20161207

How to throw a holiday party, responsibly

An Edinburgh bartender at work (Photo: Bill Dowd)
• From the Dowd On Drinks archives

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) expends a lot of effort in educating the public about responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Here is the latest list of its “tips for hosting a responsible cocktail party.”

1. Designate a bartender who can serve your guests and keep an eye on how much everyone is drinking. The Federal Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

 2. Remember, alcohol is alcohol. It is important to understand that a standard serving of regular beer (12 ounces), wine (5 ounces) and spirits (a cocktail with 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits) each contains the same amount of alcohol.

3. Make sure you provide food to complement your cocktails. Consider food pairings to enhance the flavor of your chosen cocktails. Examples: fresh seafood and breads accentuate vodka cocktails; spiced and smoked meats and cheeses complement bourbon and Scotch whiskies; and fruit enhances rum and tequila flavors.

4. Make available non-alcoholic beverages for your guests. Create festive non-alcohol punch for those guests who choose not to drink alcohol.

 5. Make sure your guests have a safe way home either through a designated driver or a taxi. Have local taxi service numbers available for your guest.Pay attention in advance to companies that sponsor free rides during holidays and keep those numbers handy.

Cornell cider production averts disaster

Juice coming off the press (University photo)

Most people know Cornell University has a strong hotel and hospitality school that has produced talented staffers for the Capital Region and, indeed, the world.

Fewer people know the school's Cornell Orchards has been producing and selling its own cider to the public since the store opened in 1952.

And, even fewer know the production of Cornell cider recently seemed in jeopardy because of erratic temperatures and a late spring frost followed by a persistent summer drought affecting apple trees on the Ithaca campus.

How was the disaster averted? Go here for the full story.

Schenectady Saturday focus: chili and craft beer

Not much pairs better than beer and chili, so Saturday's Schenectady County Chili Chowdown & Craft Beer Trail promises to be well attended.

From 3 to 8 p.m., visitors will be able to sample chilis from various restaurants in Schenectady at $1 cup, and local craft beers for $1 per three-ounce cup.

This is a decentralized event, with visitors starting at a participating restaurant where they will be able to  pick up a map to use for strolling to other participating venues.

Nine of the 12 restaurants have partnered with specific local brewers; three will have chili only. The chart shows who is doing what.



Sixpoint tap takeover at Il Faro in Menands

A Brooklyn accent will be quite noticeable Friday night at Il Faro Restaurant & Bar in Menands.

That's when the Sixpoint Brewery will present a tap takeover from 5 to 8 p.m. The Brooklyn brewer will be offering single glasses as well as flights of its beers.

Sixpoint has become a media darling in the New York City metro area since its founding in 2004. It has a rather involved statement of philosophy on its website. Here is just one part of it:

"Trying to recreate a classical style is like an archer trying to hit the bullseye on a stationary target. But Sixpoint does not practice traditional archery -- we practice horseback archery. This means we aim and release while in motion, and we are aiming at a target that might be moving as well. Over time tastes change, and our knowledge and perception as brewers change too. So as we move through time galloping on horseback, we adjust for all of the variables to find the perfect trajectory ..."

Il Faro is located at  698 North Pearl Street. Phone: 463-2208. It opened a little over a year ago at the former location of The Other Company by a pair of ex-New York City residents, chef Chris Lofaro and general manager Jessica Lamoreaux.

'Brawl At the Hall' pits Albany, Troy brewers

Inter-city bragging right between teams of local breweries again will be up for grabs Thursday night at the City Beer Hall in Albany.

"Brawl At the Hall" will pit defending champion Troy, represented by Rare Form Brewing Company and Brown's Brewing Company, against Albany, represented by Druthers Brewing Company and C.H. Evans Brewing.

Beginning at 7 p.m. there will be 12 rounds of eight beers. The most beer poured during the 12 rounds determines the winning city. No cover charge for the event.

Mammal Dap will kick off in the Rodeo at 9 p.m. for the official after party.
 
City Beer Hall is located at begin at 42 Howard Street in Albany. Phone: 449-2337.

20161205

Oh, tannenkeg, oh tannenkeg ...



What consists of 430 beer kegs stacked in 11 layers, is 26 feet tall, and sports more than 2,000 feet of decorative lights? It's the Genesee Beer Keg Tree, an annual Rochester holiday tradition.

The process of creating the "tree" each year is as interesting as seeing the finished product. Check out the video to see why.

Happy Repeal Day!

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-7-15-08-pm
One of many Repeal parties across America on December 5, 1933
In case you hadn't realized it, today is a very special day for people involved in any fashion with adult beverages. It's Repeal Day. Specifically, the 83rd anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

In addition to widespread celebration, there's even a lineup of websites devoted to this wonderful piece of American history that overturned 13 years of misguided foolishness.

So, open a beer, pour some wine, or mix a cocktail and enjoy browsing through these sites:

Prohibition Facts & Summary
The Volstead Act
Prohibition In the United States
Repeal Day
The Lady Silvia
Prohibition: Unintended Consequences

Sweet Fire, a unique women's effort, gets bigger

Sweet Fire is an imperial stout brewed and fermented with cocoa nibs and a special chili blend that creates a balance of sweetness and spice at 8.5% ABV. But, that's not what is most interesting about it.

It's a unique beer produced by the collaboration of women in the beer industry who came up with the idea while attending a Brooklyn beer event in October 2014. Five friends decided to join forces to create a new beer style that would have big flavor and incorporate unique ingredients.

Tim  Butler, the head brewer at Central New York's Empire Brewing Company, was tasked with delivering the recipe. Since that first brew in 2014, the Sweet Fire collaboration has grown to an eclectic group of 14 women. They include entrepreneurs, sales reps, managers, writers, metro new York City beer establishment reps, and cicerones -- the latter holders of a specific industry certification.

In the past two years, the Brewsters --  a term from the Middle Ages referring to female brewers -- create small batches on the 7BBL system at the Empire Brewpub's Syracuse venue and released the liquid at limited quantities to the establishments they worked for.

Now that Empire has a 60BBL farm brewery in Cazenovia, southeast of Syracuse, the Sweet Fire women were invited there to brew on-site the largest batch ever of the beer. It is available throughout New York and New Jersey for a limited time.

The women behind this year's Sweet Fire:

Empire Brewing from New York and New Jersey -- Olivia Cerio, Tiffany Rogers, Lindsey Styborski, Aimée Walker, Sidney Stehle

New York City businesses  -- Jen Manslanka, Spring Lounge; Lindsey Ronchi, Gebhard’s Beer Culture; Katherine Kyle, Blind Tiger; Cherisse Ketchum, Manhattan Beer Distributers; Sonni Mariano, Manhattan Beer Distrubutors and The Gibson; Megan Giometi and Danielle Savin, Bob's Your Uncle; Kate Amos, Blue Smoke BBQ; Anne Becerra, Treadwell Park.

20161203

Foreign funding grows in U.S. craft beer world

• From the New York Post
Foreign beer makers are taking some big swigs of the frothy U.S. craft beer business.

