Vespa Your Way Through Vietnam's Budding Craft Beer Scene
Jesse Ferguson, former head brewer at New Jersey’s well-respected Carton Brewing Co, launched this operation with Laura Dierks in East Williamsburg earlier this fall. It has released several beers in collaboration with other, more established breweries, but also makes its own. The company also bridges that increasingly narrow divide between craft beer and craft spirits with offerings such as a gin called Goodwin Hill.
Beers of note: Bass In Your Face is a double IPA clocking in at nearly 8% ABV. And then there’s a milder IPA called Here Come the Drums.
Another newbie, Bushwick-based Kings County Brewers Collective has brought brewing back to one of Brooklyn’s (and the nation’s) pre-Prohibition beer hubs. (Very long story, very short: Germans settled in these parts of Brooklyn and brought their thirst for beer with them.) The brewery, which just opened this fall, is the first to operate in Bushwick in 40 years. Founders Zack Kinney, Pete Lengyel, and Tony Bellis met through homebrewing and toiled at other breweries in the borough before striking it out on their own.
Beers of note: Janiak Maniac -- named for the brewery’s landlord -- is a crisp, clean pilsner. Stoop Sale is a kolsch, the sweetly bitter 19th-century German answer to the rocket-like rise of pilsner out of what is today the Czech Republic.
Folksbier’s beers aim for drinkable balance -- neither too stinking strong nor puckering bitter; nor weak, nor watery, for that matter. Travis Kauffman worked in new media and web design in New York City before launching Folksbier in Carroll Gardens in 2015, but his roots are in Northern Michigan, where his family owns a farm. That’s where Kauffman has cultivated an acre of hops that he uses in some of Folksbier’s creations. Call it farm-to-pint, but only if you must.
Beers of note: Rye rather than barley dominates the grain bill of Folksbier’s Echo Maker, a nod to the rarely seen German style known as roggenbier. Helles Simple is another German-style offering -- what’d you expect from a brewery called Folksbier? -- lighter-colored and lighter-tasting.
This Williamsbridge facility’s 2014 opening is a great example of just how dynamic the New York City beer scene has become. It’s the first production brewery in the Bronx since 1961. Founders Kieran Farrell and Dave Lopez met through a local baseball club, and teamed up with brewmaster Chris Sheehan on the development of Gun Hill (named for a local landmark where rebels stored their weapons during the Revolutionary War). The idea was simple: to wrest some of the attention of New York City’s craft beer boom from Brooklyn. It worked. Sheehan has since left and Chris Prout, formerly of Greenpoint Beer & Ale, has taken over brewmaster duties.
Beers of note: Spirit 76 is an admirably crisp pilsner, and the pomegranate session ale is one of the more interesting takes you’ll find on the lower-alcohol beer craze.
This aptly named brewery, located in a 19th-century factory about an hour northwest of the Bronx, is yet another testament to the Hudson Valley’s respectable craft beer scene. Founder Jeff O’Neil's reputation preceded him when he opened the facility last fall. O’Neil had been the brewer at upstate standouts Peekskill Brewery and Ithaca Beer Co, and is now translating what he developed there into straightforward interpretations of classic beer styles.
Beers of note: Industrial Arts’ flagship brew, Tools of the Trade, is a standard extra pale ale, while State of the Art is a seasonable IPA that will use different hop varieties for different iterations.
This start-up has a direct connection with what’s perhaps the most cultish craft brewer and craft brewery in the United States. Co-founder and brewmaster Dan Suarez worked under Shaun Hill of tiny Greensboro Bend, Vermont’s Hill Farmstead (which some of America’s fiercest beer aficionados call the world’s best brewery, never mind the US). Suarez and wife Taylor Cocalis Suarez chose another small town -- Livingston (pop: 3,600), about halfway between New York City and Albany -- for their new brewery, which launched this past summer.
Beers of note: Suarez Family’s selections rotate, but the brewery focuses on unfiltered lagers, hoppy pale ales, and what it describes as mixed fermentation beers.
Prison City broke out early (heh) with its pale ales and IPAs, including a Belgian iteration of the former. Husband-and-wife team Marc and Dawn Schulz launched Prison City in mid-2014, and are planning a further expansion in Downtown Auburn. Brewer Ben Maeso also has a line of barrel-aged and sour beers going, which the additional space will allow him to expand. Meanwhile, Prison City’s pub carries other craft selections in addition to its own on-site creations.
Beers of note: The Belgian-style pale ale Bleek Worden won a silver medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival. Also, go ahead and sentence yourself to Prison City’s juicy, fruity Mass Riot IPA.
Scott Shuler relocated from Tampa Bay this past spring to take over as head brewer for this outfit, launched by a group of eight owners, just to the east of Buffalo. The start-up’s beers range pretty widely already, and now include a pilsner, a vanilla-flavored wheat, and a coffee porter, complementing a leadoff suite of IPAs.
Beers of note: West Coast IPA includes two helpings of Citra hops, one during the boil and one after the boil’s cooled (aka dry hopping). Also try the coffee porter, which makes use of real coffee from a Rochester roaster.
Mike Wenzel and Chris Smith launched the brewery in late 2015 in a section of the basement of Maple on the Lake Restaurant in tiny East Berne, about 45 minutes west of Albany. It’s an excellent example of a farm brewery, a concept that New York State helped pioneer. At least 20% of Helderberg’s grains and hops originate in the state. (Fun fact: New York was the nation’s No. 1 hop producer before Prohibition; nowadays, the Pacific Northwest now dominates domestic cultivation.) The one-barrel brewery is still located downstairs, but the beers are only available upstairs in the restaurant.
