Procrastination

I’m working a few shifts at Hops and Hocks this week to cover for a friend who’s out of town. On Friday night one of my favorite customers came in, and he ended up giving me a really cool beer to try!

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Finback Brewery was founded in 2013 by two longtime friends. After home brewing for eight years Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford left their full time jobs to launch Finback in Glendale, Queens. I’ve consistently been impressed with the brewery’s canned IPAs, but didn’t know what to expect from Procrastination–an IPA brewed with coffee.

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Procrastination pours hazy, dusty orange–the color of a dirty grapefruit. The nose is mostly tropical fruit, with just a suggestion of coffee beans in the background. At first you think it drinks like your typical North East IPA–creamy mouthfeel, juicy, tropical hop sweetness–but then a wave of coffee swoops in. The bitterness you would expect to taste in a cup of coffee or IPA is there, but but there’s also the roasty, mocha quality characteristic of a dark beer. So cool!

This was only my second or third coffee IPA, and I enjoyed Finback’s execution more than the others I’ve tried. I like how they added coffee but maintained the light/medium body and juiciness I seek in an IPA. Do you have a coffee IPA recommendation? What about another unusual coffee-infused style?

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Beer Ice Cream

For the past couple months I’ve been working part time for Tipsy Scoop, a NYC-based, liquor-infused ice cream company. Sounds like a dream job, right? I met the founder, Melissa Tavss, when she came into H&H to do a tasting about a year ago. We immediately bonded over our shared Virginia roots (she has family that went to UVA!), and usually spent most of her tasting hours chatting.

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IMG_3385I had no idea that helping out at Tipsy Scoop would mean getting to work alongside a whole group of inspiring women. The TS team is all female and we share a kitchen space with Laurie & Sons, a chocolate company operated by two sisters. I’ve never been in an environment with a group of people this dedicated and hardworking; it’s incredibly rewarding.

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Laurie & Sons Dark Chocolate Toffee with Maine Sea Salt

Tipsy Scoop has 30+ flavors of booze-filled ice cream, and you guessed it, one of those features beer. Chocolate Stout and Pretzel is a chocolate ice cream base with Young’s Chocolate Stout and salted pretzels that we chop and add by hand.

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The BBs obviously think beer and chocolate are a match made in heaven. Remember that incredible chocolate drizzle we made with Southern Tier Mokah a few years ago? What about our Valentine’s Day beer and chocolate pairing? However, we recognize that many beer novices aren’t down with the dark stuff. The good thing about this ice cream, considering it’s produced for a large, diverse audience, is the stout flavor is discernible in the roasty, malty aftertaste, but every bite doesn’t scream, “YOU’RE DRINKING A STOUT.” My favorite part is when I get a big chunk of salty pretzel—gotta love that salty/sweet combo!

The ice cream machine in action
The ice cream machine in action

I’m hoping Tipsy Scoop will produce more beer flavors in the future. A boozier imperial stout blend would be incredible, or what about a sour sorbet? We’ve already been talking about a shandy flavor for summer. If you want to try the Chocolate Stout and Pretzel, or one of the other tasty flavors (Cake Batter Vodka Martini! Raspberry Limoncello Sorbet! Spiked Hazelnut Coffee!), we ship anywhere in the US. Check out the website and pick your poison.

Happy Saturday!

Bridge and Tunnel Brewery

Now it’s time for some NYC brewery action! I found out about Bridge and Tunnel and Rich Castagna when I first started working at Hops and Hocks. One of our draft lines was occupied by a brewer that brewed in his garage in Queens, and who was currently working on building out a tasting room entirely on his own?? That’s pretty neat. Fast forward one year and the Bridge and Tunnel tasting room is officially open in Ridgewood!

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Our trek was slightly rainy..oh wait, my walking companions already told you?

Since opening at the end of November, B&T has expanded their tasting room hours from Saturdays only to Friday-Sunday. Last Sunday evening we took a pleasant walk to the cozy tasting room for some pints and coloring.

