Monthly Archives: June 2012

On the waterfront: Beer finds at the Williamsburg beer fest

Beer on the Williamsburg wateront

More than a thousand beer aficionados and, for sure, a few novices, thronged to the event at the foot of N. 11th Street, the Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival, on June 16, where the wares of 86 breweries were available for sampling.

The organizer, the Hand Crafted Tasting Co., a unit of concert promoter Mad Dog Presents, relied on craft beer industry stalwart Jim Pickett to curate beers for the two-session event.

Fesltival’s beer curator Jim Pickett

Pickett, who among other things now markets artisan non-alcoholic beverages at his own company, Gotham Artisanal, has been around craft beer for more than two decades, having started as New York State brand manager for Brooklyn Brewery. He later marketed Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Boddingtosn and Bass Ales before jumping into the spirits business. In 2007, he joined Pipeline Brands, a marketer of beer, wine and spirits.

He says he requested that participating brewers present beers appropriate to the summer season and those with limited release.

For the most part, I’d say Pickett did an admirable job.

Tasting at the afternoon session that I attended, however, proved to be somewhat haphazard as there was no printed guide to the beers, just a grouping by distributors. This turned a visitor into a beer explorer. And explore I did.

Still, there was plenty of pleasure to be had in the beers available — both to the masses in the main areas of the fest and for those willing to splurge $125 to sample harder-to-find brews in an indoor connoisseur’s lounge far from the crowds. The latter were brews “not on everyone’s radar,” said Pickett, “We were looking for things that you generally do not see anywhere.”

Sommelier Roz Donagher oversaw the festival’s connoisseur’s lounge

Indeed, in the connoisseur’s lounge a crew led by sommelier Roz Donagher (the wife of beer-bar impresario Patrick Donagher) poured a range of extraordinary brews.

I particularly enjoyed the refreshing Corsendonk Apple White Beer, a bottled conditioned Belgian wit with a touch of apple juice added.  It reminded me of a wit I’d enjoyed years ago with a slice of apply pie. It’s a combination that lingered in my memory and this spicy brew rekindled it.

Onto more fruit. This time the flavors of dried raisins, figs and caramelized sugar, which dominated the palate of Southampton Publick House Abbot 12, a 10.5% abv Belgian-style quadruple–not exactly the kind of beer to start the day with, but what the heck.

There also was the vanilla-accented, malty Innis & Gunn Independence Day, a Scottish ale aged in American whiskey barrels, and the tart, funky and fruity, but oh-so-delicious Kelso Brett IPA. From Uinita Brewing in Utah, there was a rich and chewy, citrus accented Duhbe (doo-bee) and from Wandering Star Craft Brewery there was Bert’s Disqualified Stout with an unmistakable alcoholic bite. Also very good were the whiskeyish Founders Brewing Curmudgeon, and the rich Stone Brewing’s Double Bastard

The main event, too, had plenty of new, exciting brews to sample.

Wit beers were plentiful. Besides the Corsendonk, those that impressed were White Aphro from Kelso of Brooklyn spiced with ginger and lavender. Meanwhile Blue Moon, which so many love to hate because of its Coors parentage, presented its floral Farmhouse Red Ale, a cross between a red ale and a saison-a new year-round release, and Vintage Blonde ale, which is made with Chardonnay grape juice and offered notes of apple on the nose and palate.

And there were pils, helles, hefeweizens and saisons galore.  Among the saisons I enjoyed Unibroue’s Blonde de Chambly with its notes of lemongrass; the spicy, dry Radius from Brooklyn Brewery and the crisp, fruity Open Saison from Ben’s Beers, a small upstate New York brewer.

And while I’m a huge big fan of fruit beers, lambics excepted, I took great pleasure in Tommyknocker’s Tundrabeary Ale, a refreshing light brew with a huge fresh berry character.

Bruton Momus, an abbey dubbel style beer from Birrificio Bruton of Lucca, Italy, with intense sweet malty notes and a hint of coriander, was also a winner. Another Bruton offering, Lilith, was an Italian take on American pale ale with notes of resin and citrus.

All told, a pleasant afternoon spent with mostly extraordinary beers.

