by Advanced Sommelier Jenny Benzie
Now is a great time to be an adventurous beer drinker in the United States. While Americans are drinking less beer than even a few years ago, we are drinking better products that quench our thirst in more ways than one.
A craft (or micro) brewery produces small amounts of beer and is typically independently owned by the brewer and perhaps a few investors, unlike the big beer houses that mass-produce their products and are owned by a corporation. Many of the smaller breweries begin as side projects in someone’s basement or garage with an emphasis on quality, flavor, and brewing technique, and eventually grow their experience and exploration into a bigger space. Craft brews have made themselves approachable enough with their fun names and cartoon-like labels. Their facilities also tend to be family friendly and offer a festive beer garden ambiance with food, music, and games for the kiddos. (Dogs, if permitted, must be leashed, however!)
Whether you want to become a craft brew IPA expert, or are just starting to learn more about the world of local microbreweries, here are some insights into a handful of different styles of India Pale Ales available from some of the most sought-after breweries in the Northeast region. Get them while you CAN as their limited, small-batch production numbers and high-quality reputations will have them off the shelves as quickly as summer will be over!
A WHALE OF A GOOD TIME
Who needs a neighborhood bar when you can have a neighborhood brewery? Finback Brewery is located in the heart of Queens in a residential area. It is a small warehouse that rolls open the doors not only to the production facility, but also to a small taproom featuring a rotating selection of at least a dozen of Finback’s small batch brews. Their focus is mainly on hop forward (meaning the spiciness of bitterness of beer, not like a bunny…), sour and dark beers. FINBACK IPA is considered a bitter, dank, and hoppy brew. It is made with Chinook hops from the Pacific Northwest, often used in IPAs to provide the bittering quality in the beer, along with great aromatics. Columbus hops also add to this balanced bitterness, along with earthy and faint citrus characteristics. At 7.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), this beer weighs very heavy on the International Bitterness Units (IBU) scale topping the charts at 112.
FOR THE JUNIOR IN ALL OF US
If you want to have a beer that doesn’t offer such a kick, then a session IPA is your answer. This style of beer has a relatively low alcohol content and is therefore suitable for drinking over an extended period or if you just want one to quench your thirst after a long day of surfing the waves of Nantucket. RADIANT PIG JUNIOR SESSION IPA offers the best parts of an IPA, but in a smaller taste package. At only 4.8% ABV, the alcohol and bitterness content is scaled back a bit, but still packed with plenty of citrus, floral, hoppy goodness. This is a blend of milder hop varieties of Mosaic, Falconers Flight, El Dorado, and Centennial. The brewery is inspired by art music, culture and stuff related to NYC, hence the crazy labels! They don’t currently have a brewery space open to the public in the city yet, but a location is in the works for this East Coast style IPA producer.
TAKING A DIFFERENT ROAD
Life is full of choices and sometimes we choose to take the road not taken. This is what led one brewery to set up shop in an old abandoned manufacturing building in order to not only make their own beer, but also function as a co-op space in order to help other small breweries get their beer off the ground. Quite apropos since the warehouse used to be the US Baird Building, which manufactured the world-renowned Sikorsky helicopters. For those Grey Lady kind of days when you want a beer as thick as the fog, TWO ROADS TWO JUICY UNFILTERED DOUBLE IPA is the road you should take. This unfiltered, cloudy “New England style Double IPA” uses generous amounts of Hallertauer Blanc, Citra, & Mandarina Bavaria hops. The result is a “juicy,” fully-charged DIPA (8.2% ABV) with notes of grapefruit, pine, lychee, orange & tangerine against a soft malt backdrop.
OUR BACKYARD FAVORITE
One of the many great attributes about being a small brewery and not needing a large scale warehouse is they can literally pop-up in the some of the most unexpected of places. Like in the middle of an island, on a large plot of land with nothing much else around near a farm and with the ocean waves near by. This is a short and sweet description of Nantucket’s own local brewery. While they have their well-known year round staples, this year’s newest beer release is guaranteed to beat the heat and have you crushing it in no time. CISCO BREWERS GRIPAH is a refreshing Grapefruit IPA that is tastier than a shandy and more refreshing than that lime in your import beer. This beer is made from a strategic blend of hops, like your grandmother’s secret recipe, using Chinook, Amarillo, Galaxy, El Dorado, and Citra hops. Grapefruit zest and dried grapefruit peel are added during and after brewing to add that citrusy zing that makes it so appealing (5.5% ABV, 50 IBUs). Cisco Brewers is open every day, year-round and is dog and kid friendly – worth the visit while on the island!
As you enjoy these beer selections and more from our featured micro-breweries, we hope you also reveal in the positive side effects that they have to offer of building community and creating good times for the family through a great beer experience.