Forget trendy IPAs and lagers — the Best Beer in New York State is a funky Belgian-style beauty from Threes Brewing in Brooklyn, which took top honors for a second year in a row at the 2018 New York State Craft Beer Competition.
Threes Brewing’s farmhouse-style grisette Passing Time came out on top among 120 New York State breweries who submitted 642 beers. The brews were judged by a 43-person panel in a blind taste test. The only criteria was that the beers must use at least 20% New York state-grown hops and other ingredients.
Even having won last year, the Best Beer in New York title came as a genuine surprise to Threes Brewing co-founder Josh Stylman. “First to get recognized among such an incredible peer group in New York State right now, it’s really, really gratifying on its own and humbling,” he says. “And then to be recognized for a style like this one is frankly a bit surprising but quite pleasing.”
The story of the best beer in New York
The origins of Passing Time couldn’t be more humble. Before there was a Threes Brewery, when it was just a home brewing operation, the first-ever beer Stylman and his team created was called, simply, Table Beer. “It’s kind of like a table wine: pretty easy to drink, it’s our most inexpensive beer, it’s meant to be paired with food,” he explains.
That beer gets turned into Passing Time by going into stainless steel tanks for six weeks (on top of the two weeks it takes to ferment Table Beer) with a blend of wild yeasts and souring bacteria. “It gets a little bit funkier in a good way, in the way cheeses can be funky,” he explains. “Typically, brewing is a lot of science — this is where the art or voodoo comes in. Brewers are having fun with some of these wild yeast strains and pitching them into beers, and the beer can really take on another life, as it did with Passing Time.”
Though a grisette in style — like a European saison, refreshing, dry and smooth — Passing Time also has some of the characteristics of sour beers, with a slight tartness and subtle citrusy bite, and clocks in at a summer-friendly 4.5% ABV. “We all kind of flipped out when we tasted it,” recalls Stylman when the first batch came out of the barrels about a year ago. “It speaks in many ways to what we try to do as a brewery, which is to create these fixed things that become a little bit iconic in our own little world, and then constantly try to reinvent ourselves.”
The only prize that comes with the title of Best Beer in New York is the Governor’s Excelsior Cup, which is on display inside the Gowanus taproom, cafe and restaurant at 333 Douglass St. For a fun experiment, try tasting Passing Time alongside Table Beer: “You realize it’s familiar, but you wouldn’t realize necessarily that it starts as the same beer.”
Passing Time is on tap now at in Gowanus and the week of Aug. 13 in Greenpoint, and will be available to order in bottles within the week of Aug. 13. Or try it along with the 23 other gold medal-winning beers inside the Horticulture Building at the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, going on from Aug. 22 to Sept. 3. Threes Brewing also made headlines recently by creating a benefit beer for the ACLU, People Power, and getting more than 50 other breweries onboard to do the same.