Robert Howell, one of the organizers, told me that one of the reasons for undertaking the event was “to put New York City on the map of craft beer festival destinations.” With a few tweaks, I believe, he and his partners could be well be on their way.

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Rocky Point Artisan Brewers gets micro brewery license

From left, Voight, Jenssen and Hall at a recent Long island beer festival











No. 1260239.  This number means everything to Mike Voight and Donavan Hall, principals of Long Island’s Rocky Point Artisan Brewers.  It’s the serial number on their just-granted New York State micro brewery license.

The brewery submitted its application on Jan. 3 and five months and 20 days later, it became a realty on June 20. The project has been in the works for three years.

“It just took so long,” Hall told Corks, Caps and Taps. “They kept giving us so many problems that we thought for sure we’d never get it. It was kind of a shock when the license arrived.”

Hall added, “Now we’re trying to get some beer out the door.”

The 1.5 bbl.-brewery, built in a converted residential garage four doors down from Hall’s home, has minimal beer on hand and shipping won’t begin until the brewer’s labels get government approval, probably in about a week, Hall said. The first release is likely to be Rocky Point Pilsner, which has been part of the brewery’s repertoire  and received favorable notices at beer festivals.

Rocky Point is using a system similar to that originally used by Barrier Brewing in Oceanside. “He’s been brewing twice a day to keep up with demand,” Hall said of Barrier owner Evan Klein.

Rocky Point’s fermenters hold 300 gallons, just under 10 barrels. A house fronting the brewery remains a residence, but may someday be converted into a tasting room, he noted.

Hall, a writer, and partner Mike Voigt, an electronics repairer, both from Rocky Point, met as home brewers and began brewing in Voigt’s basement in 2006. They were joined in 2009 by Yuri Janssen, a research physicist at Stony Brook University, who for now is one of the brewers.

Rocky Point, Long Island’s tenth commercial brewery, is a “nano” in size. “We’re going to stay small for a while,” Hall said. Nano brewers generally produce under 4 barrels of beer at a time.

Other breweries in Nassau and Suffolk Counties (including brew pubs) are: Barrier, Black Forest Brew Haus, Blind Bat, Blue Point, Brickhouse, Greenport Harbor, Fire Island, John Harvard’s, Long Ireland, Port Jefferson , Southampton Publick House and Spider Bite.


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Home brewing expo at NYC’s South Street Seaport Museum June 27

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about home brewing an opportunity is at hand.

Brewnity: NYC Homebrewers United, a home brewers expo organized by Chris Cuzme, home brewer extraordinaire and sales rep for Wandering Star Brewing Co.,  and Mary Izzet, president of the New York City Home Brewers Guild, will take place June 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m,. at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City.

In addition to displays, films, educational presentations and you’ll be able to taste a selection of home brewed beers.

Members and their homebrew will hail from the New York City Homebrewers Guild (Manhattan); Malted Barley Appreciation Society (Williamsburg); Westchester Homebrew Organization (Westchester); Brewstoria (Astoria, Queens); Knights of Bruklyn Homebrew Sentry (Park Slope); Pour Standards (Staten Island); Dive Bar Homebrew Symposium (Manhattan) and other organizations.

Admission is $15, but those who buy online with the code NYCHG627 can get in for $10. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the museum.

For more information or to register by phone call 212-748-8600.

The South Street Seaport Museum is located at 12 Fulton St., Manhattan.

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Long Island Wine Council’s Taste of Summer: The good, bad and ugly

Anthony Nappa (left) of Anthony Nappa Wines /The Winemakers Studio pours samples at the Long Island Wine Council’s Taste of Summer event at Old  Bethpage Village Restoration.

Sue and Russell Hearn of Suhru Wines and T’jara Vineyard discuss their wines at Taste of Summer.

Juan Miceli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards (left) and Chris Baiz of The Old Field Vineyards at Long Island Wine Council’s Taste of Summer event.

East met west recently.

Many of Long Island’s East End wineries traveled west on June 2 to the Old Bethpage VillageRestoration in Nassau County to pour their wines for a crowd of 350 imbibers.

Dubbed “A Taste of Summer,” by the Long Island Wine Council, the event brought together 26 of the council’s 43 member wine producers.

