Brooklyn Pour Craft Beer Fest Showcases NYC Area Brews

brooklynbrewbigalicebrew
brooklynbrewbigalicebrew

All photos by Phil Galewitz.  On a perfect fall day, the line of people waiting to get into the 6th Annual Brooklyn Pour Craft Beer Festival was snaked around the corner in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Kevin Connelly, co-owner and brewer of Flying Belgian Brewery
Kevin Connelly, co-owner and brewer of Flying Belgian Brewery

Within 15 minutes of doors opening at 3 p.m., nearly 1,500 guests were inside the Brooklyn Expo Center where more than 65 breweries were pouring some specialty brews. The event showcased many New York area breweries—some large and well established including Sixpoint Brewery and Brooklyn Brewery, both based in Brooklyn and some newer outlets such as Coney Island Brewing Co. and Third Rail Beer based in Manhattan. Some national brewers were also in attendance including Sierra Nevada, Guinness and Allagash Brewing.

The expo center’s large doors opened onto a giant patio with picnic tables and a games including corn hole and lifesize Connect Four. Of course, the real highlight for most was getting to drink great beers while enjoying a perfect view of the New York skyline on a cloudless day.

T.J. Smolka of Brooklyn Brewing pours a Triple Burner
T.J. Smolka of Brooklyn Brewing pours a Triple Burner

In addition to beers, guests got to enjoy oysters and clams on the half shell as well as candied bacon with Cajun spice, tacos and vegetarian bean burgers.

The Village Voice newspaper sponsored the event and donated a portion of proceeds to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.

I knew it was a good day when the folks at the first brewery station I stopped at were fellow Penn State graduates and the brewery, Flying Belgian, was located in Farmingdale, N.Y. just down the road from where I grew up in Plainview. The two-year-old brewery offered several Belgian style ales — and was a nice break from the hoppy beers which have become so commonplace today. Co-owner and brewer Kevin Connelly poured their top selling Illegally Blond, which uses all New York grown hops and mostly New York malts. It’s a little darker than classic blonde ales and was both a little sweet and smooth to the taste.

Co owner Kaitlyn Haubrich of Third Rail Beer
Co owner Kaitlyn Haubrich of Third Rail Beer

Two of Third Rail Beer’s owners, Loren Taylor-Raymond and Kaitlyn Haubrich, were pouring their flagship American pale ale, Bodega. The abundantly hopped, unfiltered ale brewed with Citra and Centennial hop offered a white wheat canvas and let its tropical flavors shine, finishing with a quenching freshness. The name is an homage to New York City’s corner delis, which the brewery’s founders grew up frequenting. Like so many new brewers I’ve met, Loren has a science background and majored in organic chemistry in college. Third Rail contracts brews (or gypsy brews as they put it) at a brewery in Newport, Rhode Island though they have dreams of one day opening their own production facility. Bodega is one of two canned beers for Third Rail. The brewery’s Field 2 Farmhouse Ale is available at many New York retailers as well as at Citi Field last season.

One of my favorite beers at the show was White Aphro from Empire Brewing in Syracuse. It’s a Belgian style unfiltered wit ale that was a perfect balance of pilsner and wheat malt style. But what stood out from the 6% ABV brew was its foamy white head and the lavender, ginger and lemon tastes on the back end. The easy tasting beer almost tasted like the hues of a flower.

Founded in 1994, Empire is one of the oldest New York breweries. It routinely sources its beers with ingredients from central New York farms. This year, Empire expanded to open a 60 bbl brewhouse on a farm in Cazenovia, N.Y., where it grows hops, lavender, vegetables herbs and fruits. The farm brewery is a brilliant compliment to its downtown Syracuse brewpub.

Hannah Litchfield of Sixpoint Brewing pours some Sweet Action
Hannah Litchfield of Sixpoint Brewing pours some Sweet Action

Big Alice Brewing of Long Island City offered an alternative to the many pumpkin ales offered this time of year with its Sweet Potato Farmhouse Ale. The 6.2% ABV ale is brewed with sweet potatoes that gave the medium bodied ale a slightly sweet taste. Sadly, though, there was no orange color to the beer. Big Alice also mixed it up with its Jalapeño Rye, a black IPA that was less spicy than expected and Sour One, which is a great introduction to sour ales because with its light tartness.

Finally, can’t finish this story without a look at two of the Brooklyn made breweries. Sixpoint offered its Sweet Action, a cream ale that pours to an off-white look and has a dominant hoppy flavor with hints of citrus, spice and caramel. On a warm sunny day, which the beer festival enjoyed, the beer was just the ticket.

Brooklyn Brewery poured its Tripel Burner, a 10.6% ABV pilsner with a licorice spice blend. The aromatic ale was definitely meant to be sipped not gulped, with its strong taste and various elements including figs, vanilla, and a whisper of mint.

According to Brooklyn Brewery, Tripel Burner is a term from Chinese medicine that is responsible for the production and flow of energy through the body. I don’t know if that’s true, but the special ale was definitely a rush and the perfect final drink on a perfect September day in Brooklyn that ended with a spectacular sunset that glowed orange, blue and yellow behind the New York City skyline.