On Thursday, July 30, 2015, Edible Manhattan hosted its annual food and beer pairing event Good Beer at Hudson Mercantile. It was a scorcher that summer night, and what they say about hot air rising to the top certainly rang true, as my photog-in-crime Dorothy and I were sweltering on the 6th floor. We were definitely riding a heat wave inside the building, but nothing that a cold glass of beer, or two, (or three!), couldn’t handle.
More than 20+ brewers were on hand to showcase some of their best ales and lagers. Overall, the beers were very drinkable, trending more towards the light and mild rather than the deep and robust, a flavor profile that was very fitting for a hot summer day. The craft beer industry in this country has been growing at an impressive pace, and it’s easy to see why after having tried the pours from tonight.
Two of my favorite beers were a lager and a shandy from Narragansett Beer, a brewery from Rhode Island. The lager was crisp and clear, and slightly sweet, while the shandy tasted like a packet of Lemonheads. I decided that I had to man up and try something a little more challenging, so I followed that up with the Guardsmen Stout from Montauk Brewery Co. As the name would suggest, it was extremely dark in taste, almost as if you were drinking a mixed brew of chocolate and coffee.
I kept trying to push myself and confronted my worst fears–the “hoppy” beer. Hops is a plant used in the brewing process that oftentimes gives beer its funky, bitter taste, and it’s a flavor I have issues with, much like the ones I have with cilantro. However, Brewery Ommegang, which produces beer upstate in Cooperstown, New York, poured me some of their Hopstate NY beer, a beer brewed entirely with 100% New York grown hops. Apparently the hops industry in New York got wiped out in 1910, so it’s a pretty big deal to be revitalizing the industry just now. There was nothing bitter or unpleasant about the Hopstate. In fact, this may be my new go-to beer, which is far more interesting than my current one, Amstel Light.
I tried to stick to the local breweries where possible, but the Irish accents at McGargles Irish Craft Brewery had me intrigued, so I topped my glass off with their Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale, a mild beer with notes of grapefruit and mango. I also stopped by Palm Breweries, a Belgian-based brewer, and absolutely loved their Schofferhofer grapefruit beer, which tasted like a spiked fruit juice.
It was time to go back to trying the real beers. I sampled the PINNER Throwback session IPA from Oskar Blues, a brewer based in Colorado and North Carolina. What’s distinctive about this beer is that it has a lot of good, punchy flavors but low alcohol content, so you can crush this can if you’d like, without getting blacked out drunk. I then eased into an extremely challenging beer, the Bel Air Sour from Brooklyn Brewery. As one would expect, it did taste very tart and sour, made so by the lactic acid fermentation, but offset somewhat by the use of a champagne yeast.
Tröegs Brewing Company from Pennsylvania brought its Perpetual IPA to sample, which was made of six different hops. Again, for a hoppy beer, it was surprisingly subdued in flavor, and was very drinkable. The IPA from KelSo Beer Co, a Brooklyn brewery, was much more aromatic and hoppy in the traditional sense. I didn’t want to end my tastings on a hoppy note, and luckily the last pour of the night, a Belgian-inspired beer from Allagash Brewing Company, was fruity, not too bitter, and very user-friendly, as Belgian beers tend to be.
There were some other fun drinks that fell outside of the scope of traditional beer that I tried, mainly because the flavors were just too good to pass up. The mischievous Pumpking beer from Southern Tier Brewing Company, a brewer in upstate NY, was one of them, although it didn’t quite taste like pumpkin pie. Something about it was too sweet and artificial. Likewise, the Blood Orange Pale Ale from Great South Bay Brewery, a brewer from Long Island, wasn’t all that citrusy or fruity. Crabbie’s original ginger beer was fantastic, tasting exactly like a refreshing ginger ale, except alcoholic, which is even better. Who knew that ginger alone could ferment in six weeks and naturally turn deliciously alcoholic? Tito’s Vodka made a surprise appearance in this beer party, and I gladly grabbed a glass of its moscow mule-inspired cocktail.
And of course, you can’t have a beer without a burger, and the Baja Burger from Genuine Superette, a California eatery in Nolita, really hit the spot–it was juicy and spicy, with a good bun to patty ratio, and it paired perfectly with the easy, breezy lagers from Narragansett. It was definitely one of the most popular food stands at Good Beer. Hot dogs are also a popular complement to beer, and it wasn’t surprising to see a lot of vendors serving up various renditions of sausage. My personal favorite was the chunky chicken sausage from Almond, which was served with an indulgent spicy aioli on top. It was a guilty pleasure, for sure, although I didn’t feel too bad about eating multiple servings. Untamed Sandwiches prepared a very hearty pork butt sandwich, while Alice’s Arbor, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn, presented a locally sourced pork and potato dish that was very clean and elegant, a nice respite from the many gut-bomb sausages that were out there.
It was good to see some vendors think outside of the sausage/pork box. I loved the beet-cured salmon and dill goat cheese from Good Restaurant, a Modern American spot in the West Village. I was excited to see one of my all-time favorite restaurants Gramercy Tavern make an appearance here with a refreshing smoked bluefish and corn salad, a bite that was full of good texture and savory flavors. The Vanderbilt, a small plates restaurant in Prospect Park, was bold enough to serve marinated duck drumsticks, which were huge like the ones at a state fair. It was their beef jerky, though, that really caught our attention. The marinade was sweet and juicy, and Dorothy and I kept going back for more. I asked if they were selling any of the jerky to take home, but unfortunately they weren’t meant for retail.
Lawless Jerky, a craft jerky company that uses only 100% grass-fed beef, also had some samples, and I really did like the Sweet Sriracha flavor. There were also vegetarian options from Ellary’s Greens and Communal Oven & Earth, two healthy eateries in the West Village and UWS, respectively. I found the tofu meatball and soba noodles from Communal especially refreshing and well seasoned.
As the event wound down, we were definitely buzzed and in a good place. Aside from the AC issue, I thought the event was well done and lived up to its promise of serving “Good Beer” to its guests. The floors were easy to navigate and there was enough beer and food to go around for everyone. While last call was at 9 pm, there’s still a good month of summer left–let’s drink to that!
*All photos by Dorothy Chin.