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B&T has more of a neighborhood vibe than any other NYC brewery I’ve visited. Those sitting at the bar were clearly regulars, and excitedly answered questions about the beers and tasting room. The space is industrial, yet homey, with colored lights hanging above the bar, long wooden tables, and a decent selection of board games. We easily found a table and sipped our beers while working on illustrations for B&T’s “Tank Fund Color Off.” The color off is to raise awareness about the small crowdfund campaign they’re launching in March to raise money for a unitank fermenter and chiller. Rich’s daughters are choosing the winner of the color off!

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Kat and Cooke Cooke took their submissions very seriously

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I started with a super flavorful rye DIPA, while Matt and Kitty Kat chose two of the darker selections on the menu (Rich’s specialty), and Allison tried a blackberry kombucha. Kat analyzed the differences between B&T’s vanilla porter (Bone Orchard) and that of Woodstock Brew House (Casey Joes); we’re always working, I tell ya!

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Mitch is deep in thought about which beer to choose next..
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‘Bucha Baby!

For my second beer I picked Tank Fund Saison, the SMASH beer Rich brewed for NYC Beer Week. In honor of this annual event, every brewer creates a SMASH (State Malts and State Hops) beer that emphasizes the same three hops and grains. It’s really cool to see the wide range of styles that result. Tank Fund is now one of my favorite B&T beers. It’s medium-bodied with flavors of lemon and honey, and has a closing bitterness that keeps it from being too sweet.

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They serve popcorn and pretzels in the tasting room, and you can also order from Houdini, the wood fire pizza place next door. I see your wheels spinning, Pammy! We can definitely put B&T on the itinerary during your next visit. Like many NYC spots, B&T is cash only, but if you forget dat paper, just bop into Houdini and use their ATM.

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Rich explains the 1642 Maspeatches, a gruit brewed with local honey and spruce.

Rich was at H&H for a tasting last night and we chatted about how NYC Beer week is going. He confessed that he was a bit tired of the events, and couldn’t wait to get back to the tasting room this weekend. If you read the reviews on Yelp, or any other press about B&T, it’s so clear that B&T is Rich and his family. He’s so passionate about the tasting room and his beer, and he loves to tell the backstory behind each brew. Customers will return to B&T for the delicious beer, welcoming atmosphere, and amazing prices, yes, but most of all, because of the faces behind the bar.

Happy Friday! Cheers to passion.

p.s. Want to know more about about Rich and the Bridge and Tunnel story? Of course you do! Check out these beer reads:

Building a Brewery From Scratch
Bridge & Tunnel Brewery Taproom Opens in Ridgewood, Queens
Bridge & Tunel Brewery Set to Open Ridgewood Location This Saturday
Bridge and Tunnel Microbrewery in Ridgewood, Queens: The Definition of DIY

Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival

I can honestly say that the Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival was the least crowded, most relaxing beer festival I’ve ever been to. We never had to wait in line for beer, there was plenty of room to stand and hang out, and it was after five before breweries started running out of beer. Plus, all the pours were extremely generous, which never hurts. 😉

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After a solid breakfast (We used the stove! We boiled water! We scrambled eggs!), Allison and I got to the festival at around one. It’s held in Carroll Gardens right next to the Carroll Street Bridge, a tiny bridge over the Gowanus Canal. It was an absolutely perfect early fall day: sunny and warm with a slight breeze coming from the water.

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Once inside we basically just bopped around to whichever brewery struck our fancy. It was sooo nice not having to strategically plan our route based on lines. The standout of the day for both of us was Ferrari Beer from Staten Island. We tried the Sour Red Ferrari several times, a medium-bodied, mildly tart brew with a hint of cherry. He also had a very limited amount of his delicious smoked beer, Smoky Hollow, which is a great style for fall. The other sour at the festival was Lithology Brewing’s Ugly Mug, a rye gruit. It was so refreshing–tangy, even lighter bodied than the Ferrari, and with a spritzy carbonation and hint of funk.