Just this week, the number of breweries in this country surpassed 5,000 for the first time, up 1,000 in the past year and light years ahead of the 50 in operation in the mid-1980s, according to the Brewers Association.

Fueling some of this growth is the capital flowing in from foreign breweries, including giant conglomerates like Anheiser-Busch InBev, which bought nine U.S. breweries over the past couple of years and even smaller operations like Agrial, a French organization that bought Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing in September.

“The craft beer industry has gone global and these overseas breweries see the US as the most developed and best market for it,” said Benj Steinman, president of trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insight.
Go here for the full story.

Ancient Irish brewer comes to Buffalo

A red Irish ale
Who knows if it eventually will hit the Capital Region market, but the ancient Irish brewer Sullivan’s Brewing Co. has made its U.S. debut in the Buffalo market.

While the formal announcement was made today, its Maltings Irish Ale already had begun selling at a number of bars and restaurants in the Buffalo area.

Sullivan’s is one of Ireland’s oldest breweries, with roots dating back 314 years in its home town of Kilkenny. Its Maltings Irish Ale is a ruby-tinted classic beer and has such ingredients as Kilkenny water, four malts, three hops and a cask ale yeast.

Why did the company choose Buffalo as its initial U.S. market? As managing director Alan Quane said in a statement, "When thinking about the ideal American city to debut our Maltings Irish Ale, Buffalo quickly rose the ranks as the perfect audience and location. The region is a great fit and known for its hardworking, beer-appreciating, sports loving, grounded people, much like Kilkenny itself.”

State pushes Empire Brewing into China market

Empire Brewing Company is heading for a larger market than ever.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo this week announced that the Cazenovia company, the state's largest farm brewery, has become the first officially licensed "I ❤ New York" beer and will be distributed throughout China under Empire's "Two Dragons" label.

The beer will be branded with the "I ❤ New York" tourism logo to help call attention to the growing number of craft breweries and agritourism destinations in New York State. It is projected to arrive in China in February.

"New York's thriving, world-renowned craft beverage industry is creating new jobs and driving economic growth across the state, and this unique partnership will introduce one of our finest New York products to a global audience," Cuomo said in his announcement. "The iconic 'I ❤ New York' logo will promote the high quality of New York's food and beverage products and attract more visitors to craft beverage breweries, growing the industry and increasing tourism revenue across the state."

Two Dragons is an ale-style beer brewed with New York State hops and Chinese black tea. Empire Brewing Company owner David Katleski says he was inspired during a trip to China to combine the art of American craft brewing techniques with the history and precision of Chinese tea making. Initially designed for the Chinese market, the beer also is being distributed into Empire Brewing’s New York, New Jersey and Delaware distribution network.

The beer is being produced in Empire's new brewing facility in Cazenovia, about 20 miles southeast of Syracuse, supported by state funding from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Te new Farmstead Brewery covers 42,000 square feet. It will allow Empire to expand production from 4,500 barrels per year to 17,000 barrels in year one, and 20,000 barrels by year three.

Since 2011, the state has implemented a number of significant reforms and expanded programs to grow the craft beverage industry, including launching a $60 million statewide promotional campaign and hosting wine, beer and spirits summits across the state. New York now is home to more than 900 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries.

The number of farm wineries has increased from 195 in 2010 to 316 today; the number of microbreweries from 40 in 2010 to 154; the number of farm distilleries from 10 in 2010 to 98 today. Two new licenses have been created since 2011 -- the farm brewery license in 2013 and the farm cidery license in 2014. New York now is home to 132 farm breweries and 24 farm cideries.

The Cydesdales take Manhattan, for a day

The Clydesdales on 24th Street (Anheuser-Busch photo)
Visitors to New York City expecting to see the iconic horse-drawn carriages in Manhattan might be excused for any confusion on Friday caused by brewing giant Anheuser-Busch.

The company trotted out -- literally -- its eight-horse team of Clydesdales to celebrate the official opening of its new Commercial Strategy Office by reenacting an historic 1933 delivery of Budweiser beer, this time to Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul.

The team transported company CEO João Castro Neves and a case of replica 1933 Budweiser bottles to the new premises on 24th Street. Back in '33,  Anheuser-Busch made a similar delivery of Budweiser to then-Governor Al Smith to celebrate the end of Prohibition.

20161201

Tupper Lake brewpub to reopen

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-9-41-17-pmFrom the Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE — Big Tupper Brewing is set to reopen its brewpub on Tuesday, December 7. Co-owner Jim LaValley said he is finalizing the menu, which will shift to traditional pub fare, and is waiting on the State Liquor Authority (SLA) for approval. He expects the authority to provide a conditional approval this week. ...

Although the company has put much thought into reworking the menu, LaValley said the focus is still on the 14 taps inside the pub, which he expects to eventually have completely filled with BTB’s brews.

“Our brewer does great beers,” LaValley said. “The liquid is great, the marketing side is something of interest to me and again, it helps brand the community in a way that complements everything else that we’re doing. The brewpub will be a nice base camp.”

Go here for the full story.

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20161129

Crop density affects apple juice, hard cider quality

A high-density crop
From Phys.Org
Domestic cider consumption increased more than 850% in the past five years in the U.S., with more than 550 cider producers in the country.

The authors of a study published in HortScience say that more information about how orchard management decisions impact cider quality can help orchard managers improve cider they produce from culinary apples.

Cornell University's Gregory Peck, the study's corresponding author, along with [others] carried out field experiments to assess the impact of three different crop load densities on apple fruit and cider quality. ...

"The vast majority of cider produced in the United States is made from apple cultivars that were originally planted for fresh or processing markets," he said, noting that culinary apples lack some of the fruit quality characteristics favored by cider producers..
Go here for the full story.

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At Finnbar's Pub, God bless us every one

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-2-43-22-pmFinnbar’s Pub operates in a pair of connected historic downtown Troy buildings across an alley from the main post office. Some people say that sort of venue is a place with a lot of ghosts.

It began in the mid-19th Century as a hotel at 452 Broadway, then from 1903 to 1925 was home to the Stoil Brewing Company. It later operated as a saloon called Eddie’s, one of the city’s “men’s bars,” and eventually the pub Holmes & Watson before it became Finnbar's in 2012.

As to the presence of ghosts, that will become a reality for three consecutive Saturdays beginning this weekend when the Collar City Players theater troupe will present a reading of Charles Dickens's “A Christmas Carol,” adapted for the barroom stage by Jack Bebb and Matt MacArevey. Food and drink will be available, of course, including $5 pints of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

Tickets are $10, cash, are available only at the bar. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. each day, with readings at noon.

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20161128

Scottish craft brewer making an unusual offer

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-1-27-21-pmOK, you people with an entreprenuerial spirit. How would you like to become the proprietor of a "beer mecca, hop temple and cathedral of malt"?

That's the offer from the Scottish craft brewer and pub chain BrewDog, a company that will enter the U.S. market next year in Columbus, OH, accompanied by a promise to open a BrewDog BrewPub in any American city where at least 500 people invest in its crowdfunding offering, called Equity For Punks USA. Brewing will be done on-site at each location.

