The Industry Speaks: The Best New NYC Beers of 2014

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industry speaks

In his critically acclaimed and highly inspirational book, Green Kegs and Ham, Dr. Seuss wrote “As the end of a year in beer draws near, don’t ever fear the end of another year in beer.” Though some beerophiles may become blue, ’tis true, Brooklyn Magazine wholeheartedly agrees with the homeslice of Horton’s comforting advice: A year-in-beer’s conclusion is not a time for worry, but for celebration—especially in the case of New York City in 2014. We’ve celebrated the metropolis’ last twelve months of outstandingness—from the rise of brewpubs in Brooklyn to the start of brewing in the Bronx—by delivering lotsa roundups recently, including our choices for its best new beers. Our final roundup gathers a group of beer-industry peoples to deliver the samesies.

Finback Brewery, Barrel Aged BQE
ABV: 10.0%
Style: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Finback is one of the city’s self-distributing breweries we love to support here at St. Gambrinus. While their BQE imperial stout was one of my favorites this year, when we had our first anniversary celebration in August they gave us a version aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels, and that was delicious. They just released this in bottles, and we were fortunate enough to get a case. It’s one of the nicest barrel-aged stouts out there in my opinion because the spirit’s presence—in this case, bourbon—is not overpowering. It blends well with the balance of coffee and cocoa. — Ray Darmstadt, co-owner of St. Gambrinus Beer Shoppe

Transmitter Brewing, W3 Imperial Hibiscus Wit
ABV: 7.8%
Style: Witbier

Since its debut in Long Island City this past year, Transmitter has been providing the city with some of the best locally made wild and barrel-aged ales. The W3, which debuted in August as a late summer seasonal, should have stayed around longer. An imperial wit? You bet. At 7.8 percent ABV, this beer was all you needed to reminisce about summer but big enough to make you look forward to cold winter months. The addition of hibiscus added a very welcome floral addition to the witbier, while the addition of traditional orange peel added an amazing level of citrus. Not only did the flower lend flavor, but it gave the beer a beautiful reddish-orange-pink hue that reminded us of rosè. The mouthfeel was crisp, with a medium body that lended itself perfectly to the funky, tart, and floral finish. The best part about this beer is that it’s very well-balanced: Each addition has its place, but none over powers the other. We can’t wait for its return next summer, but don’t make us wait until August. — Julian Kurland, beer director of The Cannibal Beer & Butcher, and Bill Brooks, beverage director of The Cannibal Beer & Butcher 

 Other Half Brewing, Hop Showers
ABV: 7.4%
Style: IPA

It’s difficult to choose from the flawless roster of Other Half’s beers thus far, but seldom does a strong IPA impress as much as Hop Showers has. Hopped with Citra, Amarillo, and Ahtanum, this beer well defines the brewers’ intent: vibrant and tropical, assertive without being astringent; it’s a beer worthy of contemplation but balanced enough to unwind with after a long shift. Other Half has helped show this year that New York City is certainly a bourgeoning market for true craft beer! They were also the first brewery to earn a permanent line at Proletariat. — Cory Bonfiglio, General Manager of Proletariat and Beer Street

Threes Brewing, Mechanical Spring
ABV: 7.2%
Style: Saison

Sometimes a new album drops and starts at the top of the charts. The recently opened Threes Brewing in Gowanus did just that for me with its new-world, or brighter and more flavor forward, saison, Mechanical Spring. The Belgian-influenced yeast provides flavors from stone fruit to cracked pepper, and the American hops provide tropical fruit and juicy pear notes. It’s soft, but not simple. And it’s ripe for downloading. — Brendan Woodcock, Certified Cicerone 

Third Rail Beer, Bodega American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%
Style: Pale Ale