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It was awesome talking to brewers that I have a relationship with through Hops and Hocks, and even though I’ve had their beer many times, I couldn’t resist sampling! Third Rail’s Field 2 is one of my favorite NY farmhouse ales; I can’t wait until it’s available in cans again. Allison particularly enjoyed Radiant Pig’s Eastside Rapture, a hoppy wheat that I’ve blogged about before.

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Our favorite IPAs of the day were by Flagship and Other Half.  The Flagship IPA is balanced and juicy with a light to medium body and citrusy hops. It’s the kind of beer that I could drink all day long, so obviously we returned to Flagship a couple of times. 😉 Other Half’s Hop Showers has tropical hop flavors and a distinct funk. They recently released this one in super cool cans.

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We broke for lunch at 3:30 and enjoyed massive sandwiches from Big D’s food truck. I know I sound like a broken record here, but there was absolutely no line for food, and it was super easy to find a spot to sit and eat. I went with their vegan grinder (be proud, Riles!) and Allison enjoyed the spicy chicken.

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After lunch we continued to plug away at our lists. I finally tried Gun Hill Brewing’s infamous Void of Light, which won gold in the foreign-style stout category at GABF last year. They also poured the Catskill Hop Harvest, a sessionable English pale ale with mild, earthy hops.

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At five a couple of breweries started to pack up, but at this point we were losing steam. We made one more stop at Ferrari for a final taste of sour red, and then left to have a photo shoot on the bridge.

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Back home we went to our favorite spot these days, the fire escape, and snapchatted crazy pictures of ourselves talked about our favorite brews of the festival. Mexican takeout and a couple hours of Entourage capped off one of the most pleasant days I’ve had since moving to New York. Cheers to Friday, New York beer, and good memories.

Sour Power

As you know, Allison and I went to the Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival on Sunday. That debrief is going to take a bit longer, so in the meantime I want to tell you about finally trying two sour beers from Russian River!

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Russian River’s sours are regularly ranked among the best in the world, but they’re incredibly hard to get your hands on. The only East Coast city that the brewery distributes to is Philadelphia. You might remember that I tried their famous double IPA, Pliny the Elder back in the spring. My friend Zoe traveled home to California recently and brought back bottles of Supplication and Consecration to share with me.

Zoe’s favorite is Consecration, a 10% sour dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants. We cracked this one open first and headed to the roof, where we enjoyed a stunning view of the NYC skyline and jammed to early 2000’s rap blaring on the Roberta’s patio. Consecration is full-bodied and tart with flavors of dark fruit, oak, chocolate, and red wine. To me the high ABV isn’t really apparent in the taste, but maybe I was just distracted by all the different flavors I was picking up on. This is such a complex beer! Zoe says it’s even better on tap at the brewery.

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Next we drank Supplication, and I think I liked this one even more! Supplication is a brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. Both the sourness and carbonation were more intense than in Consecration, and I also liked the little bit of funk provided by the brett. I’m going to make the bold statement that all brown ales should feature flavors of tart cherry and woody funk.

Thanks so much for sharing these with me, Zoe! It’s so satisfying when famous beers actually live up to the hype. Delicious beer, girl talk, and a rooftop—that’s really all you need in life. It was Wonderful.

Life Gose On

We’ve entered that gorgeous, magical, fleeting period between summer and fall. Yesterday I went for an afternoon run and wasn’t afraid of collapsing from heat exhaustion! Allison wore pants to work! The smell radiating from the trash piles on the streets wasn’t quite as pungent! To celebrate, Allison and I took to our fire escape (in jeans and sleeves!) and enjoyed Evil Twin’s Mission Gose.

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A gose is a salty/sour beer with a low alcohol content. They’ve been my (and everyone else’s) beer of the summer. Maddy, who is typically ahead of the curve, has been into the style for quite a while.