Attendees filled the Fairgrounds Building, a restored, air-conditioned, wooden barn-like structure with sweeping ceilings. There they sampled not only wines, but also some of some of Long Island top chef Tom Schaudel’s signature hors d’oeuvres. Yes, there was plenty of tuna tartare.

It was good for the participating wineries, who not only got to pour tastes, but also rang up sales of bottles of the wines they were sampling.

I welcome the opportunity to say hello to the handful of winemakers present, among them Anthony Napa of the Winemakers Studio, Miguel Martin of Palmer Vineyards, Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery,  Juan Miceli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards; Anthony Sannino of Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard and Russell Hearn of Suhru and T’Jana Vineyards. A few owners were present, too, including Barbara Smithen of Sherwood House Vineyards, Ron Goerler of Jamesport Vineyards, Chris Baiz of The Old Field Vineyard, Hal Ginsburg of Clovis Point Wines, and Theresa  Dilworth of Comtesse Thérèse.

The Good

There were plenty of wines to sample and, in keeping with the theme, there were many summery wines, including several refreshing sauvignon blancs, a somewhat under-appreciated grape, at least in the region. Among these were 2011 bottlings from Waters Crest ($23), Raphael ($22), Martha Clara ($19), Palmer Vineyards ($20) and the slightly smoky Jamesport Vineyards 2010 Reserve ($35), a winery that has long championed the grape and produces a bottling that’s been aged in neutral barrels.

Equally enjoyable were the sparklers offered up by Sparkling Pointe winery: 2007 Brut ($29) and 2009 Topaz Imperial ($37); Wölffer Estate’s bargain -priced ($15) Classic White, a fruity blend of Hamptons chardonnay and Finger Lakes riesling and gewurztraminer, a crisp stainless-steel fermented 2011 Chardonnay from Sherwood House )$18); the full-bodied, complex 2010 Wild Chardonnay ($20) from Roanoke Vineyards, a producer better known for its reds; a soft, fruity steel-fermented 2011 Chardeax (a chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend)  from Raphael ($24); Peconic Bay Winery’s 2011 Chardonnay ($24), crisp and redolent of green apples, a crisp elegant 2010 Chardonnay from Castello Borghese Vineyards ($18).

Of the roses, the most interesting were from Anthony Nappa Cellars, a tiny producer. These included the deeply colored, dry 2011 Bliss Rose ($14), based on merlot with a touch of cabernet franc, and the slightly pink-tinged Anomaly ($19), a white pinot noir with the essence of cherries and strawberries.

Among the reds I enjoyed: the jammy, soft Peconic Bay Winery 2010 Red Label Lot 3 ($24), a  blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Pellegrini Vineyards’ big, but nonetheless silky 2005 merlot ($20); Jamesport’s soft and elegant 2007 red blend Jubulant ($45); and,  the very accessible T’Jara 2007 Merlot $24) and  T’Jara’s richer, more complex 2007 Reserve ($30).

The bad

A few dozen older wines also were available for sampling, but only for those who ponied up a few extra bucks for VIP tickets.  To be sure, the regular folks didn’t miss much. Many of these so-called library wines  – at least to me – were disappointing, past their prime and lacking verve. One that I wished I tried, a 1995 Bedell Cellars Reserve Merlot, however, proved popular and was quickly consumed.

And, instead of fresh, newly released wines, some producers poured older vintages. Perhaps they used the occasion to clear out their cellars. For example, I was disappointed that I was unable to sample the recently released Macari Vineyards Early Wine 2011; instead, the winery poured a year-old vintage of a wine that’s made to be consume fresh.

Another beef. Too many second label wines, made with grapes, perhaps,  not good enough to go into the top bottles.

The ugly

Many of the producers at the event had their wines poured by either tasting room staffers, sales reps or volunteer wine ambassadors. Some were often unable to answer questions about the wines, or worse, ignorant. At Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard’s table, I was poured a rose, so cold that my tongue got frostbite. “It’s supposed to be that way,” a staffer told me after I mentioned the problem. Afraid not. Cold temperatures mask flavors — and flaws. To be fair, temperature control is difficult when wines are chilled in ice-filled tubs. Nevertheless, when I encountered the same problem at another table, a smart pourer I offered me a different warmer sample.

