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Best Weekend Food Events: Free Waffles, Craft Beer Festival, and Enchiladas

International Waffle Day, Wafels and Dinges, 209 E 2nd St and additional locations, Friday

Bring any handmade re-creation of the Belgian flag and receive a free waffle on International Waffle Day. Participants must have all three colors of the flag (black, yellow, and red) in the correct sequence. The offer is valid at any Wafel and Dinge brick-and-mortar or mobile location.

NYC Craft Beer Festival, Lexington Avenue Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue, Friday and Saturday

Quench your thirst with craft brews, ciders, and meads at this tasting, which features nearly 150 beers. Tickets — which start at $55 — afford guests unlimited two-ounce tastings during two-and-a-half-hour sessions; food will be available for purchase. Reserve your spot here.

Enchilada Festival, Maya, 1191 First Avenue, Friday through April 18

Richard Sandoval is offering a special enchilada menu that celebrates the “flute seasoned with chile.” Select enchilada dishes feature shredded chicken with Gouda cheese and crema fresca, pork carnitas with almond mole sauce, or braised veal tongue with cotija cheese. There’s also a vegetarian version with plantain tortillas and zucchini.

New Brunch, Drexler’s, 9 Avenue A, Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m.

Drexler’s is debuting a new weekend brunch featuring select goods from Black Seed Bagels. There will also be live music — think jazz and bluegrass — starting at 2 p.m. The new brunch cocktail list will focus on drinks like a hearty Bloody Mary with coppa Calabrese, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes.

National Paella Day, Socarrat Paella Bar, 259 West 19th Street, Sunday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Track down the yellow Socarrat-mobile and score a free sample of paella on National Paella Day. The restaurant offers guests three opportunities, at three locations (50th Street and Park Avenue at 12 p.m.; 44th Street and 1st Avenue at 1 p.m.; and  Mulberry Street and East Houston Street at 2 p.m.), to enjoy the beloved Spanish dish.

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Best Weekend Food Events: NYC Beer Week Kicks Off, and an Epic Bloody Mary Battle

2016 NYC Beer Week, Multiple Locations, Friday through February 28

The annual NYC Beer Week is packed with so much frothy excitement that hop heads will have ten whole days to experience it all. On Friday, Randolph Beer will tap a special keg of New York State–made IPA, with additional special beers available throughout the week. On Sunday, DBGB is hosting a panel discussion featuring Kelly Taylor of KelSo Brewery and Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver compete with beer and snacks for $25 per person (reserve here). Additional locations and events worth seeking out include a hot dog eating championship at Jimmy’s No. 43 and a proper pour class at Bierocracy.

Battle of the Bloody Mary’s, L’Apicio,  13 East 1st Street, Saturday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

This bloody battle is the perfect alternative to your usual bottomless brunch. On Saturday, fourteen participating restaurants, including Rebelle and Blue Smoke, will serve up their secret blends, with both attendees and judges voting for their favorites. Brunch-themed snacks will also be served. Tickets start at $55 and can be reserved here.

Burger and Wine Festival, Harlem Shake, 100 West 124 Street, Saturday, 4 p.m.

Find the perfect wine pairing for burgers, fried chicken, and even a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Pompette Wines is curating select parings for six of Harlem’s Shake’s menu items, with a port-chocolate milkshake for dessert. Wine varietals include pinot noir, shiraz, and riesling among others. Tickets are $45; reserve them here.

PITH Pop-Up, The Bronx Brewery,  856 E. 136th Street, Bronx, Saturday, 7:30pm

You’ve heard about Jonah Reider — the Columbia student who operates a pop-up restaurant out of his dorm room. Thus far, it’s been hard to get a seat at his campus venture, but for one night only, he’ll be serving up dinner at the Bronx Brewery. The meal will include a tasting of pale ales paired with each of the menu’s four courses. Additionally, the event will feature unique lighting and sound designed to enhance the senses during the dining experience. Tickets are $50 per person.

Lowline Winter DayLife Pop-Up Food Festival, Lowline Lab, 140 Essex Street, Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Essex Market continues its 75th anniversary celebration with a food party at the Lowline Lab, a virtual underground park that acts as a lab for lighting and horticulture experiments. A selection of the market’s beloved stalls — including Saxelby Cheesemongers, Arancini Bros., and Osaka Grub — will be offering select menu items. The event is free to attend and all participating restaurants will offer a cash-only menu.

