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!


The State of New York Whiskey Welcomes a New Era

There was a time not so long ago when the words “New York whiskey” would raise eyebrows, or even elicit laughter. That time was as recent as 2005, when there was nary a commercial producer to be found in the Empire State. My, what a difference a decade makes. Today, the New York whiskey scene is no laughing matter — it’s developed into one of the most prolific regions of production in the country, featuring solid examples of every variety of brown spirit imaginable.

“In the decade since the first Hudson whiskey flowed from the stills at Tuthilltown, New York craft whiskey has not only exploded, it’s really made a mark,” says Han Shan, Hudson Whiskey Ambassador. Establishing itself as the state’s first bourbon makers since Prohibition, his brand had to lobby Albany to help change the laws. Hudson Whiskey founder Ralph Erenzo pressed lawmakers to pass the Farm Distillery Act in 2007, which allowed farms to establish distilling operations on-site and produce up to 35,000 proof gallons for $250. Notably, the legislation also legalized direct sales to the public — as long as the spirits sold contain at least 75 percent New York agricultural product.

“The ability to sell direct to public means the ability to leverage tourism and get off the ground without having to ID and contract with distributors, an insurmountable obstacle for a lot of small craft producers.” And so the Great New York Whiskey Boom was born.

“From Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley to the Great Lakes, we’re making world-class whiskey in the Empire State. Bourbon, rye, malt whiskey —  you name it — and it just gets better every year,” Shan points out. To wit, there’s Long Island Spirits out on the North Fork, producing a wine-barrel-finished bourbon as well as a unique single malt distilled from a barleywine ale. Their double-casked Rough Rider imparts essences of berry fruit from the wine casks to go along with the hints of vanilla and caramel more familiar to a properly aged bourbon. Retailing at under $40 a bottle, it easily holds its own against any similarly priced Kentucky export.

And speaking of Kentucky exports, when Hillrock Estate Distillery, just south of the Catskills, launched their operation in 2012, they tapped a notable bluegrass veteran as their master distiller. Dave Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark, applied a Solera technique to their bourbon, which uses fractional blending to ensure that every batch ready for bottling includes a portion of the eldest spirit in the system. When it launched, it became the first Solera-blended bourbon on the market. They continue that innovative approach with their very own peat-smoked single malt, due to hit the market before Christmas.

If you can’t wait that long, Hillrock’s Hudson Valley neighbors, Harvest Spirits, just launched John Henry, a two-year-aged single malt. Sourcing local, sustainably farmed grain, the scotch-style whisky is as complex as it is environmentally friendly. Bottles priced at $60 are now popping up at liquor stores across the city.

Further upstate, Brian McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling has excelled at crafting a flavorful take on a traditional Irish-style whiskey. His Pure Pot Still whiskey sells for around $45 in the five boroughs. “It’s mostly the mash bill that determines the taste profile of the Pot Still whiskey,” McKenzie points out. “The unmalted barley that dominates the recipe really creates a unique flavor. Most Irish whiskeys are triple-distilled, but we elected to double-distill our Pot Still to preserve more of the flavor.” Rich in body, with a bittersweet, tea-infused spice in the finish, it evokes the Old World while maintaining a modern edge.

In fact, all of the great whiskeys pouring out the barrels in New York today balance a respectful nod to traditions of the past while incorporating something interesting and new. As New York whiskey evolves at a rapid clip, these products are a harbinger of an unprecedented era of aged excellence in our near future.


Join Owl Farm’s 3rd Anniversary Party with Craft Beer All-Stars on Tap

In just three short years, the Owl Farm (297 9th Street, Brooklyn; 718-499-4988) has cemented its place in Park Slope as a formidable destination for craft beer and canines. This Saturday, they mark the anniversary with a 20-hour celebration of suds kicking off at 8 a.m. If you think that’s too early to be drinking beer, you’ve never tried Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast. They have a whole keg of the rare Danish import rearing to go. And the draft list gets even more exclusive from there, as the bar slowly unleashes selections they’ve been hoarding for months. Don’t sleep on this one.

