprietor Ed Tiedge has been on the forefront of developing several award-winning products, and local establishments have started to take notice.

Tiedge began his distilling career after being laid off from his second job in two months at a hedge fund. “In Wall Street, you get two swings at bat, but you usually don’t get a third one,” Tiedge says. “I didn’t want to be a security salesman because I didn’t want to take people’s money to sell them crappy products, so I decided I was going to make something.” After some experimentation and brainstorming, he opted to move forward with opening a distillery.

“We came up with the idea of making vodka from honey,” he says, referring to himself and his wife. “I’d done some wine-making. And then I made some mead — and it didn’t taste terrible — and then I ran it through the still and it tasted really interesting,” he explains. Vodka, unlike all other alcohols, is determined by the process, not the ingredients. All that is needed to qualify a vodka is a proof of 190. What you make it from is entirely up to you.

His wife insisted he take the business one step at a time. Step one: Can you come up with something that tastes good? Step two: How do you make it even better? “Picking the best honey and yeast combination took dozens of trials,” he explains.

With the career shift came a lifestyle shift, for better and for worse. “Naturally, I had to sell off some of my toys,” he says. “There are weeks when my bills are due that I miss the paycheck, but I do not miss the job at all. My wife doesn’t miss that job even though there was more money in our checking account. She describes me as a much nicer person, and I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in awhile. My kids seem to like me a lot more. I’m not grumpy or mad at the universe for a trade not going my way. If you make something of quality, you can feel good that you’ve made something of quality.”

After a few years spent perfecting the honeyed Comb Vodka and Comb 9 Gin, Tiedge turned to whiskey and brandy. “We just released a malt whiskey that we did with Captain Lawrence Brewing Company that’s made from their malted barley beer,” he explains. “I had an epiphany a few years ago that if you’re making whiskey from beer, you’re making a malt whiskey, so we took about 10,000 gallons of Scott [Vaccaro]’s Freshchester Pale Ale and ran it through the still. We’ve been aging it in New American oak barrels and we’ve just released the first 75 cases in November. It’s an incredibly different product. It’s awesome. It’s probably the best thing we’ve made.”

Tiedge loves the fact that he can push the envelope and create something no one else has done. The Captain Lawrence whiskey project is called 287 Whiskey, named after the highway that connects the brewery to the distillery. Tiedge expects the whiskey to start outselling their staple Comb vodka.

As for that collaboration with Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the restaurant is releasing its own gin and grappa, distilled by StilltheOne. Already a customer, the team approached Tiedge to make something special for the restaurant. “We started out talking about things they’d like,” the distiller recalls. “Sometimes they want things that are grown on the farm in Westchester to be incorporated, so they give me a bunch of herbs, I take my ingredients, and then I make a couple of different versions. They taste them and see what they like and narrow it down. And then we have a finished recipe.”

In the coming months, both the gin and grappa will be released under the name Barbers, and Tiedge hopes the collaboration will continue. “We’ll probably do a whiskey as well,” he tells us.

287 Whiskey is currently available at DrinkUpNY, Ninth Avenue Vitner, Park Avenue Liquor Shop, and around Westchester County.