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Evil Twin’s Mission Gose is more sour than salt forward, and has a slightly lingering pucker. The carbonation is mild and there are strong flavors of lemon, coriander, and grass. It’s flavorful, refreshing, and the bottle makes you feel like you’re at a swanky cocktail party, not just chillin’ on the fire escape because you’re too scared to climb the ladder to the roof. As a professed lover of warm weather, I’m usually sad to say goodbye to summer, but you know what? Let’s do it. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready for a fresh start in a new season. Farewell Summer 2015! This is the perfect beer to gose out on.

(I had to get one more pun in there.)

-Rach

Along Came a Cider

Descendant Cider is NYC’s first and only hard cider company. We carry both of their ciders, which are made using only New York apples, at Hops and Hocks. Succession, a semi-dry blend of six apple varieties is sweetened with fresh apple juice and drinks like a high-quality commercial cider. Pom Pomme, their drier offering, is a blend of apples, pomegranate, and hibiscus flowers, and has a perky, light pink hue. I was excited to hear about their newest cider, Descendant Dry, their driest and highest ABV offering yet, and even more excited when they dropped off a sample on Sunday afternoon!

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It was 90+ degrees in NY on Monday, and as Allison and I shlepped home with overfull grocery bags, all we could think about was a cold, refreshing beverage. Dry did not disappoint. It’s bubbly and crisp, but still has enough apple sweetness and funk to keep it sessionable and interesting. We paired it with goat’s milk brie, and we loved the corresponding acidities and how the cider’s carbonation cut through the cheese’s creamy texture. NY readers: Hops and Hocks is having Descendant in for a tasting on Friday, August 28th. Don’t miss the chance to try the newest addition to their family of delicious ciders.

Happy Wednesday! Here are some words of wisdom from Amy Poehler, an avid hard cider lover:

“You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”

I actually have no idea if she likes hard cider, but she is quite wise. Do you.

Dyckman Beer Co.

Dyckman

It’s official, my favorite part of working at Hops & Hocks is getting to meet so many interesting, inspiring NYC brewers. Last Saturday, Juan Camilo of Dyckman Beer Co. was in the shop sampling his Café Con Leche, a light, smooth, milk stout with a huge coffee flavor and notes of cocoa.

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Four years ago, while working a less-than-stimulating job as an investment banker, Juan started homebrewing as a hobby. Shortly thereafter, while looking at a list of NYC breweries sorted by borough, he noticed a significant gap in his neighborhood of Uptown Manhattan. The wheels started turning. Juan threw all his energy into a business plan for what is now Dyckman Beer Co., a brewery inspired by the people and spirit of Uptown. The Café Con Leche exemplifies this inspiration. It’s made with Café Bustelo, a Cuban-style coffee and bodega standard in NYC. Juan decided to use Café Bustelo because he grew up seeing it in his local bodega and drinking it at home.

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Unfortunately, the weather was gray and bleak on Saturday, so it wasn’t as busy in the shop as it’s been during past tastings. This gave me more time to talk to Juan about Dyckman’s plans for the future, though. They’ve been brewing at Thomas Hooker in Connecticut, but are in the process of purchasing an old bread factory in Uptown that will serve as a brewing facility, tasting room, and restaurant! Juan also told me a little bit about the beers he currently has in the works. Those in the NYC area should be on the lookout for Dyckman’s cherry red saison, passion fruit wit, and Suave IPA, a session IPA (love the name!). If those beers are as tasty as the Café Con Leche, Dyckman’s future is very bright. 🙂