The selections showcase venerated ales and lagers from across the globe, including special release bottles that will be available by the glass, throughout the day. Multiple offerings from Belgian lambic legends like Cantillon, and Tilquen, the final keg in existence of Other Half’s Greenbacks IPA, a small barrel of Schneider Aventinus that’s been aging for 12 years, not to mention the unique beer distillates. Four boilermakers have been paired specifically for the big day.

Come for the coffee stout, stay for the smoked ale aged in scotch barrels (Xbeeriment #44). Either way, if you’re a fan of craft beer, make it to Owl Farm tomorrow, and bring an insatiable thirst. Below is a list of everything announced thus far. Expect additional surprises—Brooklyn’s own Grimm Artisanal Ales just confirmed they will be unveiling the first keg of their unreleased Simcoe Double IPA. Imagine what Owl Farm’s tenth anniversary list will look like.


Allagash Four
Barrier + The Owl Farm Chewy Porter
Bayerischer Bahnhoff Dry Hopped Berliner Weiss
Bell’s Quinannan Falls
Birrificio Italiano Tipopils
Brewery at Bacchus Good old Neon
Brewfist + Prairie Grappa Barrel Aged Spaghetti Western
Cantillon Iris
Crooked Stave Vieille Artisanal Saison
Del Ducato Beersel Mattina
Hitachino Nest White Ale + Distillate
IQhilika Red Wine Barrel Aged Mead
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast – 2014
Millstone Sidra Americana
Montegioco Demon Hunter
Narragansett Lager
OEC Artista Zynergia: Gosatequin
Orchard Hill Red Label Cider
Other Half + Mission Dolores Greenbacks – Last keg in existence
Reissdorf Kolsch + Distillate
Schlenkerla Urbock + Distillate
Schneider Aventinus 2003 (yep, it’s 12 years old) + Distillate
Stillwater Readymade Vacuum
Thirsty Dog Cognac Barrel Doppelbock
Transmitter H2 Harvest

Beer Bottles:

Alvinne Cuveee Freddy Sofie
Baladin Xyauyù Fumè
BFM Cuvee Alex le Rouge 2010
Buxton Wolfscote
Cantillon Saint Lamvinus
Cascade Blackberry
De Ranke XXX Bitter
Green Bench Saison de Banc Noir Brett
Hanssens Oudbeitje 2012
Kerkom Ruess
Praire OKsi
Tilquin Oude Gueze 2012
Trois Dames Grande Dame Oud Bruin
Xbeeriment #44 – Scotch Whiskey


A Good Derby Needs a Little Fresh Lime Juice and Whiskey


The derby cocktail
The derby cocktail

Rafael Del Busto, head bartender and wine captain at Nobu 57 (40 West 57th Street; 212-757-3000), has a very specific idea of what he wants in a glass. Del Busto’s menu is full of modern twists on classic cocktails like sidecars and gin coolers, and his career in New York has helped him gain an appreciation for what he drinks on his nights off.

“As I’ve learned more, I prefer a stiffer drink. You’re not spending as much money and you’re not binge-drinking. You have something to sip on,” Del Busto says. A native of Florida, Del Busto made his way to New York to focus on a career in the hospitality industry — a good decision, considering it helped shape his personal taste.

Working alongside Eben Freeman of the Butterfly earlier in his career, Del Busto formed a knowledge of a wide variety of historically classic cocktails, one of which happened to be the derby. “You don’t see whiskey and lime very often — you always see whiskey with lemon,” Del Busto explains. The uncommon mix piqued Del Busto’s interest, not to mention the fact that the drink is boozy yet balanced. The initial notes of citrus and sour, followed by sweet Grand Marnier, helps even the derby out, mostly because the drink’s base spirit is a heavy rye. As Del Busto suggests, you want a rye with “a little heat but still refreshing. You want to take another sip.”

Though you might not see the derby on the menu at Nobu, Del Busto enjoys grabbing a drink, typically a boulevardier, every now and then at the Tippler.

