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Traveller: I [heart] New York (Beers)

Cities evoke different memories for different people. For some New York means the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Central Park. For brewer and beer sommelier Ian Watson, it means Heavyweight Alt, Brooklyn Lager and Punk Rock.

Flying in from England we pause only for a quick stop to drop off our bags before heading straight to our first beer destination The Chelsea Brewpub. Located right on the water at the Chelsea piers, the pub is in a dream location. Shiny copper clad brewing vessels overlook the bar and seating areas that lead out onto the pier itself. With baseball playing on the TV and the smell of ribs wafting from the kitchen, it's a venue that ensures you know instantly that you are well and truly in the US.

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Hop Angel IPA was the first beer to greet us and after the previous week of sampling some fantastic Milds in the UK this attack of hops was most welcome. It greeted us with the resinous-citric character so typical of this style, just what we we're craving. The food is typical brewpub fare, tasty and reasonably priced much like the beer. The best part of this venue though was the staff who seemed to take a genuine pleasure in introducing us to their range of beer.

The next morning our first subway ride delivered us to Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the home of Brooklyn Brewery. I had been in contact with head brewer Garret Oliver for some time regarding our visit and we arrived at the brewery expecting it to have a shop front of sorts where we could try the beers, say "G'day" to Garret and be on our way. We we're wrong. What we instead found was a full production brewery that only opens a tasting room to the public on special occasions. Garrett took time out from his busy schedule to give us a fantastic private tour and tasting. Both Garrett and I share a love of beer and food and with each of the beers tasted we discussed dishes that we thought would be appropriate matches. He also recommended to us a fine New York gastropub called The Spotted Pig something to bear in mind for our next trip.

One of the highlights in the Brooklyn range is the Black Chocolate Stout, a 10.6% Russian Imperial Stout that has an intriguing aroma of mocha, chocolate, cognac and rum. The East India Pale Ale is also worthy of note with one of the freshest hop aromas I have encountered in any beer. We even managed to meet 'Monster' the brewery's cat named after their deliciously complex Barleywine.

Brooklyn Brewery's draught beer brands are produced at the Williamsburg facility while the bottled product is produced at another plant in upstate New York. The beers and particularly the very classy Brooklyn lager are widely available in the city and are a must try in this part of the world.

The Blind Tiger Alehouse was next on our list and we soon found ourselves sipping on a 60 minute IPA (through a Randall of course) and chatting with the local homebrewers. This venue is one of the most amazing beer bars that I have seen anywhere. It boasts a draught list that changes constantly and features some truly incredible US craft beers as well as a few classic Europeans and cask conditioned beer. The bottled menu continues this theme and is supported by a well thought out list of whiskies, tequilas and gin.

Two beers really grabbed our attention that evening. Dogfish Head Aprihop a beer that uses a combination of high hopping and additions of apricots to create an aroma and flavour that would melt anyone's heart (the brewery describes it as a fruit beer for hop lovers) and Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye an IPA made with a healthy portion of rye malt, displaying a captivating combination of peppermint and pine aroma over the top of deep caramel.

You might be able to guess by now that IPA was a firm favourite style on this trip. These highly hopped beers have become a big specialty of the US beer scene.

As amazing as the Blind Tiger was, it's patrons we're even better and after a while we we're back on the subway with Beer advocate members heading to Brooklyn again for a visit to The Spuyten Duyvil New York's greatest Belgian Specialty beer bar.

The Spuyten Duyvil is very unlike the Belgian Beer Cafes of Australia or New Zealand. Rather than being decorated in a classic Euro bar style, it takes a path that really tickled my fancy mid 20th century modern (50s op shop ware), meaning that you felt as though you we're having a beer in a friend's dining room rather than a commercial bar. According to our hosts all the furniture is for sale as well. So if you enjoyed sitting at your table as much as the Achel that you we're drinking you can purchase both as you leave.

Spuyten Duyvil specializes in Belgian beers that are hard to find (not a Stella in sight), as well as US brewed but Belgian inspired beer. The menu is divided into Belgian provinces and covers a broad range of brewing traditions. Cantillion Lou Pepe Gueuze (in my opinion the greatest lambic of all dry and tart with a nose full of lemon zest and winey notes) went down a treat and was soon followed by a De Ranke XXB. The staff we're once again very efficient, knowledgeable and most definitely passionate about their products.

There are many other great beer bars and Brewpubs in New York City. A visit to these is a great way to see the beer and meet the people, something I intend to do again.

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Posted in Other Recreation Post Date 07/05/2017


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