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Heads Up, Lager Lovers — Bierocracy Will Tap Fresh Czech Pilsner

When Bierocracy (12-23 Jackson Avenue; 718-361-9333) opened late last year, it brought the trappings of a Central European beer hall into the heart of Long Island City. This week, on January 21, it will host a special event dedicated to that region’s most celebrated style: pilsner. Specifically, Pilsner Urquell, the originator of the species.

But unlike the Americanized versions you might be accustomed to, Thursday’s shindig showcases unfiltered, unpasteurized kegs of the beer flown directly from the Czech Republic brewery. In fact, the beer is so fresh, it’s kegged and shipped on the same day, arriving in Long Island City within hours. It’s a rare occasion no self-respecting lager lover should miss. 

Four kegs will tap at 4 p.m., when customers can expect an authentic experience extending beyond the liquid itself. Even the pour method follows traditional Bohemian customs. “The key to achieving the perfect pour is 50 percent faucet/50 percent pouring skills,” notes Bierocracy’s GM, David Young. “The faucets we use at Bierocracy are the original Turn ‘LUKR’ Restrictor Faucets designed and imported from the Czech Republic. Along with a bit of finesse from our ‘bier tenders,’ these faucets can be perfectly dialed in to assist pouring perfect foam and, consequently, the perfect ‘bier.’ “

When filling the glass, pilsner is typically served in one of three ways: Hladinka, which forms a two-inch head above the beer, is the most familiar pour to American drinkers; mlíko (as in milk) is a mug filled with white foam, which slowly settles into a pilsner with reduced effervescence; rezané pivo, or cut beer, taps a dark lager atop the pilsner, producing a totally Instagrammable dual-hued pint. 

And then there’s the foam itself. Turns out it’s not all created equal. As in Central Europe, “bier tenders” at Bierocracy distinguish between “wet foam” (mostly beer) and “dry foam” (mostly air). Not only will Thursday’s event afford you access to the freshest Czech pilsner this side of the pond, it’s also a great chance to set your foam game on fleek. Come for the crisp beer, stick around for the inimitable culture. 

Thursday’s event is open to the public, no tickets required. Pay-as-you-go pints of the 4.4 percent classic pilsner are $8 a pour. Two hundred liters of fresh, golden grog will flow freely until it’s gone for good.

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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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The Boozy Holiday Gift Guide, 2015 Edition

For all the supposed joy of the holiday season, gift shopping can bring out the Grinch in the best of us. Regardless of how well you think you know your friends and loved ones, that perfect item remains stubbornly elusive. Your dad clearly doesn’t need another tie, and a gift card to the iTunes store is far too impersonal to carry any lasting significance.

But there’s a simple solution: booze. It’s fun to shop for, everyone loves getting it, and it’s readily available all across town. It also runs the gamut of pricing, so you can land on an appropriate bottle for naughty and nice alike. Here’s a look at some stocking stuffers this winter to please everyone from casual acquaintance to devoted spouse. Invest appropriately, and you might even end up turning the former into the latter.

Like most brown liquors, Cognac is enjoying a renaissance in New York. The double-distilled grape spirit from southern France is turning up in more cocktails, while it continues to reveal its virtue and accessibility as a soulful sipping beverage. There’s also some damn good deals to be had from quality producers. Celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, Hennessy unleashed a collector’s edition release that retailed at $650 a bottle. It flew off the shelves. The elegant expression, packaged accordingly, is befitting of a loved one. But if you’re shopping for a co-worker, or a semi-decent friend, the brand offers their VS Holiday Gift Box at a far more affordable pricepoint. The juice inside, aged for at least two years in French oak, will surely deceive the gifted into thinking you spent at least double the $32 it commands at most liquor stores.

At a similar price, Hochstadter’s Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey is a veritable steal. The blend incorporates grain spirit from across North America, much of which fetches a statelier sum when packaged in prettier bottles. Don’t fall for the hype — it’s what inside that counts. And the rye lovers in your life will surely appreciate Cooper Spirits’ mixture of slightly spicy stock, ranging from four to 15 years in age. A throwback label imbues the gift with a nostalgic edge, best appreciated by seasoned drinkers. Give this one to dad — or grandma, if she’s a badass.

