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  • Beers of New York

    Your globetrotting liquor reporter decided to jet away to NYC for the recently passed New Year’s Eve.

    As you might imagine, in a city of over 8 million people, your humble narrator had no trouble finding himself some nice craft beer to sip on while taking in the local culture.

    New York City has been home to many breweries for centuries, with the first brewery opened by the State Governor around 1612, very close to the current site of the New York Stock Exchange.

    This particular governor was very popular with the citizenry, and served in office for over a decade, in no small part due to his generous partaking of his own wares. Perhaps someone should mention this to our own Premier Redford as a possible campaign strategy.

    Up until the 1830s, all the beer available in NYC was made in the style of a dark ale with very little hop bitterness.

    However, massive waves of German immigrants brought with them a new style of beer called a lager, which quickly became the most popular beer style in not only New York City, but the entire country.

    Unfortunately, since lager beers must be fermented at much lower temperatures than ales, it posed a tricky dilemma in that pre-refrigeration era. Labourers would cut huge blocks of ice from Lake Erie, then float them down the Hudson River on barges to cool the fermentation cellars in the breweries.

    Sadly, the proud and mighty New York brewing industry was dealt a fatal blow in 1920, with the dark days of Prohibition reigning for thirteen long years.

    Most breweries closed entirely, but a few struggled along by making near-beer or other products. When Prohibition finally ended in 1933, only a few breweries remained solvent.

    It took a few years for the industry to recover, during which the Canadian breweries were all too happy to export their wares to their thirsty southern neighbours.

    One of the only breweries to survive Prohibition was little operation in Colorado called Coors, which you may have heard of.

    Interestingly, Coors started as a regional beer only available in the western United States, and did not have distribution across the country until the 1980s.

    Getting back to the matter of fine craft beers from New York, your humble narrator’s favourite brew pub was called Barcade Brooklyn, a drinking establishment crammed with 1980s-era video games like Frogger and Donkey Kong. Many beers were consumed trying to best my old Dig Dug high score from high school.

    Luckily, some of the craft beers from New York can be found at well-stocked liquor stores right here in Alberta.

    Brooklyn Brewing is probably the best example, and can be found in most Canadian provinces.

    My personal favourite was the Brooklyn Brown Ale, made in the traditional English style. The full and complex malt flavour is well balanced with a pronounced hop aroma, with overtones of coffee and chocolate on the palate.

    My lady friend, however, being raised on a steady diet of Coors Lite, preferred the Brooklyn Pilsner, made in the traditional Czech style, with a Yankee twist to adjust for much harder, more mineral-laden water supply in New York than the original and remarkably soft water used in the Bohemian town of Pilsen.

    For the baseball fans in the audience, the Brooklyn Pennant Ale was created to honour the Brooklyn Dodgers for winning the 1955 World Series, a feat they have repeated five times since then.

    The Brooklyn Pennant Ale is made in the style of an English Pale Ale, with a nice biscuity malt providing a base for a sharp and bitter hop flavour.

    There were also a cloudy Hefeweizen wheat beer and a ferociously hopped IPA available in New York, but only on tap at select pubs where beer aficionados were known to congregate, so we will not be seeing them anytime soon here in Alberta.

    Luckily, your globetrotting liquor reporter made it his solemn duty to seek out beer halls across the vast concrete jungles of the city that never sleeps, and was even able to sample the one-off single brewing of the Brewmaster’s Reserve Black Ale, which tasted somewhat similar to Calgary’s own Wild Rose Alberta Crude Stout.

    To get your own taste of New York City, head down to your local booze merchant for a six pack from Brooklyn Brewing.