“Our BrewDog bars are beer meccas, hop temples and cathedrals of malt," said CEO James Watt. "We strive to spread the word about awesome craft beer in our bars, embracing the local beer scene and providing a platform for the world’s best beers to be enjoyed in an inimitable setting."

Every investor of at least $95 will receive equity shares in the company, as well as other incentives. Details are available online, along wit a video about the venture.

Although the Ohio location will be the first in the U.S., BrewDog already is an international venture with locations in London, Rome, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, and Hong Kong as well as its native Scotland.

Curious for more? These other sites have all the information on this blog PLUS additional info and links pertinent to their specialty topics:

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20161123

Cask Festival coming up at Allen Street Pub

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-34-57-pmThe Allen Street Pub in Albany will hold its 4th annual Cask Festival beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"We will have several cask conditioned ales from all over the U.S.A.," say the organizers, "along with iconic ales from Scotland and England rarely served in the U.S. The infamous J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale, aged in Calvados barrels, two from LochNESS Brewery in Scotland, and a UK staple, Bad King John by Ridgeway."

The brews will be served in traditional fashion, from the vessel in which they were naturally carbonated through secondary fermentation.

The pub is located at 332 South Allen Street in Albany. Phone: 526-2455. Details of the event are on the website.

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20161119

Craft Brewers Festival ticket sales about to begin

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-1-44-28-pmThe event won't take place until March, but tickets will go on sale in a few days. The event is the 4th annual Craft New York Brewers Festival to be held at The Desmond in Colonie, usually a sellout.

The creation of the New York State Brewers Association promises 50 or so breweries from throughout the state offering more than 100 different beers. They will be paired with food from Capital Region restaurateurs and food vendors at no extra cost to attendees.

The event, this year set for Saturday, March 25, sells out quickly. Among options this year is a limited number of VIP tickets that will provide access one hour earlier as well as access to selected beer that will not available to the general public. You can check back here to see when tickets for the Colonie event go on sale.

The VIP Ticket beers will include the following rare one-off beers:

 -- Farmhouse Brewery: The Sour Evangelist, Sour Tomatillo Gose
-- Upstate Brewing: Double IPA -- Empire Brewing Company: Two Dragons
-- C.H. Evans: Rum Barrel Aged Poor Soldier Porter
-- Olde Saratoga Brewing: Saratoga Kolsch Aged in Chardonnay Barrels
-- Crossroads Brewing: Black Rock Stout
-- Saint James Brewery: Bottled Conditioned Apple Ale “Pomme” made with apples from Long Island
-- Erie Canal Brewing: Amber Waves of Grain American Pale Ale & Locktender IPA
-- Shmaltz Brewing: Funky Jewbelation
-- Coney Island Brewing: MerMAN Imperial Pilsner
-- Saranac: Barrel Aged Imperial Rye Porter
-- Four Mile Brewing: Reap Series featuring all New York hops and
-- Greenport Harbor Brewing: Cuvaison 2015 and Canard Noir (Black Saison)
-- Brown's Brewing: Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale
-- Wolf Hollow Brewing: District 6 IPA with a special “trifecta” addition of local hops from RockinHops: Chinook, Centennial, and Columbus
-- Prison City Brewing: Passion Fruit Sour
-- Binghamton Brewing: Xocolatl Aztec Porter
-- Good Nature Brewing: Bier De Marc
-- Community Beer Works: Smoke Rauchbier
-- The Brewery at the CIA/Rare Form Collaboration: Ludicrous Speed Winter Pale Ale, – an unfiltered golden pale ale brewed with lemon peel and juniper berries
-- Southern Tier: Grand Arbor, a limited release Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale brewed with Local Maple Syrup
-- Wolf Hollow Brewing: District 6 IPA Cask with a fresh Centennial hop from Rockin Hops local hops
-- Adirondack Brewery: Firkin of Ryan’s Irish Red with wood chips soaked in Irish whisky
-- Rushing Duck: Dog’s Bollocks barrel aged 2014 barleywine
-- Lake Placid Pub & Brewery: Imperial Smoked Porter
-- Brooklyn Brewery: Improved Old Fashioned, the latest barrel aged BQE Series

Curious for more? These other sites have all the information on this blog PLUS additional info and links pertinent to their specialty topics:

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20161115

Update: Distributor responds to lawsuit alleging fraud

lawsuit-iconUPDATE (11/18/16): Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits has responded to allegations in a lawsuit that it has been defrauding four Albany, NY,  bars. Its statement: "We at Southern Glazer’s of Upstate New York are deeply concerned by the inaccurate accusations made in a recent lawsuit filed in Albany. We plan to vigorously defend the lawsuit. The lawsuit arises out of the alleged wrongful conduct of a single employee acting independently in violation of company policy and who has been terminated. We have a long and proud tradition of the highest ethical business practices and our nearly 2,000 employees in New York fulfill our expectations in this regard every day. We take these allegations very seriously and our customers can rest assured that we have rigorous policies, procedures and training in place. We will not have any further comments about the lawsuit but anticipate we will ultimately prevail."  

(Originally published 11/15/16)

These are strange times for major New York State players in the adult-beverage sales industry.

As I reported on Friday, the huge Empire Merchants has filed a lawsuit alleging fraud by an Illinois company that responded by trying to buy out Empire ("Drinks distributor war takes an odd turn"). Today comes word that Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits is being accused in a $1.25 million lawsuit of defrauding four Albany bars over a period of years by charging for alcohol the businesses never ordered or received.

The suit, according to the Times Union, filed on Tuesday alleges that a salesman for Southern Wine and Spirits, with knowledge of management, repeatedly put through unrequested last-minute orders, known as “will calls,” that the representative signed for under his own name or with forged signatures, sometimes misspelled, of representatives of The Barrel Saloon, The Capital Bistro, Public House 42, and Pearl Street Pub.

The suit, filed on behalf of Pratt and Depoli by attorney James D. Linnan, seeks $500,000 for Pearl Street Pub, the oldest of the four bars, $250,000 apiece for the other three, punitive damages to be determined, court costs and attorney fees, according to the TU.

Go here for the full story.
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Cuomo OKs aid to 'home' brewing

regulation-iconAlthough Governor Andrew Cuomo has many detractors in many segments of the state, if you ask people involved in the adult beverage industries they are likely to want him to become governor for life.

Cuomo has been instrumental in the rapid and continuing growth of the wine, beer, spirits and cider segments, through a series of informational summits and regulatory changes that have changed the landscape of business through elimination of red tape and antiquated rules involving creation, production and sales of such products.

His latest action came on Monday when he signed into law a bill from the State Legislature to help expand what his office terms "recreational" or "homebrew" production of beer, wine and cider in New York State. It does not involve the creation of liquor.

The bill (S.1227B/A1100B) allows for the creation and operation of custom beer, wine, and cider production centers that will rent space and equipment to those looking to produce beer, wine, or cider for home consumption. The State Liquor Authority (SLA) will regulate the centers.