While nobody wants coal in their stocking, Scotch lovers wouldn’t necessarily mind a similar flavor profile in their whisky bottle. Oblige them with Bowmore Small Batch Single Malt. It’s a meditation on bourbon-like tones of oak and vanilla, peered through the peat bogs of the Scottish isles. Straddling that chasm between smoky and sweet, it exists as a sensible Scotch for bourbon aficionados. Best of all, it sits on the shelf at the inviting price of $40 a bottle. A tremendous value for any single malt scotch, particularly one arriving in any easily wrap-able gift box.

Beer, too, can be a thoughtful present. Though a six pack of Coors Light might be pushing it, craft beer connoisseurs in your circle are likely clamoring for something a bit more exclusive. Seek out the 2015 editions of the Bourbon County Brand Stouts, from Goose Island. Aged for a year in ex-bourbon barrels, these heavy-hitting dark ales upwards of 10% in ABV, age beautifully, and are always in high demand after their annual release, the day after Thanksgiving. Here in the city, you’ll be able to find the original stout, as well as the Barleywine, and coffee-infused variations at most high-end bottle shops. They’ll typically range from $10-15 a pop, so you won’t be too intimidated to secure the entire set. Thick on the tongue, with lingering notes of vanilla, caramel, and roasted cocoa, it’s dessert disguised as beer.

If you’re looking for something seasonally-inspired to bring to an upcoming holiday party, Brooklyn Brewery and Captain Lawrence Brewing out of Westchester, each produce their own take on a Winter Ale. Brooklyn’s is a take on a scotch-style beer, with creamy notes of caramelized malt. Captain Lawrence’s is a solid example of a winter warmer, brewed with tongue-tingling spices reminiscent of nutmeg and clove. Both beers are in bottle throughout the city, retailing at under $12 a six pack.

If you want to make your gift a bit more immersive, The New York Beer and Brewery Tour is just the ticket. For $115, attendees get a four-hour adventure highlighting a few of the best brewpubs and beer bars of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Beer, food tastings, and  transportation are included.

For something a bit more playful, if not far more expensive, the Whisky Advent Calendar from Master of Malt is a welcome surprise. The 24 day countdown to Christmas is honored with two dozen, wax-sealed 3cl drams of single malt, each hidden behind their own cardboard window. The set, available for $188 online, includes an exclusive 50-year-old Scotch, Japanese whisky, and other rarities, some of which go for as much as $500 in full bottle format. If you haven’t ordered it already, fret not, whisky lovers will surely have little problem playing catchup to arrive at the proper day of the calendar. Alternatively, you could enjoy them all on Christmas, to make your in-laws that much more tolerable.

Dom Perignon Luminous Collection
Dom Perignon Luminous Collection

No alcohol crams as much festivity into the bottle as bubbly. And the world’s most renowned Champagne brand has packaged something special this winter to light up the lives of your loved ones. Dom Perignon’s Luminous Collection includes a ten year old vintage, branded with it’s own backlit label, available in several colors. The $250 bottle isn’t overly extravagant, and it expertly navigates the thin line between classy and flashy. Plus, there’s the added bonus that whomever your gifting it to might pop it open in your presence. A gift that keeps on giving. Even after the bottle runs out, it still makes a radiant mantle piece. The glowing glass is now only offered on-premise, but Shoppers Wines in Union, New Jersey is currently offering a limited allotment on discount for December. Easier on the wallet is Veuve Cliquot Brut’s holiday gift bag. The special packaging includes a space to sign and dedicate the offering, and the water resistant packaging doubles as a makeshift ice box.

 

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New York Lands Its First Certified Organic Craft Beer

As health-conscious as so many New Yorkers seem to be these days, it’s hard to believe that the Empire State has been without its own brand of organic beer. Until now. This week, Smart Beer Organic Golden Ale hits shelves across the five boroughs. The non-GMO craft brew is produced an hour upriver, in New Paltz. So it comes with the added allure of being (kinda) local. But is it any good? Only one way to find out: crack open a bottle of our beer of the week.