The Derby by Rafael Del Busto

1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz fresh lime
1 oz Carpano Antica Formula
1 1/2 oz Knob Creek Whiskey

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a glass, served up. Garnish with a mint leaf.


What’s the Best Whiskey to Use in a Mint Julep?

The 141st racing of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday guarantees the weekend will be awash in funky hats and Mint Juleps. But we’re not here to discuss questionable wardrobe choices. The official cocktail of the world’s most famous horse race is a straightforward mashup of bourbon, mint, and simple syrup, traditionally served in a silver cup on crushed ice. It’s refreshing, easy to make, and deserves recognition beyond the one day of the year when everyone is Googling its recipe. Of course the quality of the drink is directly proportional to the horsepower of the bourbon used at its core. And there’s one whiskey in particular that packs more mustard than a thoroughbred in the home stretch: Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. If you want to add a jolt to your Julep, consider this bourbon as a base.

When whiskey comes out of the barrel after years of aging, it typically clocks in at upwards of 60 percent alcohol. Traditionally that percentage has been ‘proofed down’ to a more manageable 40 (80 proof) before the juice hits the bottle. Only in recent years has the bourbon market seen the proliferation of cask strength releases, which are kept at the very same proof at which they left the wood. Maker’s Mark unveiled its own last year to considerable fanfare. Although it hovers between 108 and 114 proof, Maker’s Cask Strength remains as endearingly drinkable as its 80 proof counterpart. There is the trademark sweetness of the brand, courtesy of its wheated mash bill, and a subtle heated spice picks up before the finish line.

Although a bourbon enthusiast will be happy to drink Maker’s Cask Strength neat, or perhaps with a drop or two of water to enhance its wheated characteristics (and proof it down to taste), it plays surprisingly well in a mint julep.

Bottles, which look deceptively like original Maker’s, retail for around $40, and they’ve recently been spotted on the shelf at Astor Wines and Winfield Flynn, as well as countless bottle shops across Brooklyn.

If you’re planning to order the classic Kentucky cocktail at a bar, head to the Flatiron Room in Manhattan or Char No. 4 in Cobble Hill; both places keep Cask Strength on heavy rotation. If you’re fixing a drink for friends and family, make sure you gently slap the mint prior to mixing to maximize its aromas.

And don’t be afraid to drink this cocktail throughout the summer months. They call the Derby the fastest two minutes in sports, but julep season ought to last far longer than that.


Where You Can Try the New and Very Rare Woodford Reserve Rye

In February, Woodford Reserve released its first-ever batch of Kentucky Straight Rye. Although intended to be a permanent extension of its limited line of whiskeys (which now totals three), the premiere run is unlikely to last long. Bottles have been flying off the shelves at shops lucky enough to secure an allotment. No surprise there — the hotly anticipated spirit is an elegant expression priced to sell at $38 a pop. Behind the bar, its presence is even rarer. After failing to find it at several local watering holes, I ventured to The Drink (228 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-782-8463) in East Williamsburg, where I finally caught a glimpse of the elusive green-labeled liquor, graciously waiting to be emptied into my snifter.

The waitstaff at the Drink will happily let you taste a dram of Woodford’s newest prize for $11. It’s a couple of bucks more than some traditional favorites, like Old Overholt and Rittenhouse, but still a dollar cheaper than its Knob Creek and Templeton counterparts. To truly understand a spirit, there’s nary a substitute for a neat pour. Nosing the glass will immediately reveal the brand’s trademark barrel-forward notes. Like its bourbon cousin, the rye is aged in temperature-controlled warehouses, emboldening the interaction of oak with the liquid as it slumbers.

With a surprisingly low rye content (53 percent) and a relatively high amount of corn in the mash bill, don’t expect it to be a radical departure from Woodford’s flagship whiskey. In fact, this release serves as a fantastic gateway rye for bourbon drinkers looking to move away from their roots. The grain adjustments unique to this straight rye make themselves known in and around the finish; dry, slightly earthy, and lingering.