"The craft beverage industry has taken this state by storm, and more and more New Yorkers want to try their hand at making the next great Empire State beer, wine, or cider," Cuomo said. "This new law builds upon this increased interest, supports local agriculture, and breaks down artificial barriers to allow innovation and creativity to flow."

The new law was spurred by the fact that both urban and suburban residents often cannot afford or do not have access to the appropriate space or equipment to make homemade beer, cider, or wine in their homes or apartments. "These custom production centers not only provide space and lower the overhead costs of production, but they also provide amateur brewers and wine and cider makers with the local ingredients and expert training needed when first starting out," the announcement said.

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20161108

Go behind the cider scene at Nine Pin

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-39-26-pmThe number of farm cideries in New York State continues to rise, with the latest state report showing it has tripled in just two years.

The number of licensed farm cideries has jumped to 24 from just eight in 2014. Under a three-year-old state law, a "farm" cidery does not have to be located on a farm, but must exclusively use New York-grown apples and other pome fruits (pears, cotoneaster, quince, rowan, etc.), with annual production of up to 150,000 gallons.

Creation of the category was intended to find another use for the state's large annual apple crop that is second only to that of the state of Washington.

If you'd like to get a look behind the scenes of the industry, Nine Pin Ciderworks of Albany, the state's first modern-day farm cidery, will host its 3rd annual Pressing Party from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday. Tickets are available online.

The crew will be pressing more than 100 varieties of apples into one "Monster" blend, and the event also will feature the release of the 2015 vintage of The Cider Monster. Local vendors will take advantage of the "pressing" event with panini and grilled cheese presses, French-pressed coffee, body-pressing massages, and an apple jug bench press competition. Live music will be provided by The Sacandaga String Band and The Other Brothers.

Nine Pin Ciderworks is located at 929 Broadway, Albany. Phone: (518) 449-9999.

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2 from region are gold in Great American Beer Fest

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-33-59-pmTwo breweries on the periphery of the Greater Capital Region earned gold medals at the recent Great American Beer Festival.

 Judging in the 30th annual beer competition that was part of the 35th annual festival in Denver, CO, that featured 1,800 breweries from all 50 states and Washington, DC. More than 7,000 beers were entered into 96 categories.

The Adirondack Pub & Brewery of Lake George took a gold medal in the Wood and Barrel-aged Sour Beer category for its Sour Project Ale, a Belgian style golden sour beer aged in Pinot Noir barrels and infused with various yeasts.

Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown received a gold medal in the Belgian-style Witbier category for its Witte Ale, a traditional Belgian white ale brewed with malted and unmalted wheat, orange peel and coriander.

Two other New York breweries also earned golds. Broken Bow Brewery, located in Tuckahoe, Westchester County, medaled in the Belgian-style Strong Specialty Ale category for its Old Split-foot, a full-bodied Belgian ale with a complex flavor of blended fruit, honey and cloves. And, the Great South Bay Brewery of Bay Shore, Long Island, a farm brewery, won gold in the Honey Beer category for its Jetty Cream Ale, a medium-bodied beer also was rated light, crisp and smooth.

Full results of the competition are available online.

20161106

Buffalo Wild Wings adds a less potent brew

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-2-19-05-pmPatrons of Buffalo Wild Wings will be seeing a new limited-time brew on the bar menu.

The national chain -- whose motto is simply "Wings. Beer. Sports." -- has partnered with Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, CA, to create a new, lower-alcoholic beer called Fandom Ale for its customers who want a less potent brew.

Fandom Ale is available for a limited time at all 1,188 links in the Minneapolis-based sports bar chain that claims to serve more draft beer than any other restaurant group in the country.

In the Capital Region, BWW is located in the Clifton Park Center shopping complex.

 Fandom Ale is a mix of wheat beer and pale ale with a citrus aroma. It has 5.5% abv, less than some of its hoppier India pale ale beers. A review at the BeerAdvocate website says it “smells of citrus, hops, sweet malt and a hint of alcohol. Fits the style of an American Pale Ale.”

Drinks, soups festivals at Albany Park Lakehouse

lightsThose of you -- OK, those of us -- who will overindulge at Thanksgiving dinner no doubt will be looking for something lighter during the week leading up to the big day. Something liquid, perhaps.

 In conjunction with the 20th annual Capital Holiday Lights in the Park display in Albany’s Washington Park, which is scheduled to open the day after Thanksgiving, a pair of preview events are planned for the Washington Park Lakehouse:

• "A Taste of the Holidays" -- This craft beer and wine festival will run from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday, November 19. Producers will include Albany Distillng Co., Nine Pin Cider, Adirondack Winery, Brookview Station Winery, Cascade Mountain Winery, Chatham Brewery, Davidson Brothers, Druthers, Helderberg Mountain Brewery, High Rock Distillery, Hudson-Chatham Winery, Saratoga Winery, Shmaltz Brewing, and Yankee Distillers. Admission is $20 in advance online, $45 at the door ($9.25/$15 for designated drivers). Suggested donation of $5 per person, $10 per family to walk through the lights display.

• "Soup & Chowder Festival" -- From 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, November 20, $1 samples of soups and chowders will be available from Albany Dog House, Bob’s Diner, B-rad's Bistro Express at 677, Bonefish Grill, Brown’s Brewing, Carol’s Place, Carrabba's Italian Grill, City Line Bar and Grill, Glenmont Job Corps, Grandma’s Pie Shop, Il Faro Restaurant, Innovo Kitchen, Junior’s Bar & Grill, O’Brien’s Public House, Maggie’s Café and Sports Bar, Muddaddy Flats, Parish Public House, Reel Seafood, Ship’s Pub, Stewart’s Shops, Sweet Mama Mia’s Catering, Tipsy Moose Tavern, The Towne Tavern, Westfall Station Café. Free admission to festival; suggested donation of $5 per person, $10 per family to walk through the lights display.

Price Chopper/Market 32 is sponsoring the lights event as a fundraiser for the Albany Police Athletic League (PAL).

Syracuse is this month's 'Beer Central'

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-1-46-46-pmSyracuse is becoming Upstate's Beer Central this week. While the 9th annual Syracuse Beer Week began today, planners continued working on the 4th annual New York Craft Brewers Festival that will be held on Saturday, November, at the city's downtown Landmark Theatre.

Syracuse Beer Week runs all week at varying degrees of intensity. It offers tasting and samplings at stores, bars and restaurants, some beer-and-food pairings at bars and restaurants, meet-and-greets with brewers and various informational sessions.

For those among you who might want to head for Syracuse to join the festivities this week, Don Cazantre, a columnist for Syracuse.com, has a good run down of the various events here.

20161103

Kidney Foundation 'Chili Challenge' adds beers

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-11-02-30-pmChili competitions are commonplace, especially in our historically chilly (as opposed to chili) climate. Chili competitions with a beer component? Not so much.

That's what makes the Northeastern Kidney Foundation’s 8th annual "Chili Challenge," set for 1 to 7 p.m. this Saturday in Saratoga Springs, a bit different.

In addition to restaurants from around the Capitol Region putting their chili recipes up for judging, for the first time there is an adult beverage component -- beers and ciders from Saratoga Brewing, Druthers of Saratoga, Adirondack Brewery, and 1911 Cider.

