Hey gang, Valkor here. After a brief preview, it’s time to fully dive into this spring’s NYC Craft Beer Festival. As always it was a packed house, simply wall-to-wall people, but that stop didn’t my cohorts or myself from walking away with huge smiles on our faces and a belly full of brews and other goodness. In fact, with one possible miss, all had a great time. So without further ado, let’s take a look inside the NYC Craft Beerfest. But before I begin, I wanted to note that the list of beers that I present below does not represent a “best to least” style listing. While the first is my personal favorite, the rest are all my preferred choice of the show.
As you walk into the NYC Beerfest you’re met with a ton of vendors, who are all waiting to dish out a wide assortment of beers, spirits, and tasty treats to quench your thirst and your hunger. If you’re one of the many VIPs, and if things got too crowded, you had your own area where you got to taste some exclusive beers as well as snag a few samples at the Oyster bar provided by "Empire Oyster", who were serving it up fresh with all the fixings. Now this is where my “slight” disappointment steps in – where was the Bloody Mary Bar? I’m not sure if I completely missed it or it simply wasn’t there? Was it on the main floor somewhere as opposed to the VIP area? This was supposed to have been a loft-style setting with live music, but I didn't see any of it. Again, I might have missed it but I'm not so sure.
Moving on, I have a couple of non-drink items worth mentioning; first up is Bang Cookies, who's always a big hit no matter where they set up. I walked away with two boxes that disappeared almost as soon as I got home. The only downer was that they didn't have any of the new flavors - Caramel Sea Salt or PB&J that are mentioned on their website. But I hope to get the chance to try them out ASAP. Then there’s “Guy and Lady Barrel” with their bourbon, scotch, and rum infused cigars; while I purchased a few, I didn’t get a chance to try any of them out. Needless to say, they’re in good hands with those who’ll appreciate them way more than me.
And now it’s time for the main event! Who were my favorites at the Spring NYC Craft Beer Festival? Let’s find out! But before I begin, I’d like to give a shout out to Mr. Black, whom while they won't get a mention here, I am working on an entire piece since I actually picked up a bottle, so keep a watch for that!
Swiftwater – While the company had zero bottles/cans presentation, what they did have on hand was a great beer with the perfect smile to back it up. Swiftwater’s mango/jalapeno walks away with the best beer at the NYC Craft Beer Festival. This is the reason why you go to such events, to make such delicious discoveries, and Swiftwater scores big with the Val-Man. I would have never thought the blend of mango and jalapeno would work, but the drink was quite tasty with a bit of a zesty kick. I’d say for the next iteration, add more jalapeno, or make one that’s strictly jalapeno, or dare I say some other type of pepper with more bite to it? I can’t, yet I can imagine a ghost pepper beer. Though that might be tough to swallow.
Guinness – As soon as you walk into the Metropolitan Pavilion, you’re met with the gang at Guinness, who were showcasing a few beers. But it’s the Blonde American Lager that won me over! I loved the color, but I was won over by the taste, which was smooth, crisp and refreshing. I’m not the biggest fan of Guinness beers, but I can see their Blonde Pale Lager becoming a regular staple around the Val-Cave.
Zero Gravity – Positioned right next to Swiftwater sat Zero Gravity, who with only one beer, really made the show that much more enjoyable with their Keller lager. I enjoyed the Guinness Blonde, but Keller had a cleaner, smoother taste, which after downing Swiftwater’s mango/jalapeno does a fine job of cleansing the palate. So refreshing!
Night Shift Brewing – I had the pleasure of sampling their wares at the last Beerfest, which I loved the peachy taste of the Santilli. This round Night Shift brought something new to try – Matisse. It’s a great color, light and citrusy taste and easy going down. Now this is the type of beer one can definitely catch a nice mellow with it.
Devils Backbone – We have another favorite from the previous Beerfest; DB brought along a little something new for attendees with their hybrid lager/IPA - “Mile 842”. It’s not as bitter as an IPA and not as smooth as a lager, but combined they form a beer that’s still pretty impressive. I really enjoyed the Mile 842 and I’ll have to keep this one in mind when I’m out and about beerhunting.
Against the Grain – I’m always on the lookout for anything that’s unique and fun. And the Against the Grain scores in that aspect with "The Brown Note”; I don’t know who came up with the name, but while it may sound gross, this mix of coffee, chocolate, and caramel works well. It’s not too sweet and you can taste more of the coffee than anything else. But I’d dabble down the brown road again for this drink. Ahem.
Graft Cider – I’m not always a fan of ciders, but I gotta give props to Graft for their seasonal offering - Field and Flowers. It’s a little fruity, but it’s definitely something different. Mind you my only real cider experience is Angry Orchard, but this latest offering by Graft could be a yearly treat worth waiting for.
Platform – Staying within the ballpark of fruity beverages, Platform’s IPA Jude Haze is the pineapple delight worth trying. It’s not as bitter as most IPAs I’ve tried, has a nice citrus taste and it looks quite pleasing. Platform’s Jude Haze definitely deserves a repeat performance.
B. Nektar – I love the name of this next brew – Tuco-Style Freakout. And while the name is so cool, the taste of this mead is even better. Crisp, smooth, sweet as it’s blended with honey and agave, yet it’s not overpowering. I’d roll with some Freakout over ice on a hot summer day for sure!
Stillwater Artisanal – Last but certainly not least, we have an IPA sour that’s not too heavy on the “sour”. Check it out its Tangerine Haze, which serves up a nice, sour, citrusy taste. I wasn’t “in love” with this one, but I’d… hesitantly go back for seconds. I'm not saying it’s bad, but this is one drink that’s not high on my “must have again” scale. Still, it’s a thumbs up!
I had a great time at the spring’s NYC Craft Beer Festival and I’m looking forward to the one in the fall, which should introduce some holiday delights. Me thinks the Metropolitan Pavilion is becoming too small for this style of an event so I’m hoping for something roomier for the next round? Either way, I’ll be there to report on all the fun and to showcase some tasty brews. And if you haven’t already, go and check out NYC Craft Beer Festival PerfectView edition. I assure you, that you will not be disappointed. So, until next time, stay classy people! And drink responsibly!