The Drink’s cocktail menu is dominated by whiskey drinks, so it’s entirely reasonable to work Woodford’s versatile rye into several standards. It’s certainly sturdy enough to prop up the absinthe-laced sazerac, and it hogs the stage in a by-the-book old-fashioned, both priced at $10. To really let this spirit shine, however, a boulevardier is a sensible arrangement. And, when in Brooklyn, have a go at the borough’s namesake cocktail — a manhattan variation subbing dry for sweet vermouth, and adding a touch of amaro and cherry liqueur. It’s a stellar platform to showcase what this new rye has to offer.

Savor every sip, though: Limited supply and an ever-increasing demand for rye might make it a full year before subsequent batches emerge.

Bottles of Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye are still available at Astor Wine & Spirits and Big Three Liquors in the Bronx. To avoid disappointment, always phone ahead.


No Distillery, No Problem: Why You Should Buy Whiskey Without a Corporate Legend

So there’s this dirty, not-so-little secret in the whiskey industry involving production and bottling: A large majority of so-called craft spirits aged in the barrel aren’t actually distilled by the folks whose name you see on the label. That means many celebrated small-batch brands are little more than pretty bottlers. This fact has been well documented, yet it continues to shock many a drinker.

Now, does this make these products inferior? Absolutely not. In fact, with Barrell Bourbon, a strong case can be made for just the opposite. And unlike others, which sell a misleading story on the label to cloak the origins of what lies beneath, Barrell is straightforward with the consumer. It’s not selling you a story, just a damn fine whiskey, and its newest release just hit shelves earlier this month.

Every whiskey drinker has been sold a myth at some point. It’s easy to fall prey when a brand can technically state “made by” or “produced by” on the label so long as that brand was responsible for putting it into the bottle. My own bamboozling came at the hands of a certain “Colorado” bourbon attributing its greatness to the pure Rocky Mountain snowmelt used to make it. Turns out this whiskey is likely distilled and aged far away from anything resembling more than a rolling hill. Regardless, I still love the stuff. I’d just be happier to know precisely where it came from. And most drinkers, also thirsting for knowledge, are capable of handling the truth.

Barrell’s company founder, Joe Beatrice, lives in New York, but distilled his Batch 001 Whiskey in Indiana. Although he’s not allowed to divulge the precise distillery from which it’s sourced, the new release proudly asserts its Indianan heritage on the back label. “We’re as transparent as we can be, contractually, about our whiskey,” he says.

Beatrice can also tell you that this 122.5-proof, cask-strength expression is a proprietary blend of seven- and eight-year spirit, aged in Kentucky rickhouses. What I can tell you is that there’s a bright, almost coconut-like sweetness to this whiskey, slightly suggestive of rum. This is likely a function of the grain being catapulted to the forefront as the oak notes have been muted. There’s less wood flavor here, because the barrels had already been used to age a previous batch of bourbon — that’s also the one element of production preventing this particular whiskey from being considered a bourbon itself. But that hardly leaves it with an inferiority complex. It shines golden, both in the bottle and on the tongue, departing with freshly baked cornbread in the finish.

“For people who savor fine spirits, it’s all about the discovery of great new things,” says Beatrice. Although he didn’t distill it, the blend and proofing all bear his distinct signature on the finished product. “We are bringing unique and unreplicated batches of whiskey to the market that would never be tasted as is at cask strength.”

Independent bottling has long been considered an upstanding tradition in Scotland. These third parties procure barrels of scotch, oftentimes from prominent distilleries, and release them as their own. Sometimes their packaging will reflect the location where the scotch was sourced; other times it’s withheld as trade secret. But what these bottlers never do is attempt to misrepresent themselves as the distillers. Far from being shunned in the U.K., these rarer releases can command higher retail value than their single-malt counterparts. They appeal to the connoisseur because they are unique expressions, as opposed to the big-name distilleries, which strive for consistency in flavor from one batch to the next.

“We’re proud to carry on that tradition,” Beatrice says. “Independent bottlers in Scotland have produced some of the world’s finest whisky. I can’t speak to why some American bottlers choose to disguise the fact that they’re not a distillery, or that they supplement their production with sourced whiskey.”