The food will come from, among others, Carol's Place of Troy; Salty's Pub & Bistro of Clifton Park; Mikey G's Taste of South Philly from Ballston Spa; and the Saratoga Springs lineup of Harvey's Restaurant and Bar, Excelsior Springs at the Marriott, West Side Sports Bar & Grill, Park Side Eatery, Peabody's Sports Bar and Grill, and The Local Pub and Teahouse.

The event will be divided into two tasting times -- 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., with VIP admission an hour earlier for both. Tickets, available online, are $35 for VIP, $25 for chili and beer, $15 for chili only, and $ for kids 6-12 (under 6 free).

The venue, the Excelsior Springs Conference Center, is located at 47 Excelsior Avenue.

20161102

Modern Irish (?) bar to open at Crossgates

Kingston, MA, Waxy's
What is a "modern Irish bar"?

That question might be answered in the same way as one would answer the question "What do they call Chinese food in China?"

The answer to the second is, obviously, "food." The Irish probably call a modern bar a "bar," or a pub if they are traditionalists. But, a small chain called Waxy’s, scheduled to open next spring in Crossgates Mall below the Funnybone Comedy Club, adds the phrase "The Modern Irish Bar" to its name.

Apparently what makes it "modern" is 100 or more beers on tap and 30 or so television screens. Begorrah!

That range of possibilities might sit well with people who liked the recently-departed World of Beer venue, offering 500 beers, that quietly pulled out of Crossgates last summer. The location will be Waxy's 10th. Existing locations are in Fort Lauderdale, FL; San Antonio, TX; Keene, NH; Plainville, CT; and five in Massachusetts -- Lexington, Foxboro, Kingston, Woburn, and Brookline.

The food menu doesn't sound particularly Irish, either traditional or American style. A sandwich labeled "Dublin Dip" consists of beef, Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and horseradish sauce on ciabatta; an entree called "Dubliner Chicken" is a boneless breast stuffed with grilled scallions, Dubliner cheese and pork & leek sausage. A ground lamb shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash are a nod to common pub fare in Ireland and Britain. Most of the rest of the menu is the usual mix of American pub apps, sandwiches and entrees found everywhere.

I believe I have a found a tipoff to the sort of atmosphere we'll find when Waxy's debuts here. According to its website, "To the Irish, talking is an essential part of the human condition so be prepared to have a chat, we love that. Where are you from? What do you do? Have you ever been to Ireland?

"We Irish love to share. Bump into us anywhere in the world and you’ll know beyond doubt that this is a truism. We’ll share our back-story with complete strangers -- even if you haven’t asked us to! We like to share, its how we make friends. Sharing a good story is a great way to get to know someone, sharing a beer is even better."

But, you will have to talk over those 30 TV sets.

Begorrah, again!

20161008

Nine Pin Cider Works shows off new look

One view of the redesigned tasting room.
One view of the new tasting room
The renovated and redesigned Nine Pin Cider Works unveiled its new look at Friday party, the culmination of a $500,000 project.

The project was made possible through funding by Empire State Development via the Capital Region Regional Economic Development Council. In addition to the esthetic improvements, it included the installation of seven 6,000-gallon fermentation tanks.

Alejandro del Peral, co-founder and cider maker, reports that Nine Pin products now are served in more than 1,000 bars, restaurants, and retail locations in New York and Massachusetts.

The state's first farm cidery, which will mark its third anniversary in February, is located at 949 Broadway in Albany's Warehouse District near the Nipper building. Go here for more images of the new look.

20161006

'Day of the Dead' dinner at Boca Bistro

In Mexico, November 1 is "The Day of the Dead," a time for celebration, cemetery visits, costumes, parades and, for some people, the intake of copious amounts of beer and tequila. This year, at least in Saratoga Springs, we're talking beer and vodka as part of a Death Wish Coffee Beer & Vodka Dinner.

Boca Bistro is collaborating with Deathwish Coffee, Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., and Albany Distillery to create the 6:30 p.m. dinner that will feature four beers brewed by Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. and Albany Distillery's Deathwish Vodka, all created using what is billed as the world's strongest coffee.

Go here to see the menu for the four-course dinner. Reservations, which are required, are $65 plus tax and tip and may be made online or by calling the restaurant at 682-2800.

Boca Bistro is located at 384 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

20160930

North Albany Oktoberfest set for Saturday

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-54-25-pmAs I was driving down Broadway in Albany's Warehouse District this morning, it occurred to me that simple task would be impossible on Saturday.

That's when Wolff's Biergarten will be hosting its annual North Albany Oktoberfest block party. As in the past, the city will block off Broadway to vehicular traffic between Ferry and Thatcher streets. That stretch will be turned over to food vendors, keg bowlers, dachshund racers and other partyers. Plus, there always is the Oktoberfest 5K run.

Tickets, available online, are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the event. A $50 VIP ticket covers a free souvenir 1-liter stein, hors d'oeuvres, a wine selection, and private rest rooms. The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

20160929

Merger creates gigantic beer company

Screen shot 2016-09-29 at 3.26.01 PMIt will be interesting to see how long it takes for consumers to be affected, but for now it's enough to know that the newest international corporate mega-merger is creating a company that will sell more than a quarter of all the beers sold worldwide and will be the fifth-largest consumer goods company on the globe.

The latest hurdle was cleared on Wednesday when shareholders of SABMiller overwhelmingly backed the brewer’s $100 billion-plus takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev. For the latter, it provides entry into Africa and large, fast-growing Latin American markets such as Colombia and Peru.

A-B InBev’s $103 billion bid was approved in a brief meeting in London. Seventy-five percent of the vote was needed to approve, but 95.5% of SABMiller share value was received.

In an earlier meeting in Brussels, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito said the new entity would continue to be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, eliminating any corporate reference to SABMiller, the 120-years-old company founded in South Africa. The brewer had changed its name after transformative deals in the past, such as InBev’s 2008 takeover of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch.

“They can call it what they wish. That’s the way life works and that’s fine,” du Plessis told reporters after the meeting.

Several joint ventures will be terminated to satisfy anti-trust rules, and such brands as Pironi will be divested. However, the new company still will have such brands as Budweiser, Miller, Corona, Busch, Stella Artois, Rolling Rock, Redd's, Shock Top, Beck's, Kirin, Landshark, Goose Island, O'Doul's, Bass, Beck's ... and on and on.

20160927

Red Robin to debut a burger-inspired ale

Going into this year, the folks at headquarters decided to make a subtle but meaningful change in the restaurant group's name to Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews. Now, as part of ongoing modifications to its bar program, Red Robin is about to release its first-ever burger-inspired beer, in collaboration with New Belgium Brewing.

It's called Grilled Pineapple Golden Ale, inspired by Red Robin's Banzai Burger, and will make its debut in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival on October 6-8. The burger recipe features a fresh, fire-grilled patty glazed in teriyaki, topped with grilled pineapple, Cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on a sesame seed bun.