Beyond their color, golden ales are characterized by a crisp, lighter body and muted fruitiness on the palate. They tend to be broadly accessible, appealing, even, to traditional lager lovers. Smart Beer’s entry into the category comfortably hits those marks. Brewed with orange peel and licorice root, it opens up to reveal a peppery zest, distantly reminiscent of a Belgian-style witbier. At 5.5% alcohol, it’s an easy and inviting drink. The flavor profile isn’t defined by its organic, GMO-free origins. It just happens to boast those qualities as an ancillary benefit. Don’t approach it expecting some magical new beer-drinking experience to unfold itself before you. Drink it because it tastes good, and is brewed with worthy ingredients.

When he’s not peddling his new line of libations, Smart Beer’s founder, Gabriel Heymann, spends time as a yoga instructor. “I wanted to enjoy both my social life and my healthy lifestyle,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to sacrifice well-being in order to celebrate life’s moments, and that’s what this beer is about.” That, and a pleasant buzz. Retailing within the same general range as its non-organic counterparts — around $12 a six-pack — you’ll hardly notice a tax for the organic upgrade. 

The beer arrives in Brooklyn with a bang tomorrow, as Montana’s Trail House in Bushwick hosts a launch party, starting at 2 p.m. The Smart Beer Brand will soon expand to incorporate several other sought-after styles. Pick up a sixer on your way to your next yoga class. It’s difficult to get much more Brooklyn than that. 

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Debate the Merits of Single-Hopped Beer With 2xONE

The first official debate of the 2016 presidential election is just hours away! Are you excited yet? While the ten Republican candidates argue over who will be the most effective at alienating women and minorities in the general election, common blue-collar folk have far more pressing issues to consider: How will I keep a roof over my head as the rent keeps getting higher?, Why do I keep going to Whole Foods for groceries even after I know they rip me off?, and What are the relative merits of a single-hopped IPA?

OK, that last one might be a bit of a stretch. But I’ve definitely heard the argument before. And with the seasonal release of upstate New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Company’s newest 2xONE IPA, it’s time to have that conversation again. Now that it’s on the shelf in time for debate season, I contend it should be our beer of the week.

Most beers, particularly IPAs, contain several types of hops — they add some complexity to the bitterness profile of the resulting beer, but it can also muddle the defining characteristics of each constituent varietal. Most people, it turns out, want nothing more than a beer that tastes good on the tongue. But to the advanced beer-drinker, who’s seeking to single out what a particular type of hops brings to a beer, nothing more edifying exists than a single-hopped brew. 

To that end, Southern Tier created a seasonal series of single-hopped IPAs. Their 2xONE, released once a year around this time, incorporates only one breed of hops and one single malt into every unique batch, so it never tastes the same from year to year. In the 2015 rendition, the brewers have built their beer around Equinox hops, a relatively new breed that delivers an alluring, tropical aroma and a zesty finish. And since this 8.1% offering is technically a double IPA, there are ample amounts of Equinox to be discovered in every sip. 

When it comes to preferred hops in craft beer today, there are far more candidates than even the G.O.P. could manage. Centennial, Citra, Simcoe, and Columbus are early favorites. If you want to weigh in and support a specific contender, it’s imperative to make yourself informed. Start today by getting to know Equinox. Pick up a six-pack of 2xONE at a local package store in time for tonight’s debacle. To sit through over an hour of that, you’re clearly going to need as much high-ABV beer as you can stomach anyway. Then be sure to seek out other single-hopped expressions in the future, as you prepare to enter your own debate. As for my choice? My money is on Centennial 2016!

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Bill Baker’s Merges Craft Beer With Cocktails in Williamsburg

Williamsburg hardly leaves you wanting for liquid craft of any kind. The neighborhood is awash in bespoke cocktails, local liquors, and microbrews of every conceivable variation. Yet, against all odds, when Bill Baker’s (364 Grand Street, Brooklyn; 718-734-8890) opened earlier this month in the shadows of the BQE, the ambitious new gastropub revealed a niche they intend to fill: beer cocktails.