The Rapture

My dearest readers: we are so sorry for the long stretch of silence. Where have you been getting your beer news? How have you been choosing a brew to pair with dinner on Friday night? Who has been telling you every little detail (some of which you could probably do without) about the beers they are drinking?? Please say that you haven’t found a beer blog to replace us during our hiatus. We have some great posts coming up!
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On Friday night I had the pleasure of attending a release party for Radiant Pig’s new beer: East Side Rapture. Radiant Pig is a Manhattan-based  brewery comprised of Laurisa Milici and her business partner/boyfriend/co-brewer Rob Pihl. Back in January I reached out to Laurisa about working for Radiant Pig, and she just contacted me to see if I would be interested in volunteering at some of their events this summer. Um, duhhh. Just ask Parkway, I’m an excellent volunteer brewery rep. 😉
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I tried Radiant Pig’s session IPA at Birreria a while back (yum), and they also have an American red ale, and just brewed another IPA for their two year anniversary.  East Side Rapture, an American pale wheat, is a totally new style for them, and it’s the perfect beer for this time of year. It’s light/medium bodied and has the yeast and citrus flavors of a wheat beer, but then has a little bit of hop bitterness in the finish. Being a hop junky, I actually think I prefer beers of this style over traditional wits because I find them more complex and flavorful.
Kristin was a fan too!
Kristin was a fan too!
The release party was at Drop Off Service, a lively bar in the East Village with an amazing draft list. I’d never been to Drop Off Service before, but definitely plan to return. Their happy hour lasts until 8, and craft beers are only $3!! Put this place on our list of regular spots, Allycat.
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Stay tuned for more updates about Radiant Pig. Whenever I’m not working at H&H this summer, I hope to be helping promote their delicious beer! Happy Monday!
-R

Spring has Sprung

Hi, guys! We hope you all had amazing weekends. It finally feels like spring has arrived in full force. What a relief! Just want to share a few beer scenes from our weekends with you.

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Friday night I drank this bottle of New Holland Blue Sunday Sour with my friend Zoë, before attending a vintage Mad Men party! We put this sour in our H&H Beer of the Month Club packages last month, and I’m so glad that Zoë squirreled away a couple of bottles. It is incredible! Its flavors of oak and malt keep it from being too tart, and it has really nice blackberry notes.

Just call me Betty Draper, er, I mean, Betty Francis
Just call me Betty Draper, er, I mean, Betty Francis

On Saturday Maddy and I were both working all day, but work isn’t so bad when you get to spend the day talking to brewers and beer lovers! We had a crazy successful tasting at H&H. Folksbier, a new Carroll Gardens-based brewery, was in the shop from 2-6 pouring samples of their three beers. My favorite is Echo Maker, a dark rye. Despite it’s dark color and coffee/cocoa notes, it’s still super refreshing. Their pilsner and Alpine ale are tasty too. Sunshine Daydream, their pilsner, is crisp to the point of being almost effervescent, and it has a really nice hop presence. It’s definitely one for day drinking in spring/summer weather. I was excited to sell SO many growlers of Folksbier beer, and to get chat a little bit with Glen and Travis.

Glen and Folksbier brewmaster, Travis Kauffman
Glen and Folksbier brewmaster, Travis Kauffman

Maddy worked at the Thomas Jefferson Craft Beer Tasting at Poplar Forest this weekend. Eleven regional breweries, including Foothills, Wild Wolf, and Parkway (obviously), were there pouring beer, and there was also live music, local food, and work by local artisans! Sounds like an amazing way to spend a Saturday; I wish I could have been there!

Running into familiar faces is one of the best things about beer fests!
Running into familiar faces is one of the best things about beer fests!

On Sunday evening I finally made it up to Astoria! Amanda’s friend Jamie knew about an awesome beer garden called Studio Square, and we spent a few Sunday Funday hours there drinking beer and having deep girl talk (my absolute favorite way to spend an afternoon). Their beer list, while large, is pretty basic. I enjoyed a Goose Island IPA, Amanda had the Coney Island Pilsner, and Kristin got one of my favorite local saisons, the Two Roads Worker’s Comp. Jamie went with a pitcher of their house-made white sangria. 😉 I can’t wait to go back to Studio Square in the summer! There is SO MUCH outdoor space, and Jamie said that they often have live music, or screen big sporting events.

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Cheers to Monday and more spring weather in the forecast!