To accurately capture the components of the burger, New Belgium developed the beer to complement the burger's teriyaki and pineapple flavor profile. Says the Red Robin announcement:

"New Belgium's brewmasters used ginger, brown sugar and black malt to build up the soy and umami notes, followed by a dose of pineapple chunks and a touch of applewood-smoked malt to give the beer a recognizable Banzai Burger finish."

There are more than 540 Red Robin restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. In the Capital Region, there are Red Robin restaurants at 880 Loudon Road in Latham at the Route 9 entrance to the Latham Farms shopping complex, and at 1 Crossing Boulevard in Halfmoon.

20160921

LI craft brewer creates a 'debate beer'

Screen shot 2016-09-21 at 6.32.41 PMNever let it be said that the American entrepreneurial spirit has gotten weak, no matter which major political party it favors.

Take the Blue Point Brewing Company, for example. The Long Island craft brewery, established in 1998, on Tuesday unveiled Colonial Ale, what it refers to as a "debate beer" based on a George Washington recipe. It will debut outside the Trump-Clinton presidential debate at Hofstra University on Monday.

According to an announcement by the brewer, located in Patchogue about 35 miles east of the Hofstra campus, Colonial Ale, is a modern take on a 1757 recipe belonging to Washington, then a 25-year-old colonel in the Virginia Regiment militia.

The recipe, which calls for era-appropriate ingredients such as corn, molasses and spruce tips in place of hops, comes from a notebook owned by Washington during the French and Indian War.

20160920

CIA hosting HV craft beverage conference

Screen shot 2016-09-20 at 4.26.34 PMRegistration is now open for the 4th annual Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit, scheduled for October 4 at the Culinary Institute of America.

The event, intended for those working in the industry, will feature a lineup of discussions related to the craft beverage industry’s current climate, and future opportunities in the Hudson Valley region. Of course, participants will be able to sample a variety of beers, wines, spirits and ciders.

Charles Merinoff, principal founder and co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group and a 35-year veteran of the beverage distribution industry, will be the keynote speaker. The conference will begin at noon at the CIA's Marriott Pavilion. Seating is limited and advance registration, available online, is required.

The CIA is located at 1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, near Route 9.

20160914

Marcy farm brewery plans cask ale festival

Screen shot 2016-09-14 at 2.58.03 PMThe new Woodland Farm Brewery is going English for a day.

The Oneida County facility that opened in January will host its inaugural New York State Cask Ale Fest on Saturday, October 15.

A cask ale is a traditional way to serve beer in England, with unfiltered and unpasteurized beer conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Brewers claim such a style allows for more flavors and varieties.

In addition to offering samples of Woodland's efforts, the Cask Ale Fest also will feature specialty brews from Shmaltz, F.X. Matt, Good Nature, Binghamton, Lunkenheimer, and Fulton Chain Craft Brewing. Tickets are available online or at any participating brewery.

Incidentally, Woodland today released a new beer called Station 4, a slightly smoky red ale that brewer A.J. Spado says is a tribute to local firefighters.

Woodland, a hop farm as well as a farm brewery, is located at 6002 Trenton Road in Marcy, about midway between Utica and Rome. Phone: (315) 864-3051.

New law evens cideries' playing field

Inside the Nine Pin Ciderworks
Inside Nine Pin Ciderworks

"The Greeks and Romans mastered the art of cider making. When Romans invaded England around 55 B.C., they found that cider was already being enjoyed by the locals there. By that time, apple trees had long ago migrated from forests around Kazakhstan and were well established across Europe and Asia. It was in southern England, France, and Spain that the technique of fermenting -- and later distilling -- the fruit was perfected. Evidence of this ancient art can be found in the European countryside today, where large circular apple grinding stones used to crush the fruit are still half buried in the fields."
-- Amy Stewart, "The History of Cider Making"

Although in the early United States cider was a popular everyday beverage, over the years what we call "hard" cider to distinguish it from the non-alcoholic version virtually disappeared. However, in recent years it has made a strong comeback, in New York State helped immeasureably by changes in alcoholic beverage laws and the fact that the state is second only to Washington in apple growing.

But, enticing the public to visit cideries for tasting and purchasing has been a bit difficult. That should change because of a new piece of legislation signed into law on Tuesday by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. It allows farm cideries to serve not only cider but wine, beer and spirits by the glass. Before that move, farm cideries were required to apply for separate farm brewery, winery, or distillery licenses to be able to serve such beverages by the glass. Whereas a cidery could sell beer, wine, and spirits by the bottle for retail, a consumer could not consume by the glass.

The new law was pushed in the state Legislature by Senator George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, D-Albany.

"As New York's farm beverage industry continues to grow, it's important to do everything we can to encourage further expansion of this important piece of our economy," Amedore said. "Allowing farm cideries to offer other New York State-produced beers, wines, and spirits by the glass encourages cross promotion of all the great products New York State has to offer, and will help strengthen the growing craft beverage industry."

Alejandro Peral, founder and owner of Albany's Nine Pin Ciderworks, the state's first farm cidery, said, “This bill creates parity among the various farm based licensees and supports the growth of the value added products produced by them. We will now be able to serve other New York farm based beverages to our customers in our tasting room just as those farm wineries and breweries are able to serve cider to their customers.”

"As a coalition of craft beverage producers [we] thank Governor Cuomo, Senator Amedore, and Assembly Member Fahy for their leadership to make regulations easier for farm-based producers to promote New York-made beverages. As a distiller and small business owner myself, this continues the state's commitment to building the farm-based craft alcohol sector," said John Curtin of Albany Distilling Company and president of the Capital Craft Beverage Trail Association.

20160913

Barrel Saloon rebounds from smoker blaze

The scene of the mess
Scene of the mess
The Barrel Saloon & Texas BBQ opened today as planned, recovered from an outdoor Sunday fire.

Owner Chris Pratt reports "The smoker, the roof and the decking were all destroyed. No one was injured in any way. The building is brick so nothing happened at all in the building."

The Barrel Saloon staff got an extra day to clean up since the establishment is closed on Mondays. And, because there is a second smoker on the premises, food is being served as usual, and a check with the business at mid-day today said things are going smoothly.

The restaurant-pub is located at 942 Broadway, Albany. Phone: 694-0670. Curious about the extensive menu? Click here to see it.

Ex-Druthers chef moves to Olde English Pub

Sean Comiskey
Sean Comiskey
Sean Comiskey, the founding chef at Druthers Brewing in Saratoga Springs who left there three months ago, has landed a new gig -- executive chef at The Olde English Pub & Pantry in Albany.

Comiskey will introduce his first full menu sometime next month, as first reported by Steve Barnes in his Table Hopping blog. Given Comiskey's reputation for it, count on the inclusion of his version of mac-and-cheese.

Comiskey succeeds Ross Thompson, who recently resigned the post after three years and returned to his native Delaware. In turn, Comiskey was succeeded as the Druthers corporate head chef, supervising its brewpub locations in Saratoga and Albany, by Mike Spain, who had run the kitchen at Druthers-Albany since it opened last year.

