NYC Beer Week to Celebrate Craft Beer's Growth in NY

Matt Murphy, February 19, 2015

As someone who spends a good amount of time at work reading papers from academic journals, I’ve become quite familiar with the conflict of interest statement. Do the authors have any biases or commercial interests that might cloud their judgement? It’s an important question to ask in order to accurately critique a paper.

In the interest of honesty, here’s my conflict of interest statement: I love New York craft beer.

I’ve lived in New York my entire life. My love affair with craft beer began while I was living in upstate NY and featured plenty of brews from Ithaca, Ommegang, and Southern Tier, among others.

Despite New York being a big craft beer state - in terms of both number of breweries and total beer production - I always felt like it got a bit overlooked. I didn’t get it. I felt like Ithaca Flower Power (7.5 BAR) could stand up to just about anything the west coast could offer. And Captain Lawrence’s barrel aging program featured several world-class sours, including Rosso e Marrone and Cuvee de Castleton.

I loved my state’s beer so dearly, that when I moved to NYC, I started a blog where I reviewed NY state beers to go with special Empire State Building lightings. I called it: Empire State of Beer. And when I introduced the concept of beer heat maps, one of the first things I used it for was to look at beer consumption patterns in NY.

While New York may have flown under the craft beer radar for some, there's reason for optimism that it will start getting the respect it deserves. This is due in large part to the explosion of the craft beer industry in NY. We all know that craft beer has been growing significantly across the US (and world) in recent years, but this trend has felt even stronger in NY. So, this being a "beer analytics" site, I turned to the Brewers Association for some insight into the numbers.

From 2011-2013, nearly 800 new breweries were registered in the United States, an increase of 39%. Over that same time span, New York added 90 breweries, for a whopping 120% increase. No other state with a significant craft beer presence (at least ten breweries) has added new breweries at a rate close to New York's.

To illustrate this point, here’s a chart comparing the brewery growth of NY State to the rest of the country, along with the rest of the top-10 states (in terms of total breweries, not including NY) and the bottom-40 states.

Many of these new breweries will be taking center stage over the upcoming week, where over 400 official events will take place across the five boroughs. (Details for many of these events can be found on the New York City Brewers Guild website). NY State has a rich brewing history, with a number of successful regional breweries including Southern Tier, Ommegang, and Captain Lawrence. However, aside from Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint, there has previously been a dearth of breweries in NYC.

With high property costs, it simply didn’t make a lot of economic sense to start a brewery in the city, which is why so many of the state’s breweries were in upstate NY or on Long Island. However, a confluence of factors have contributed to the recent boom of city brewing. Not only has general demand for craft beer increased, but the number of craft “enthusiasts” who are willing to pay a premium price for a quality product is growing as well. Also, the combination of craft-friendly legislation and the most densely populated metro area in the United States means lots of money to be made on brewery visits and direct-to-consumer sales.

This week, many of these newer breweries will look to distinguish themselves and leave a mark on the beer drinkers of NYC. While the festivities will officially begin on Friday, the celebration will really hit full steam on Saturday with the Opening Bash. And as a New Yorker, I couldn't be more happy that this year's opening festivities will exclusively feature NY state brewers.

Yesterday, our very own J.R. Shirt broke down his personal plan of attack for the event. While I was reading the article, I was struck by a theme: the prevalence of new breweries that Shirt has heard of, but hasn't gotten a chance to try yet or has had very limited exposure to. This no fault of his, as keeping up with the NYC beer scene would practically be a full time job!

Of the 40+ breweries that will be present at Saturday's opening bash, 22 of them were founded since 2012. And of those 22 young breweries, fourteen of them are located in New York City. While many of them don't yet appear on our leaderboards, those that do (such as Other Half and Grimm Artisanal Ales) look quite promising.

For those who might take a look at the leaderboards to find NY beers they should try, look no further! Of the breweries who will be at Saturday's Opening Bash (and figure to be present at a number of events next week), here are the top-13 beers by BAR:

Beer Style Brewery   Style+   BAR
Flower Power American IPA Ithaca Beer Co. 120 7.5
Resin Imperial  IPA Sixpoint Brewery 112 5.7
Hi-Res Imperial  IPA Sixpoint Brewery 112 5.5
Higher Standard Imperial Pale Ale Peekskill Brewery 126 5.3
15th Anniversary Ale Belgian Strong Dark Ale Brewery Ommegang 122 5.3
3Beans Baltic Porter Sixpoint Brewery 118 4.9
Amazeballs American Pale Ale Peekskill Brewery 124 4.9
Black Chocolate Stout Stout Brooklyn Brewery 120 4.6
Global Warmer Winter Warmer Sixpoint Brewery 120 4.5
Brooklyn Lager Vienna Lager Brooklyn Brewery 118 4.5
Gnomegang Belgian Strong Pale Ale Brewery Ommegang 118 4.5
Black Ops Russian Imperial Stout Brooklyn Brewery 114 4.4
All Green Everything Imperial IPA Other Half Brewing 116 4.4

The list is topped by classics such as Flower Power and Resin, but also contains staples from smaller breweries (Peekskill's Amazeballs) or limited releases from well-established breweries (Gnomegang) that you might have missed. Other Half is the lone brewery represented that is less than a decade old. Sorting by Style+ would include more new brews such as Bees with a Buzz, Void Light and Superfun!

As for the rest of the new breweries? We'll just have to go out into the wild to hunt them down and try them for ourselves. And NYC Beer Week is the perfect opportunity for beer lovers to do just that.

When he's not writing about beer, Matt works at the NYU Medical Center where he does cancer and stem cell biology research. You can find him on Twitter at @murphym45.

This is part an effort by BeerGraphs to team up with the New York State Brewer's Association to give you complete coverage of New York City Beer Week.