The numbers tell the story of why this year’s New York City Beer Week is the largest ever: from over 100 events in 2014 to more than 400 this year, taking place across more than 200 venues.
“Craft beer has exploded in popularity,” says Kelly Taylor, president of the New York City Brewers Guild, a nonprofit alliance to promote craft beers. “Last year we had 11 breweries in the city; now we have around 20. We’re going to probably add another 10 or so by this time next year.”
Now in its seventh year, Beer Week is bringing together 20 NYC craft breweries as well as national and international brands for everything beer-themed, including tap takeovers, pairing dinners, talks and, of course, debuting new brews, beginning Feb. 20 through March 1.
Not so long ago, Taylor used to be able to count the number of places in the city serving craft beer on one hand. Now, all the taps at Brooklyn Bowl are local, Hudson Common — “a tremendous tap selection” — commissioned a beer then curated its tap selection around it, and you can even find a local pint at the Hyatt in Times Square.
“A lot of new places that are opening up are featuring craft beer, whether they’re a bar or a restaurant, whereas in the past it used to be imports,” he says. And that’s down to demand: The same locavore movement that has made farmers markets the must-shop venues is changing people’s philosophy on beer. “Whether they’re Europeans or they’re from Nebraska, people have recognized that beer made locally has the potential of being more interesting.”
Is there a styleof beer thatNYC does well? “New York City brewing water is spectacular water,” Taylor says. Aside from filtering out some of the chlorine, it’s good to go into the tanks, with an “incredible flexibility to do anything.” But, when pressed, Taylor says Belgian farmhouse-style beers are particularly good right now in the 212.
Craft beer has scaled up its presence among the city’s bars and restaurants, and finding a tap near you is about to get the 21st century treatment. This summer, the guild will be releasing an app that finds the bars, restaurants and other retailers selling craft brews nearest you.
New for 2015 is a collaborative brewing effort dubbedSMaSH: State Malts and State Hops. Taylor got the idea for SMaSH during his long commute. Instead of a collaboration brew like many beer festivals do, which he says often turn out “like a camel: a horse by committee,” he came up with an “Iron Chef”-style competition.
The breweries voted on three malts and three hops (all grown on New York state farms) they would use, then got to work creating their own unique brews. Check out all of the SMaSH beers at Brewer’s Choice on Feb. 24; they’ll also be available at various events over the course of the week.