Comiskey is a graduate of the Schenectady County Community College culinary program. He is a regular in local culinary competitions, scoring wins in such events as Saratoga Chowderfest, the Mac-n-Cheese Bowl, and Slider Slam. In 2013, he was a nominee in the annual Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival's Rising Star Chefs category.

The Olde English Pub & Pantry is located on Quackenbush Square, 683 Broadway at the foot of Clinton Avenue. Phone: 434-6533.

20160912

'Eco-brewery district' part of Genesee expansion

Drawing of part of the project
Drawing shows part of project
Fans of the Genesee Brewery in Rochester -- and there must be many since it has been around for 138 years -- undoubtedly will like the company's announcement of a $49.1 million to expand the facility and to create an "Eco-Brewery District."

North American Breweries, owner of the state's oldest brewery and currently employer of 592 people there, and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo jointly announced the project, which will be partially paid for by the state's taxpayers.

Specifically, the state's Empire State Development (ESD) arm will provide up to $4.5 million in performance-based "Excelsior Jobs Program" tax credits in return for the company’s commitment to create 128 jobs overall; through the "Upstate Revitalization Initiative" ESD will provide a $5 million capital grant; and, another $3 million of the capital grant is tied to the company hiring 64 persons deemed to have been impacted by poverty.

“The expansion of the Genesee Brewery is a symbol of the economic renaissance unfolding throughout the Finger Lakes and an important example of how we are leveraging the region’s resources to generate growth and opportunity,” Cuomo said.

The project includes installation of what is termed "one of the most advanced brewing systems in the world," expansion of the Genesee Brew House restaurant and tasting room; improvements and expansion for the pilot brewery, and a new event space, for a total expansion of 18,000 square feet.

The announcement says, "The multi-phase project will culminate in the creation of an 'Eco-Brewery District' that will provide a sustainable destination for brewing, tasting and learning about beer in Rochester. The designation of 'Eco-Brewery' aligns with the company’s philosophy of helping to sustain its neighborhood and beer and brewing community while reducing its environmental footprint."

Working in collaboration with the local Monroe Community College, the district also is intended to support workforce development for the beer industry. In addition, the district would be marketed as a tourist attraction that aligns with the High Falls Gorge nearby the low-income Northeast neighborhood.

“Over the past six years, North American Breweries has invested $70 million in Genesee, creating 250 new jobs in the beer industry. Genesee has been a big part of the brewing renaissance in Rochester,” said company CEO Kris Sirchio, "[and] has a great opportunity to help Rochester become a premier destination for beer and brewing."

Marrying cider-, beer-making techniques

Kevin and Evan in an artsy image they provided
Kevin and Evan in their artsy image
Politics is all about finding a gimmick to help sell someone or something to the masses. So, a pair of Finger Lakes beverage producers are hoping their partnership in creating a cider called "Make America Grape Again" will find willing consumers.

The name is, of course, a riff on Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. You know, the same slogan Hillary and Bill Clinton have proclaimed as racist even though in the past they repeatedly used precisely the same phrase to push their political agendas. Yeah, that slogan.

The new cider is the product of a partnership between Kevin Collins of Cider Creek Hard Cider in Canisteo, southeast of Hornell, and Evan Miles of Miles Wine Cellars in Himrod on Seneca Lake. Collins previously teamed up with brewers -- Resurgence Brewing Company of Buffalo, Swiftwater Brewing of Rochester, and Stoneyard Brewing of Brockport -- to produce small batch ciders, but this is his first collaboration with a winery.

It features Lemberger grapes, saison ale yeast, and champagne yeast, resulting in notes of raspberry, blackberry, plum and pepper. Wines made from Lemberger typically have a light tannin level. The saison ale yeast adds citrus notes, and the champagne yeast adds to the effervescence. The yeasts also join to create a light pink hue.

Why the name, "Make America Grape Again"? The two entrepreneurs say Trump's entrepreneurial spirit and support for agriculture make him the best candidate to "help us grow as businessmen, farmers and beverage producers."

20160908

Wolff's Biergartens offer 'brunch bill' specials

Screen shot 2016-09-08 at 4.43.04 PMNow that restaurants and taverns can serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays rather than being restricted to a noon start, keep an eye out for specials at all sorts of places.

Among the first to take advantage of the new law -- nicknamed the "brunch bill" but endlessly referred to by people who don't know enough not to use childish terms as "booze" legislation -- are the four Wolff’s Biergarten locations.

Beginning this Sunday, and on Sundays through the end of the month, from 10 a.m. to noon customers will be able to purchase a half-liter of beer for the price of one-third of a liter, a full liter for the price of a half, and one-liter Bloody Marys for $12.

Wolff’s locations are 2 King Street in Troy, 895 Broadway in Albany, 165 Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, and 106 Montgomery Street in Syracuse.

20160907

'Brunch bill' goes into effect today

Legislation SmallThe timing seemed fitting when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the latest amendment to the state's alcoholic beverage control laws this morning. After all, the package of changes has been nicknamed the "brunch bill."

The change, the latest in a steady stream of modernizations of the laws under Cuomo's administration, immediately allows restaurants and bars to begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays, two hours earlier than previously allowed. In addition, such businesses outside New York City will be able to apply for 12 permits per year to sell alcohol as early as 8 a.m.

Also going into effect because of the signing: permission for the sale of wine in growlers, allowing liquor stores to sell gift wrapping and gift bags, and cutting more red tape for craft alcohol producers and sellers.

“After more than 80 years, it’s about time to bring the rules governing the sale of alcohol in line with the demands of our customers,” Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association, said in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and SLA Chairman (Vincent) Bradley we can now accommodate our guests who want a Bloody Mary or Mimosa with their brunch or a draft beer while watching their favorite football team — European or NFL. This is good news for small businesses all across New York State.”

20160906

Troy 'Polish treehouse' celebrating 1st birthday

Outdoor portion of The Hill
Outdoor portion of The Hill

The Hill at Muza took its first ambitious steps last year when the unused space behind the European-style restaurant Muza on Troy's Congress Street was converted into a beer garden.

Now, what some call the "Polish treehouse" is planning to mark its first birthday with a beer and kielbasa bash. The event, set for 4 to 11 p.m. this Saturday, with drinks, food, live '80s music in the 6-9 p.m. period, a photo booth with inflatable Polish props, and some new touches to the venue that will be revealed.

"We've had an incredible first year, and it shows that other Troy neighborhoods outside of downtown are ready to start booming again," said Adam Siemiginowski, who owns The Hill. "We have amazing regulars coming from Troy's East Side, but we're also drawing adventure-seeking visitors from all over the region."

Business partner Timothy Tyrrell adds, "Some of our guests say that being at The Hill feels like hanging out in a treehouse for adults, with beer and kielbasa. We've built an entire business around feel-good energy, creating an experience that people will remember and want to come back for."

The original Muza restaurant was established nine years ago by Siemiginowski's parents Jan and Alicja, who immigrated to the United States from Poland in the 1970s. The evolving menu at their son's extension of the business now includes "Euro" burgers, house-smoked tacos and wings, and kielbasa prepared in the outdoor kitchen, as well as a wine list recently featured on Albany's Yelp site.