Aficionados have taken note: Batch 001 whiskey, priced at around $55, just took home double gold at the prestigious San Francisco Spirits Festival. It will likely sell out by the end of spring, the second of roughly four annual releases. Joe Beatrice never distilled a drop of any of it, yet he knows great whiskey as well as anyone. And that’s precisely what he’s moving from barrel to bottle — minus the hogwash.


Is It Worth Riding the 1 Train Uptown for Craft Beer at Hogshead Tavern?

Craft beer is more commonly associated with hipster-laden pockets of the LES and Williamsburg than with the triple-digited streets of Upper Manhattan. Hogshead Tavern (126 Hamilton Place, 212-234-5411) hopes to change that perception, staking out the vastly untapped region of Hamilton Heights in the name of high-minded suds. The streamlined bar and restaurant — with warm, black-bricked, plaid-floored interior — has already charmed its way into something of a neighborhood staple. But for the faraway folks, is it worth the trek? I hopped on the 1 train to find out.

On its well-maintained website, Hogshead is quick to point out that it’s just a ten-minute ride from midtown. I found that to be wishful thinking, at best. But it is surprisingly accessible from the lower depths of the borough by way of several subway lines. Once inside, I was greeted by a slew of welcome sights, namely: twenty tap handles straddling a concise yet thoughtful platform of craft whiskeys, gins, and vodkas, all bound within a sleek, modish space.

The draft selections are sensibly displayed in large, white marker on transparent glass behind the bar. They’re impossible to miss, which is important, as the taplist frequently fluctuates, sometimes throughout the course of a single evening. Selections range from $6 to $8, mainly for sixteen-ounce pours, and include exclusive craft entities like Great Divide’s unapologetically viscous Yeti Imperial Stout, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale — a masterfully balanced American IPA. Covering regions as divergent as Newport, Oregon, and Bavaria, Germany, the menu is surprisingly light on local brews — or it was when I visited.

But as geographically and stylistically expansive as the list is, it isn’t a radical departure from many other fine watering holes in more traveled sections of the city. To set itself apart, Hogshead offers unique beer cocktails, a notable weekend brunch, and — living up to its name — an efficient food menu dominated by pork.

Of the eight dishes, built to share and priced at around $10 a plate, only the kale and artichoke dip is devoid of meat — and it could hardly be considered light fare. Although the chipotle BBQ pig wings are notable for the unique delivery of pork attached to a Buffalo wing–like riblet, the bites were somewhat lacking in flavor when compared to the spicy Moroccan meatballs and the crispy pork belly grilled cheese, the former molded from braised lamb and chorizo, the latter enhanced by a sweet onion relish and three separate varieties of melted cheese. Together they were reason enough to rationalize the subway ride.

And that was before the Hogshead Buck, a bourbon and beer cocktail that relies on ginger and blood orange to round out wooded notes of Kentucky whiskey. It’s the standout from a list of four drinks, which should soon expand to feature more beers in cocktail form. The current selections, priced between $10 and $11, are built solely upon either Crabbies Ginger Beer or Crispin Pear Cider.

Well-fed and sufficiently served, I left the Hogshead unable to stomach food or drink for the foreseeable future. I did, however, find myself with a newfound hunger to further explore Hamilton Heights. The new tavern was by no means the first to tap into this neighborhood’s unrealized potential, but by feeding an increasing demand for craft here, it certainly won’t be the last.



Toast the Irish With a Single Grain Whiskey Made in Dublin

As we celebrate the great holiday of the Emerald Isle, it’s worth nothing that Ireland’s capital city of Dublin — long associated with Jameson and other Irish whiskeys — hadn’t housed a working distillery in nearly half a century. That dry spell ended mercifully in 2012 when Stephen Teeling and his family opened Teeling Whiskey in the industrial outskirts of town. The distillery’s flagship offering was finished in rum casks for a subtle sweetness in the nose and finish. This month, Teeling launched its single grain corn whiskey. It’s a gentle sipping spirit with a history as complex as the drink itself. And today’s as good a day as any to sit down with a native and talk shop over a tipple.