In addition to a rotating selection of four house-made session ales, their menu is sprinkled with a half-dozen spirits-based drinks, each topped with its own style of suds. Ms. Ellen’s Blackberry Bourbon, a fruit-charged whiskey smash incorporating a Belgian sour into its body, is tasty enough to earn praise as our “beer” of the week. And now for something completely different…

Because of its carbonation, beer must be treated like soda water when introduced into a mixed beverage. That means pouring it over the top to avoid agitating those baby bubbles, preserving a refreshing spritz in every sip. Even more challenging, however, is landing on the right flavors. Craft beer typically avoids blandness — one of the many reasons we cherish it so. But that also makes it trickier to shack up with proper suitors. Beverage director Mark Romano is a beer guy — he lives and breathes every style, old-world and new-. He worked closely with the head bartender to arrive at the optimal brew to float atop each of their $12 cocktails.

Ms. Ellen's Blackberry Bourbon Beer Cocktail
Ms. Ellen’s Blackberry Bourbon Beer Cocktail

Some pairings are obvious: The coriander and orange notes of their house-made wit, for example, are a natural fit for a whiskey-sour send-up. In the case of the Ms. Ellen’s, though, it requires a sophisticated tongue — not to mention a brave bar staff — to support the marriage of muddled mint and bourbon with Cuvée des Jacobins, a dependable Flemish-style red ale. The common ground is found in the blackberry, bridging the caramel sweetness of Bulleit bourbon with the tart notes of the beer. It really ties the whole thing together.

Romano also oversees the balanced house brews offered at Bill Baker’s. The early standout is a light-bodied porter, crafted over a generous allotment of Madagascar vanilla beans. It only hints at sweetness, bringing more of a crisp refreshment than most folks associate with this particular style; a dark beer for light-beer drinkers. Like all of the beers made here, it hovers at around 5.5 percent alcohol.

And while you’re at the bar, don’t forget to snag a few unique pub snacks. The addictive sriracha- and butter-blasted popcorn is served gratis when you order drinks, so you’d be foolish to avoid it. But seek out the house-made chicken liver pâté; it’s savory and unctuous, and it tangoes gracefully with Ms. Ellen’s defining characteristics of sweet and sour. Nothing on the food menu is north of $15, and the sixteen beers on tap average $6 a pint. Beyond the beer cocktails, Bill Baker’s apparently wants to introduce Williamsburg to another forgotten concept: affordability.

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Get Refreshed With Two New York Beer Festivals This Weekend

Summer’s in full swing. You don’t need proof. It’s obvious enough from the sweat you’re working up simply by staring at a computer screen. But if you still aren’t convinced, consider this: it’s now the high season for beer festivals. They’re all around, including two within the New York area this Saturday alone. If you’re a fan of craft brew, you ought to be having a blast this time of year. A Brooklyn Blast!, to be exact. The double IPA from Williamsburg’s original craft brewery is a perfect way to beat the heat, marking it an easy choice as beer of the week.

A perfect time and place to score a pour — or five — is tomorrow afternoon at the Big Brew NY Beer Festival. Craft enthusiasts willing to venture 30 minutes on the Metro-North to Tarrytown will be rewarded with four hours of unlimited tastings of more than 200 beers, backdropped by an historic castle (Lyndhurst Mansion) along the Hudson River. There’lll be live music, gourmet food trucks, and, best of all, a mechanical bull. Because who doesn’t want to be rocked around violently while consuming large amount of alcohol?

The Blast! is undeniably refreshing, surprisingly so for an 8.4%, heavily hopped ale. But if IPAs still aren’t your thing, the Big Brew delivers every style of beer and cider imaginable, most of which are sourced from right here in the tri-state region. A $70 ticket scores you entrance to the event, which kicks off at 1 p.m. And, as a Village Voice reader, you’ll get a $12 discount by entering the code ‘Voice15’ on their website.

Closer to home, but equally soaked in suds, is the New York Super Craft Beer Festival, at the Watermark Bar on Pier 15 of South Street Seaport. This affair is notably smaller, featuring roughly 75 beers on tap, but it’s focused exclusively on the beers and ciders of New York. The 3,500 square foot venue affords unimpeded views of the East River and New York Harbor beyond. For $60, you’ll get three hours of unlimited tasting from 2 – 5 p.m., as well as live entertainment and beer-friendly grub. Tickets can be purchased here.

So if you still haven’t landed on weekend plans, it looks like you’ve got some serious decisions in the near future. Don’t expect things to get any easier as we ascend the mountain that is beer festival season. Grab your hiking boots, and have a Blast.