The venue, located just off the RPI campus, is framed by three adjacent buildings, a cobble-lined wall and a wooded hill. Guests enter through a pair of black gates at 379 Congress Street. (The main restaurant Muza is located around the corner at 1300 15th Street.) A narrow walkway between two buildings leads to the open-air landscaped beer garden. There also is an enclosed clubhouse-like barroom with tables and indoor seating.

20160904

Mr. Beer home brewing kits add 12 new versions

Screen shot 2016-09-04 at 3.07.48 PMThere certainly is no shortage of beer choices, whether from Big Brewers or the still-climbing number of craft breweries. And, for those with an interest in producing their own, in the Capital Region alone we have such helpful sources as the Homebrew Emporium, Hammersmith Home Brew Supplies, and Saratoga Zymurgist.

But, have you heard of Mr. Beer? The homebrew-kit company has been around since 1993, sometimes flying a bit under the radar but steadily increasing its offerings. Its latest: 12 new craft beer kits featuring the six most popular craft beer styles in "complete" and "starter" kit versions.

The intention with the new kits, according to Pat Bridges, head of sales and marketing, is to "allow craft beer fans to take brewing into their own hands, to find a deeper appreciation for the flavors they enjoy from their favorite craft breweries." He also notes that the kits allow for shorter time to consumption, less required startup know-how, and less odor in the home.

They are available with either Bewitched Amber Ale, American Lager, Northwest Pale Ale, Diablo IPA, Long Play IPA, or Churchills Nut Brown Ale inside. They range from $44.95 to $64.95, depending on the beer and whether they are complete (carbonation drops, bottles, caps and labels for bottling) or starter (only brewing essentials) versions. Each kit makes roughly 22 beers of 12 fl. oz or roughly 11 beers at 25 fl. oz. You can get a look at them by going here.

The company also offers kits for making cider, hard root beer, and non-alcoholic root beer kits intended for young brewers.

20160902

Troy Craft Beer Week ratchets up 20 events

Screen shot 2016-09-02 at 2.22.37 PMThe community where the local modern craft brewing movement first took anchor will be showcasing beer and all its trappings with 20 events during the 3rd annual Troy Craft Beer Week scheduled for Monday, September 12, through Saturday, September 17, in Troy.

Brown's Brewing Company, the River Street brewpub emporium that is the oldest craft brewer in the Capital Region in modern times, has a variety of meal specials during the week, while other venues are participating in such things as a pub crawl, a clam bake, pop-up meals, an ales vs. lagers night, and other events. A complete schedule and details are available online, along with ticket sales.

In addition, on Friday night the "Collar City Invitational" will be held at the Takk House, 55 3rd Street. The sponsoring Troy Craft Beer Council is defining it as a "rare beer festival" that will feature 30 local, domestic, and imported breweries. Each will be pouring rare and unusual beers from their portfolios. An early VIP admission is available.

20160830

Craft brews from NYS, elsewhere going abroad

Screen shot 2016-08-29 at 5.09.42 PM• From The Wall Street Journal

LONDON -- On a recent evening, a group of Americans descended on the trendy South London neighborhood of Brixton to quaff craft beers from New York, Colorado and Michigan, paired with dishes like marinated beetroot with whipped sheep’s curd, puffed barley and hibiscus.

“Hops are insanely food-friendly,” Adam Dulye, executive chef for a Boulder, CO, trade body called the Brewers Association, told the gathering. “Think about how the hops interact in your mouth -- on the roof of your palate, on your tongue, through your nose -- and how they dance back and forth with the dish.”

The vegetarian dinner, designed to showcase the versatility of U.S. craft beer, was one of several events the Brewers Association has organized in the U.K. in recent years as it seeks to accelerate rising demand for American beer here.

Craft beer exploded in the U.S. over the past 30 years as a rash of microbrewers helped the country shrug off its reputation for producing bland, uninspiring mainstream lagers. More recently, that appeal has flowed overseas, sending exports of U.S. craft beer soaring to 446,151, 31-gallon barrels last year from 110,045 in 2011, according to the Brewers Association.

Britain is often the first port of call for many small U.S. brewers looking to expand internationally given the nation’s influence on U.S. beer.

Go here for the full story.

'Battle of the Brews' coming up in Albany

Battle of the BrewsHomebrewers who think their handiwork is as good or better than others in that category will have a chance to prove their claims when the 20th annual "Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews" takes place in November.

The deadline for entering the event, co-sponsored by the Saratoga Thoroughbrews and Albany Craft Brewers, is Saturday, October 22. Judging will be held on Saturday, November 12, at the Albany Pump Station downtown brewery and restaurant, 19 Quackenbush Square.

Details on entry requirements are available online. The entry fee is $8 per entry. All categories, including mead and cider, are accepted. Medals or ribbons will be awarded to first, second, and third place in each award flight. The first place entry in each category will advance to the "Best of Show" round where the top three beers will be selected.

20160815

Rare Form unveiling 'relatively' good beers

Screen shot 2016-08-15 at 10.07.13 AMYour average craft brewery tends to release its new brews one at a time. The Rare Form Brewing Company, however is in ... rare form, so to speak. It plans to release three new "extremely limited" offerings simultaneously.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, August 27, Rare Form will be introducing two beers in what it calls the "Family Tree" line, as well as a Karass porter.

The Family Tree line stems from Rare Form's one-year anniversary beer called Dark Tropic, a coconut porter aged in sour dark rum barrels. A small amount of that beer was left in both of the barrels in which they were aged. That added branches to the "family tree," and, say the brewers, "each barrel embarked on two different paths, leaving a small amount of beer from its previous aging. Over a year later, we’ve created two beers that are accumulations from blends of every barrel-aged sour produced by Rare Form. Thus creating Family Tree 1 and Family Tree 2."

• Family Tree 1: Dark Tropic > Wee Plaid > Table Beer (spontaneously fermented) > blended with Table Beer 4.8% abv

• Family Tree 2: Dark Tropic > Wee Plaid > Plum Love > blended with Table Beer 6.6% abv

• The rye barrel aged Karass Porter is "inspired by one of the great Troy authors (*), Kurt Vonnegut. This robust porter is a part of our Karass.” (Vonnegut coined the term in his novel "Cat's Cradle" to refer to a network or group of people somehow spiritually linked.) The beer was aged in fresh rye whiskey barrels from Yankee Distilling Company of Clifton Park, bottled at 7% abv.

Rare Form Brewing Company is located at 90 Congress Street in Troy. Phone: 326-4303.

Screen shot 2016-08-15 at 10.46.08 AM(*) The reference to the late novelist (1922-2007) as a "Troy" author might be considered by some to be a bit of a stretch. Vonnegut, who lived in Glenville, Schenectady County, while working as a technical writer for General Electric, did set some of his stories in the fictional city of Ilium, which many people took to be Troy (the Roman name for ancient Troy was Ilium), but some insist was based on Schenectady even though Schenectady is referenced as a place separate from Ilium by various characters in Vonnegut's "Player Piano," "Cat's Cradle," and "Slaughterhouse-Five." Let the debate continue.