With a family legacy in Irish whiskey dating back to 1782, Stephen Teeling is something of an expert on the subject. “For centuries Ireland’s unique climate has given us a competitive advantage globally for whiskey production,” he notes. “It is a flavorsome yet approachable spirit that has a huge character but doesn’t offend.” This might be a slight gibe at popular single malts of the day, known for their aggressively smoky characteristics. Irish whiskey, by contrast, tends to be far more accessible to the masses.

“Key ingredients like cereals, quality water, and a consistent temperature for maturation impart a DNA that is uniquely Irish,” Teeling asserts with pride. When it comes to his new Single Grain, that key ingredient is corn — a delicate component that can be overpowered when not aged properly. “So it was important we used the correct wood to mature it in,” Teeling points out. He ultimately trusted Californian Cabernet Sauvignon barrels to impart subtle notes of red berry fruit and a tannic dryness without overbearing the mash bill.

Bottled at 92 proof, as opposed to the traditional Irish standard of 80, Teeling Single remains gracefully drinkable. It also bears striking similarities to straight bourbon, and so will be welcomed widely by a new generation of drinkers — or so Teeling hopes. “The demographic that is driving the dynamic growth of whiskey,” he says, “is a younger consumer with a palate for lighter and sweeter products. Irish whiskey, although a serious whiskey in terms of taste, wouldn’t be as formal in its approach as scotch and is closer to its American cousin rather than its Celtic one. It is inclusive and attractive for younger consumers.”

And now that it’s hit shelves and bottle shops here in the city, it’s also relatively easy to procure. This is something of a coup in whiskey production, as it’s traditionally been a rarer expression. “Our Single Grain is one of only a handful of bottlings in the world,” says Teeling. Rarer still, it’s an authentic craft whiskey from Dublin. That’s something worth celebrating.


NYC Beer Week Hits the Home Stretch

The seventh annual NYC Beer Week is heading to the finish line, but it promises to go out with a boisterous bang. The final weekend is punctuated with several standout bashes, tap takeovers, local drink specials, even a whole lamb roast. Here’s a few to hit in the home stretch.

Clinton Hall (90 Washington Street; 212-363-6000) in Lower Manhattan hosts Huge Beer Night starting at seven this evening. The event welcomes Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, offering no fewer than seventeen taps from the San Francisco–based brewery. Diverse styles range from barrel-aged barleywine to a Belgian-inspired white IPA. They’ll also be pouring from an exclusive firkin (a cask used to condition small-batch beer). The lucky recipient of the final pour enjoys a comped beer tab for the night. Beer and a small selection of pub grub is priced à la carte.

Head to Fool’s Gold (145 East Houston Street; 212- 673-2337) in the East Village on Saturday to enjoy their Cask Fest, which promises more than a dozen exclusive rarities, low in carbonation and served at a slightly higher temperature, in the English tradition. The selections, including local producers like Sixpoint, will be available throughout the weekend — or until they run out.

Sunday funday is all about Brooklyn, with competing events bringing the ruckus to two separate corners of Kings County. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-963-3369) is the setting of the Closing Beer & Brass Brunch, the official conclusion of NYC Beer Week. $40 tickets still remain to the four-hour festival, complete with a Blue Ribbon buffet and an hour of live brass music. The exclusively NYC-centric tap list features the best of the old guard (Brooklyn Brewery) and the new (Other Half Brewing).

Not to be outdone, Threes Brewing (333 Douglass Street, Brooklyn; 718-522-2110) in Gowanus celebrates the release of its newest IPA, Superf*ckingyawn, with a whole lamb roast, beginning at 4 p.m. on Sunday. In addition to the beer of the hour, the brewery offers a lineup of two dozen crafts on tap, a full bar and cocktail menu, and live bluegrass from the Tumble. Food is priced à la carte and is first-come, first-served, but a $50 pre-order ticket ensures food and two pints of the IPA.

Parting is such bittersweet sorrow. But as New York City Beer Week bids adieu, at least it won’t leave you on an empty stomach.