The NYC Craft Beer Festival has proven itself one of New York City’s most consistently enjoyable events, as it encourages beer fans, both novices and die hards, to step outside of their malted comfort zones to sample new beverages—even those that appear unappealing on the surface. I’m a prime example of this of this idea. I really, really hate IPAs, but will give one a chance if it carries a particularly interesting flavor hook. Plus, to quote the great Space Ghost, “I will put anything into my mouth that is given to me. Whether it’s supposed to go there or not.” Such gusto opens the door to many discoveries.
Fortunately, the event boasts dozens of tasty, sample-ready craft beers, including ales, lagers, porters, and stouts. My 2-ounce tasting glass leaned heavily toward the heavier brews, but I made certain to sample as much as I could before Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blared throughout the Lexington Avenue Armory, signaling the festival’s end. I admit to a certain bias for drinks with gimmicky flavors, which is evident in my five beers-of-the-show picks.
It’s difficult to find a brewery that crafts a truly excellent fruit-based beer, as many overwhelm you with sweetness or skimp on the flavor so that you can barely recognize the fruity elements. Yet, Abita finds that balance with this peach lager, a refreshing treat that’s brewed with fresh, handpicked Louisiana peaches.
Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
I didn’t know what to expect from a vanilla porter, but Breckenridge Brewery delivered a pleasant surprise with this excellent blend that combines the chocolate and roasted nut flavor of a classic porter, with a vanilla punch.
DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus
Sweet Baby Jesus can be summed up in four words: Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. Oh, and “delicious.” It’s smooth and thick, with a creamy chocolate, coffee and peanut butter flavor that makes for a perfect after-dinner drink. Pairs well with vanilla ice cream, too.
The Guinness brand is forever associated with its classic stout, but the company has made strides in the last two years to expand into the craft market. The result is handful of flavorful beers, with Antwerpen being one of my favorites. Light and creamy, this sweet stout boasts vanilla, butterscotch and dark fruity flavors.
Sweet beers ruled my tongue this time out, and will probably do so again when the NYC Craft Beer Festival Spring 2017 show rolls around.