The most surprising thing about New York’s craft beer come-up isn’t that it finally happened — we’re talking about the most diverse food and drink city in America, after all — but how long it took. When I first moved here in 2010, there were pretty much three options for local suds: Brooklyn Brewery, KelSo Beer Co. and Sixpoint Brewery. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll drink a Brooklyn Lager any night of the week. But I won’t be the last New Yorker to admit that, until fairly recently, the best beers in New York came from elsewhere.
Fortunately, times have changed. According to this year’s RateBeer Best results, two of the world’s top ten brewers are based in the city: Other Half and Evil Twin (a gypsy brewery with plans open a brick-and-mortar in Ridgewood, Queens, sometime in the near future). Beyond those, a handful of city breweries are making beer on par with what one might find in places like Portland, Maine, or Denver, or the entire state of Vermont. Together they’ve made New York a major player in the world of American craft beer. One a Vermonter might even deem a “destination.”
Other Half Brewing Co.
Samuel Richardson and Matt Monahan opened Other Half in early 2014. Located on southern edge of Carroll Gardens, the beers produced here — most of which classify as big, juicy, New England–style IPAs — have become New York’s hottest commodity on trader forums, eventually making their way across the country. Though Other Half has ramped up production, increasing the frequency of its can releases from twice a month to every Saturday, this has done little to curb the hours-long wait it takes to land your hands cans of its single, double or even triple IPAs.
Evil Twin Brewing
Evil Twin is a gypsy brewery, meaning it contracts other breweries to make its beer by following a recipe set by the brewer. In this case, that’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, the twin brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergso (who runs the celebrated gypsy brewery Mikkeller). Jarnit-Bjergso opened Evil Twin in Copenhagen before moving it to Brooklyn in 2012. The economics of gypsy brewing — read: very little overhead — have thus far allowed Jarnit-Bjergso to creatively explore the “delicate, funky, extreme and by all means rare flavors” of beer, while also opening Tørst — considered by many of its patrons to be the best beer bar in the city.
Threes Brewing, located at the intersection of three Brooklyn neighborhoods (Gowanus, Park Slope and Boerum Hill), filled a void when it opened in late 2014: the presence of a neighborhood gastropub. With more than 5,000 square feet, Threes is home to a restaurant (the Meat Hook), coffee bar (Ninth Street Espresso) and one of the best bottle shops in the city, which features a rotating selection of hard-to-find beers with limited distribution — like the upstate standout Suarez Family Brewing. Of course, the house beers — easy-drinking German lagers, yeast-driven farmhouse ales and hop-forward American ales — are also excellent; SFY (formerly known as Superf*ckingyawn), for example, made our GP100 the year it debuted.
The Best Breweries Just Outside NYC
Though this guide is limited to breweries actually based in New York City, there’s a growing number of superlative brewers outside the city limits, too, whose beers have begun to garner praise and attention from the local community. Here are nine whose beers are worth seeking out:
Carton Brewing Company – Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Barrier Brewing Co. – Oceanside, NY
Equilibrium Brewery – Middletown, NY
Industrial Arts Brewing Company – Garnerville, NY
Magnify Brewing Company – Fairfield, NJ
Plan Bee Farm Brewery – Poughkeepsie, NY
Suarez Family Brewery – Hudson, NY
Sloop Brewing Co. – Elizaville, NY
Sand City Brewing Co. – Northport, NY
Grimm Artisanal Ales
Another gypsy brewery, Grimm’s garnered a strong cult following for its award-winning IPAs and stouts, the recipes of which are crafted in Brooklyn and then scaled at Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling, Virginia. Some beers have won more attention than others — the IPAs named Lambo Door and Tesseract, for example — but many so-called “Grimm Hunters” (those fans that hop from bottle shop to bottle shop to buy Grimm’s beer) believe the brewery shines brightest with its creative, genre-bending sours.
LIC Beer Project
In early 2015, construction-worker-turned-home-brewer Daniel Acosta opened LIC Beer Project — a 5,500-square-foot, 20-barrel brewery and tap house — in Long Island City. Yes, he and his team make IPAs. And very good ones, too, including superlative collabs with the likes of Civil Society and Sand City. But Acosta’s real passion is farmhouse ales and American sours — including New York’s first spontaneously fermented coolship beer, Dulcinea.
Transmitter is a yeast-driven brewery in Long Island City with a focus on traditional and farmhouse ales. Founders Rob Kolb and Anthony Accardi have secured more than 20 strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, using them to create expressive but friendly beers — furthering a growing belief that “interesting” and “drinkable” are not mutually exclusive.
Kings County Brewers Collective (KCBC)
Bushwick’s first brewery to open since Schaefer left over 40 years ago, KCBC has forgone the craft tendency to develop a “house character” in favor of flavor diversity. There are three brewers — Zack Kinney, Pete Lengyel and Tony Bellis — whose divergent brewing preferences are influencing the evolving menu, where there’s a little something for every palate.
Interboro Spirits and Ales
Founded by Jesse Ferguson, an alumnus of Other Half and Carton in New Jersey, Interboro separates itself from other breweries on the simple fact that it also makes spirits — gin and whiskey included. The beer, meanwhile, is gracefully on trend — that means there’s hoppy ales, like the flagship Mad Fat Fluid IPA.
By New York standards, Rich Buceta was one of the first brewers of the modern craft era to anchor here in New York City. It was 2012, and Buceta, a marketing executive with a knack for homebrewing, set up shop in the northern fringes of Astoria, Queens, where’s he’s been brewing ever since. While Buceta and co. introduce about a dozen new beers every year, favoring uniquely complex hop blends for IPAs, every beer from SingleCut proudly starts with the same core ingredient: that famous New York tap water.
Greenpoint Beer & Ale Company
Founded in 2014 by Ed Raven, a former salesman for Brooklyn Brewery who also owns the nearby beer store Brouwerij Lane, Greenpoint Beer & Ale Company is a process-driven operation that makes “small-batch ales, lagers, and brett beers five barrels at a time.” Though its can offerings are limited, know this: the IPAs, such as Turbulence and Instant Credibility, are some of the juiciest in town.
Though the idea for Finback Brewery stretches back to 2011 (at which time it went by the name Narwhal Brewery), the brewery didn’t formally open until 2014, after founders Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford settled on a space in Glendale, Queens. It’s a little off the beaten path, but cans of the brewery’s IPAs have been making their way to the city’s growing list of bottle shops, not to mention the city’s Whole Foods locations.