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.


A Santa-Worthy Stout to Savor the Season

Milk and cookies are for kids. This holiday season, leave St. Nick an adult beverage to make him truly jolly. You think he maintains that corpulent physique with kale smoothies? Of course not. The big man sports a wicked beer belly, and he needs a suitable brew to get him through the busiest work night of his year. Santa, sip on a stout to guide your sleigh tonight.

Although it sounds naughty, Evil Twin Brewing ferments a bevy of craft flavors that would surely rank high on Santa’s list of beloved libations. But of all those offerings, what could possibly be more appropriate than their Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room? This Imperial Stout isn’t just a mouthful in name, it’s also impossibly heavy on the tongue — somewhere between espresso and motor oil.

As we know too well, our city is one of the world’s most popular holiday tourist destinations, so we ought to dedicate this transiently themed offering to every economic-boosting visitor of the Big Apple, Santa included.

Appropriately, both the beer and the man who created it were onetime tourists who decided to stick around. Famed gypsy brewmaster Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, now a proud Brooklynite, brought his midnight-black stout in from nearby Stratford, Connecticut. The robust notes you’d expect from such a style? It’s got them in spades. This thing drinks like a dessert and is ideal to take the edge off after a long day of holiday travel. So whether you’re flying in via reindeer or jet plane, at least you know there’s a bottle of beer waiting here, just for you. It sure beats milk.

Serve Santa sparingly. A single 12-ounce bottle clocks in at 10 percent alcohol. It’s difficult to pilot a sled on much more than that. Look for it at high-end beer shops throughout the five boroughs or enjoy it with a Michelin-starred meal at Luksus in Greenpoint. Season’s greetings!


A Dark Ale for Dark Times

Reading the news in America today is a troubling exercise. Civilians are being maimed with reckless abandon in a police state which threatens to become increasingly militant. The government is in hopeless gridlock. Maybe Congress will shut it down again — at tremendous expense to taxpayers — or perhaps it’ll disinvite the President from making his annual State of the Union Address. Either way, it remains firmly committed to doing absolutely nothing for its constituents.

In the face of constant malaise, we can’t simply resign ourselves to being gloomy sourpusses. This is the U.S.A. We need to use perpetual optimism to wrest proactive relief from the jaws of utter dismay.

In other words: drink more beer.

I propose a toast to the hardworking men and women of craft brewing. These noble saints enable our last refuge of hope and cheer, washing away the mope and fear. Dark times can only be relieved by a sensationally dark libation. And Carton Brewing’s newly released Epitome is properly titled for the task. It’s our Beer of the Week.

As Northern Jersey’s most noteworthy craft purveyor, Carton continues to turn heads with a series of bold, innovative offerings. You want a beer made with butternut squash ravioli? They got that. How about a liquid engineered to taste like the innards of a Philly Blunt? Yes! Carton is here making the world safe for flavors you’ve always craved yet were always afraid to admit to liking.

Jersey’s never been afraid to bend the rules. Sure, Superfund sites parked alongside major interstates seems suspect, yet it’s never stopped the fine folks of the Garden State. And when it comes to the beers, the brewery is certainly not going to let restrictive style guidelines dictate how it should brew its grog.

With Epitome, Carton created a beer that looks and feels like an Imperial Stout; heavy and malty with an ink black facade. But this genre-bender has the backbone of an American-born IPA. The Boss would be proud. As you drink this 10.5 percent hopped black ale, your senses are thrown into a chaotic disarray, much like when you gaze at current headlines. Ultimately, though, you are left with the calming sensation that only a high alcohol beverage can provide. Everything’s going to be alright, you’ll think, so long as I can get my hands on the next one.

Considering the collective record of the Giants and Jets, it’s fairly uncontroversial to call Epitome the best thing to come out of Jersey all year. And in canned pints, it won’t actually leave the state — you’ll have to head across the river to score those. But you can find it on draft at Astoria Beer and Cheese, Blind Tiger in Manhattan, or at Tørst, for the Brooklynites. Just don’t expect it to last long. Dark times are ahead.