I would have to say the best NYC beer of 2014 is Third Rail’s Bodega. For taste and personal reasons, this beer hit home with me. I tried a version of Bodega nearly three years ago when now-owners Loren Taylor-Raymond and Kaitlyn Haubrich brought in a growler of their homebrew to my bar. I was blown away and said if they ever opened a brewery that they woud have to do their launch party at One Mile. Talk is cheap but these guys actually made it happen and the first large batch of this beer was super impressive. A hop-forward American pale ale using Citra and Centennial hops gives you this great burst of tropical fruit. The bitterness is up front but does not linger and finishes very clean. Overall this is a bad ass beer and I can’t wait to see what these guys are going to do down the road. — Gerard Leary, owner of One Mile House

Brooklyn Brewery, Greenmarket Wheat
ABV: 5.0%
Style: Wheat Beer 

2013 was the technically the first release of Greenmarket Wheat, but the 2014 version uses a new weisse yeast strain, as well as hops grown upstate by Brooklyn Brewery’s very own technical director. More importantly, I wanted to choose this beer because it’s essential that we acknowledge the connection between what we eat and drink and how those ingredients are grown. Brooklyn Brewery does, and reinforces that relationship, with Greenmarket Wheat. This is a collaboration with Grow NYC, a non-profit that runs over 50 greenmarkets in the city, with the goal of using as many New York State-grown ingredients as possible. The addition of local honey and spices to the wheat base creates a bright and highly refreshing beer with notes of tropical fruit, cloves, and a light honeyed sweetness. It’s the perfect partner for local farmers’ market cheeses. As a bonus, proceeds go to support several agricultural projects throughout New York. This is a winner every year. — Anne Becerra, Certified Cicerone 

Other Half Brewing, Green Diamonds Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.1%
Style: Imperial IPA

I love Green Diamonds because it tastes very good. Period. Hoppy, malty, all the things you expect. I try to keep things simple. I don’t remember the first time I had this beast, but Matt Monahan and Sam Richardson both hung at Bar Great Harry for years before they went into the business and we’ve known them from that. They had us down to the brewery when they first got the lease and we saw the empty space, and talked about what was coming. It’s cool to have seen that, and known them, and now we’re drinking amazing stuff they actually make right there, just a few blocks away. We have Other Half constantly at Bar Great and Mission; many times they’re up at Glorietta and Owl, too. — Ben Wiley, co-owner of Mission Dolores, Bar Great Harry, The Owl Farm, and Glorietta Baldy 

Grimm Artisanal Ales, Shapeshifter
ABV: 8.3%
Style: Scotch Ale

This was my first beer after travelling to Los Angeles for a wedding this fall, having only drank brutally hopped pale ales and IPAs the entirety of my trip. This unusually smooth Scotch ale was a perfect return to cool weather with the presence of toffee, dark fruit, and warming alcohol. Lauren and Joe Grimm have been brewing an exciting string of primarily Belgian-style beers since last year—some true-to-form, some teasing with tradition—and I was happy to find they expertly tackled this challenging old-world style. Shapeshifter was one of my very favorites this year. — Chris Balla, beverage director of Mile End Deli 

Bridge and Tunnel Brewery, Tiger Eyes Hazelnut Brown Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Style: Brown Ale

The NYC beer scene has grown so fast, I can’t remember the first time I tried Bridge and Tunnel. But I was immediately impressed. Tiger Eyes was one of the first beers I did try—owner Rich Castagna came on Beer Sessions Radio, then later for NYC Beer Week I visited his garage brewery for a photo shoot. You could tell the passion he has for his beer. Every piece of equipment he has hand-modified himself. For this, he actually puts whole hazelnuts in the beer which is tricky due to the fat that’s in the nuts. Rich had been working to find a new space and expand and he has signed a lease on a commercial space in Ridgewood, Queens. Good luck, sir: You are a true artisan. — Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 and founder of the Good Beer Seal 

Transmitter Brewing, F4 Brett Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6.8%
Style: Brett Farmhouse Ale

