At the start of the month, I had the opportunity to pop over to New York for a long weekend and go on a mission to take in as much of their beer scene as I possibly could. I only had four days, and I wanted to get a feel for a place and the beer scene, so I decided to zero in my search and stick to Brooklyn.
Firstly, Brooklyn itself is a cool city and felt really at home there. In some ways, the look and feel also reminded me a bit of Manchester. Secondly, New York’s bloody huge. There’s a picture of a lake in Central Park below which gives you a bit of an idea of scale - it only makes up for about a quarter of the park btw! It’s bizarre walking around a park in the middle of one of the biggest cities feeling like your in the countryside.
So over four action packed days and blurry nights, I made my way across the city in search of breweries, bars and brewpubs and anyone in them who'd let me pick their brains and humour me with a conversation.
The first thing that came across is how similar to the UK scene they are in a lot of ways. The key one being how friendly and open everybody is. Being brewers ourselves, talking to other brewers from another part of the world is super insightful.
One of the breweries I visited and now possibly one of my all time favourites was the Other Half Brewing. A little door tucked away under some train tracks in an industrial side of Brooklyn lead into a buzzing and packed taproom. The beers were absolute f**king juice bombs. I had the opportunity to have a chat with the brewer, have a butchers round the brewery and try some of the beers straight from the tank, which was pretty ideal.
Freshness is a hot topic of conversation in the UK at the moment, and from speaking to the brewers over there, I think it will become a requirement for brewers to not only brew great beer but get the supply chain right. The aim being for the beer reaching the pint glass to taste as if it’s come straight from the tank.
Freshness starts with the cold room. We’re currently mid-way through the construction of our tricked out cold room to effectively keep our beer in suspended animation until it's in your hand. After conditioning, our beers dropped to two degrees and stay there right through the packaging process, into our cold room and right up until we wave it off into the van to trade!
I also got to see some of the latest in hop technology in action. American brewers seem to be just starting to try and get their heads around a new product called Cryo-Hop (Lupin powder). The Lupin glands and delicious oils (flavour and aroma parts) have been isolated from the rest of the vegetative hop matter. Pure af. I tried a bunch of beers double hopped - pellet first then lupin powder second. Was absolutely mega.
Lupin powder will be available in the UK late spring, so I expect that it will become a big part of the murky NEIPA’s being released this side of the pond too. After trying some of these beers, it's hard to see how they could get much more hoppy without pouring a sachet of pellets directly into your pint.
Another thing that I found interesting was the lack of 330ml cans; every can I brought back, and virtually all that was available for takeaway direct from the brewery were 500ml. This is regardless of ABV. Some of the cans still sat in our fridge are 9% double IPA’s.
I wonder with the recent availability of shrink wrapping and packaging companies buying in blank 500 and 440ml’s we’ll see this change over the UK. Our first can was 500ml, and we think it makes perfect sense. Less trips to the bar, less packaging and served in a volume our 4.1% Session IPA should be!
Either way, it's going to be another interesting year for beer. There’s such a fast pace of change and rapid improvement at the moment. Looking back to when we started three and half years ago, it’s amazing how far we’ve come as an industry. Looking into the American scene is an indication of how much more potential there is for the future!