Beers of note: Four different grains and three different hops go into its Round Bale Pale Ale. All the grains and hops for its Helderburgh Hills IPA -- named after the local mountain range -- come from New York. Drink local, indeed.
Even if you’re not familiar with the brand, you’ve probably seen its stylish, iridescent 16oz cans in the hands of your beer-obsessed friends. Other Half’s products are invariably described as some variation of hop-forward -- dank, juicy affairs in the ultra-popular IPA tradition. Founders Samuel Richardson and Matt Monahan met at Greenpoint Beer Works’ brewery/taproom in Brooklyn, and later opened their own brewery/taproom in Carroll Gardens in 2014. Arguably NYC’s best brewery right now, it’s a must-stop for any true beer tourist who comes to town.
Beers of note: All Green Everything is a triple IPA with four kinds of hops and an alcohol content of 10.5%. For a much milder sip, try the standard Other Half IPA.
1. Interboro NYC942 Grand St, Brooklyn
2. Kings County Brewers Collective381 Troutman St, Brooklyn
3. Gun Hill Brewing Co.3227 Laconia Ave, Bronx
4. Industrial Arts Brewing Company55 W Railroad Ave, Garnerville
5. Suarez Family Brewery2278 U.S. 9, Hyde Park
6. Prison City Pub & Brewery28 State St, Auburn
7. 12 Gates Brewing Co80 Earhart Dr, Williamsville
8. Helderberg Mountain Brewing Company141 Warners Lake Rd., Berne
9. Other Half Brewing Co.195 Centre St, Brooklyn
Most breweries are content to produce just beer, but Interboro takes it to the next level by producing its own spirits like whiskey, bourbon, and gin, the latter of which is served from a gin and tonic tap. The regular tap features nine beers, and one of the staple pilsners, Bushburg, is named for the neighborhood where you'll find the brewery: that too-hip-for-its-own-good intersection of East Williamsburg and Bushwick. The taproom is industrial-rustic with raw wood tables and green steel chairs, and a brewery cat named Bingo completes the scene.
Before KCBC opened in 2016, Bushwick -- which was a brewery hub in the pre-Prohibition days -- endured 40 dry years without a brewery to call its own (the last one closed in 1976). Owned by three friends, KCBC includes a production house and a 12-tap tasting room, where signature beers like the session IPA "Dangerous Precedent" and the lemony saison "Yoga Pants" are available. Because Brooklynites don't like to be predictable, the staff intersperse standard growlers with giant beer can-like crowlers, and brew creative combinations like the "Beach Zombie," a strawberry-guava Berliner weisse.
Buddies who used to dream of pursuing a fermentation passion during recreational baseball games got off the sidelines and started Gun Hill Brewing Company with brewmaster Chris Sheehan. Gun Hill -- the first brewery in the Bronx since the 1960s -- is located in a former auto shop and its rugged, Americana feel breathes life into an underserved area. Stop into the taproom to watch a game over a pint of pilsner, Irish red ale, or IPA.
A 19th-century factory with a large brick smokestack reaching into the Hudson Valley sky is home to Industrial Arts Brewing Company, located about an hour northwest of the Bronx. Founder Jeff O'Neil is no novice to brewing in New York state -- he was formerly the brewmaster at Peekskill Brewery and Ithaca Beer Co -- and his two decades of expertise results extra pale ales (Tools of the Trade is the brand signature), coffee-kissed ales, and rotating specials. Stop by the taproom for a pint or a growler to take home.
Suarez Family Brewing makes waves with its small-scale brewery located four hours north of New York City. They specialize in saison and farmhouse blends, aromatic ales with low-ABV, and unfiltered pilsners. The brick-faced brewery is nestled among farmland and apple orchards, and is open for taproom visits throughout the week, but if you can’t make the trek, NYC bars like Kickshaw in Queens pour their drafts.
What began as a restaurant with an in-house brewing system has evolved into a full-scale brewery with its own taproom. Prison City's pub, housed in a stately corner building with a modest tower, gets packed on evenings, serving both proprietary and various craft beers alongside a classic American menu of burgers, wings, steaks, and shrimp & grits.
A 2,000-sqft taproom awaits at 12 Gates Brewing Co. in western New York, where you can get pours of their microbrews with beer-friendly snacks like Bavarian pretzels, hot sandwiches, and flatbread pizzas. Their roster is IPA-heavy, so expect a grapefruity West Coast IPA, a limey New Zealand IPA, an easy-drinking Session IPA, and some darker variations like an espresso porter.
Born in the basement of traditional American restaurant Maple on the Lake, Helderberg Mountain Brewing Company churns out small-batch beer in the hills west of Albany. Year-round brews range from wheat ales and pale ales to IPAs and brown ales, with seasonal oatmeal stouts and IPAs with pine notes making appearances as specials. Maple on the Lake's tavern-like dining hall experience comes complete with Warner Lake views, adding placid visuals to your craft suds sampling.
Given the wacky, contemporary look of this New York brewery's packaging, you'll be surprised to find that its taproom is a literal hole-in-the-wall -- an unlabeled garage near Carroll Gardens -- with rust-covered walls, makeshift wooden tables, and a single counter where your order's taken. Brews rotate daily, but you're likely to find the signature Other Half IPA, or at least a flavorful spin on it.