For a farmhouse-inspired brewery, Transmitter couldn’t have picked a more industrial setting. It’s located beneath the Pulaski Bridge, right beside mega-polluted Newtown Creek. While the digs ain’t bucolic, Rob Kolb and Anthony Accardi’s Champagne-corked beers evoke the finer aspects of Belgium’s farmhouse brewing traditions. The duo deploy multiple strains of carefully sourced Brettanomyces, letting the wild yeast works its funky magic in beers like my favorite, F4. A trio of Brett strains are woven through the farmhouse ale, supplying it with tons of tropical fruit and a touch of funk. Give the beer a few months, and the beer will dry out and develop a complexity that, in the best way possible, recalls a barnyard. — Joshua M. Bernstein, author of The Complete Beer Course 

Gun Hill Brewing, Barrel Aged Void of Light
ABV: 7.9%
Style: Foreign/Export Stout

Eschewing the trend of barrel aging an imperial stout, Gun Hill’s brewmaster Chris Sheehan opted to store his export stout in bourbon barrels for six weeks. Redolent with notes of cocoa, espresso and vanilla, the luscious result deftly concealed any trace of alcoholic heat. I knew from the first sip when we tapped it on September 23 that it would vanish in no time; my suspicions were confirmed as the base beer received a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival days later and the keg promptly kicked. Look for the next iteration, which will incorporate rum and rye whiskey barrel influences, at Barcade in 2015. — Brian Winget, beer manager of Barcade New York.

Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co., Homeboy’s Whim Series

It was damn near impossible to pick just one beer from 2014, so I decided to pick a whole series of them instead. Every time I stop by Dirck the Norseman in Greenpoint for a quick drink and bite, I’m always stoked to find one of the Homeboy’s Whim beers on draft. Homeboy’s Whim is a series of rotating single-hop, Belgian-style table beers—light bodied, refreshing, and easy to drink. The “Homeboys” are brewers Chris Prout and Erik Olsen of Dirck’s house brewery Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co., and the “Whim” is whatever hop variety happens to be on hand when that particular beer is brewed. #1 was made with Motueka, a slutty New Zealand hop that strikes all the right citrus and stone fruit chords that hop lovers crave. #3—probably my favorite in the series so far—used another New Zealand hop, Nelson Sauvin, for a lemony, tart kick. I could drink about six of those in one sitting. They’re up to #5 now, and I can’t wait to drink more in 2015. — Justin Kennedy, producer of Beer Sessions Radio

SingleCut Beersmiths, Kim Hibiscus Sour Lagrrr!
ABV: 3.5%
Style: Berliner Weisse

“Delicious” is a word you might associate with an enjoyable beer, but how about “beautiful”? That’s the case with Kim Sour Lagrrr! The muted pink hue of Singlecut’s summer release comes from the infusion of hibiscus, which also makes it especially tart and fruity. Yet despite this boldness, Kim was delicate, drinkable, and refreshing—and a perfect antidote to the Summertime Blues. — Chris O’Leary, editor of Brew York

Other Half Brewing, All Green Everything
ABV: 10.5%
Style: Imperial IPA

All Green Everything is everything you want it to be. This triple IPA manages to please hop-heads and those looking for a balanced beer simultaneously. The hops are playing off one another so no one variety dominates—Motueka, Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic are used—but together they cause an explosion of wet, delicious hoppiness that is perfectly complemented by the malt backbone that gives this beer a luscious body. The finish is just dry enough and the beer somehow seems light enough that you want to keep sipping despite that high ABV. Be glad that you can’t get this beer every day as it is a sign that Other Half is focused on quality not quantity. Though All Green Everything is my choice for best new NYC beer, everything on their list is worth trying. Every time we put a keg of their beer on at the Tiger, it always flies. At our Other Half event a couple of months ago, they brought us twenty beers and hung out for hours letting everyone see how generous, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth they are. Sometimes with hard work, good things happen to good people. — Katherine Kyle, general manager of Blind Tiger Ale House

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