NYC Beer Week Highlights Growing Brewery Scene

nyc beer week
nyc beer week

All photos courtesy NYC Beer Week,

New York City may have the tallest buildings, the biggest stars and the best food, but the Big Apple is still a relative newcomer to the craft beer revolution compared to cities like Denver, Philadelphia and San Diego.

Yet, the push for locally made beers has made huge progress in recent years as the city that never sleeps now has 23 breweries, up from just four in 2013.

nyc beer week 2
nyc beer week 2

Those NYC breweries will be highlighted at numerous events across the city during New York City Beer Week which runs from Feb. 24-March 4.

The 8-day celebration put on by the NYC Brewers Guild is jam packed with events including beer parties, tastings, tap takeovers, beer dinners and festivals all over the five boroughs. The Alcohol Professor is one of media sponsors.

The week officially kicks off Saturday afternoon Feb. 25 with the first annual Fermentation Festival.

Fermentation is not just the process to make beer, wine and liquor but all types of other foods including vinegar, pickles and kimchi. The event that runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Brooklyn Expo Center on 72 Noble St. will have over 30 vendors to sample and buy fermented food and drink (including boozy ciders for adults and kid-friendly kombuchas or type of tea) and educational seminars about making fermented products, including my favorite—The Role of Sour Pickles and Fermented tonics in European Jewish Cuisine. Live music and food trucks will be there too, along with some NYC brewmakers including Brooklyn Brewery, Coney Island Brewing, Kelso and Strong Rope Brewery to name a few.

A few hours later at the same location is the Opening Day Bash Invitational, featuring unlimited tastings of over 50 breweries, nearly half from NYC.  Food is presented from vendors like Bronx Hot Sauce, Slant Shack and A Cake Baked in Brooklyn.

One of the signature events of the week will be annual NYC Brewer’s Choice on Wednesday, March 1, sponsored by Sessions Radio the Good Beer Seal, and the NYC Brewers Guild. The more intimate event is being held at the Old Paramount Theater in the Food Science Academy of Long Island University in Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. More than three dozen New York breweries will serve brews made special for this event along with an array of cuisine including brisket, cheeses, raw bar included among the dozen chefs and food purveyors. The event celebrates the men and women of craft beer, offering the opportunity for beer lovers to mix and mingle with the brewers themselves in an upscale beer and food event.

NYC Brewers Choice was founded by several beer bar owners including Jimmy Carbone, of Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village. “We wanted to create an event for the people inside the craft beer industry,” Carbone said.

To commemorate NYC Beer Week, 15 city brewers chose one malt (pale ale) and one hop (Cascade) from a New York State farm then each made up their own unique beer with their own yeast, conditioning and style. Big Alice Brewing made a 12% ABV “Biggie” Belgian Barleywine and a 5.4% ABV “Smalls” Belgian golden. Sixpoint Brewery made a 5% ABV Kolsch and Rockaway Brewery made a 3.5 % ABV “All the Words” half-sour Kolsch. These and other “smash beers” will be sold at the breweries and across the city during NYC Beer Week.

Over 75 restaurants, bars and breweries will be hosting events during the 8 day event across all five boroughs. Among some of the more unique ones include a Radiant Pig Wing Contest on Feb 27 at Northern Bell in Brooklyn; Skat Swedish Tap Invasion on Feb. 28 Brooklyn Brewing (Nya Carnegie is Brooklyn Brewing’s sister brewery in Sweden); the Astoria Beer Bar Crawl March 1 at Astoria Bier and Cheese. The Well in Brooklyn will hold a speed dating night over rare craft beer on March 2 at 7:30 pm; Sixpoint beer and bacon night will be held at Hudson Station and Gun Hill Brewing on March 4 will celebrate its 3rd anniversary with special tapping of Void the Light fermented with cocoa nibs and coconut.

NYC Beer Week ends with the second annual Ruppert’s Cup Awards on March 4 from noon to 4 which will which will honor New York City’s Favorite Craft Brewer, along with people’s choice awards for favorite beer event, bartender, venue, and the best beer brewed especially for NYC Beer Week. Its free admission and its pay as you go with portion of proceeds going to the Brewers Guild. The event is at Barcade.

nyc beer week 3
nyc beer week 3

Dave Lopez, co-owner of Gun Hill Brewery in the Bronx and treasurer of the NYC Brewers Guild, said many more retailers are participating in this year’s Beer Week because unlike past year’s there is no charge for entry. Lopez said he’s thrilled at how many more breweries have opened since Gun Hill in 2014, and was the first production brewery to open in the borough since Prohibition. Brooklyn has the most of any borough, with 11 of the city’s 23 breweries. “The limiting factor is and has been real estate costs and some archaic zoning laws limiting where you can have a brewery,” Lopez said.

He credits New York state lawmakers for crafting new laws that have reduced barriers to entry for new brewers, particularly steps that allow brewers to sell beer on site and allow them to self-distribute. “New York City is catching up but still has a way to go when you think about how San Diego has more than 84 breweries,” said Lopez, who is still works full time for a Wall Street financial firm.

“Clearly New York City has room to support more and we hope this Beer Week is a springboard to further years of growth.”