Sadly, a few of the region’s best-known and most-highly regarded wineries including Channing Daughters, McCall Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards, Lenz Winery and Paumanok Vineyards, were noticeably absent.  Some were ineligible to participate, because they were not members. For the others, it was a missed opportunity to reach out to potential new customers. Nevertheless, I relish an opportunity to try them the next time I head East.



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Press Club of Long Island award for Corks, Caps and Taps Editor

The editor of Corks, Caps and Taps is an award winner!

Alan Wax, who founded this blog less than three months ago, won a Press Club of Long Island media award for a story published last September on about the travails of Long Island winemakers following the Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, which drenched Long Island vineyards close to the 2011 harvest.

The Press Club presented the award at a June 7 dinner at the Woodbury Country Club.

Wax’s award-winning story, “Grape Growers Worry About 2011 Quality, QuanitiePLCI AwardPLCI Awards” was published Sept. 23, 2011. The 2nd place award was for a Business/Economic/Financial story published online. The first-place award went to a team of Newsday reporters.

Wax contributed stories about the Long Island wine industry to from September 2010, shortly after the launch of the NorthFork Patch site, until September 2011, when, a unit of AOL, dropped most free-lance contributors.

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A beer festival grows anew in Brooklyn

Back in the early days of craft beer in New York City (we’re talking 1993-94) Brooklyn Brewery organized beer festivals on the waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge. Huge white tents lined the esplanade of Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park where dozens of small brewers from across the country and around the world poured samples of their beers to thousands of attendees and dozens of restaurants served samples of their cuisines.

Attendees paid a mere $15 in advance and $25 at the gate to attend the New York Beer Fest, according to a 1994 New York Times clipping (Steve Hindy recalls the fee at $30 in his book, “Beer School”). No matter. It was a bargain and it was hard to imagine a better way to spend a sunny weekend day.  Craft beer was new and exciting and the Manhattan skyline across the river provided a terrific backdrop for the sudsy showcase.

But the festival folded its tents after just two years. In 1995, then New York State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro decided she did not want beer served in her park.

The fest was “the perfect embodiment of the sort of beer culture that we were trying to promote in New York City,”  Hindy wrote, adding, “I still hope a festival of that nature can be revived at some point for the city’s sake.

Looks like HIndy’s wish is being fulfilled. A new beer festival, dubbed the Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival, is scheduled for June 16 at 5 N. 11th St. at the waterfront in Williamsburg, just one block from the Brooklyn Brewery.

The organizer, the Hand Crafted Tasting Co., a unit of concert promoter Mad Dog Presents, has put together a two-session event — 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m. and 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m. — with 75 breweries pouring 150 craft and imported beers.

And there’ll be food for sale from a variety of Brooklyn-based gourmet and specialty food purveyors, including Sheep Station (Australian lamb sandwiches and meat pies); Brooklyn Star (meatloaf sandwiches; sea food specialist Cornelius (shrimp and grits); Coolhaus with its all-natural ice cream sandwiches, and the Morris Grilled Cheese Truck.  Live bands will also perform.

“Between the outdoors, Williamsburg waterfront location, seasonal summer craft beers, live music, and great food, we think The Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival will be a beer tasting, block party people won’t want to miss.” Robert Howell, producer for Hand Crafted Tasting, said in a press release.

In addition to the main event, there will be first-come-first served seminars, limited to 50 attendees, focused on women in beer and urban home brewing.

Those who want to splurge can upgrade to VIP and Connoisseur tickets offering an extra hour of tasting and express entrance lines to the festival.  Connoisseur ticket holders also get access to a Connoisseurs Lounge for the entire session with a selection of such rare beers such as Blue Point Sour Cherry Stout, Bruton Stoner Ale, Alchemist Heady Topper, Founders Double Trouble, Cigar City Maduro, Corsendonk Apple White and others not available in the main tent.

General admission tickets are $55, VIP passes are $75 and Connoisseur packages cost $125 and all can be purchased online. Add $10 if you pay at the gate. Will I see you in Williamsburg?

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