We continue our series of recommendations from those of us here at Amazin’ Avenue with some beer recommendations. While the pandemic has necessitated a major shift in everyday life and the absence of sports, breweries have remained operational and essential. So here are some of our favorites.
Gose O’s (Duclaw Brewing Company - Baltimore, MD): Along with Flying Dog’s Dead Rise (a summer ale featuring the taste of Old Bay that I also highly recommend), this was my favorite Baltimore-area brew to sip on during the summer months. I am big on goses and sours and this one takes the cake in that department. You don’t come across cantaloupe goses that often and it’s a trademark that makes this beer unique. The cantaloupe flavor is forward, but mellow enough that the saltiness comes through nicely to make for a perfectly balanced brew. Plus you can’t beat the baseball-inpsired name!
Freshies (Tonewood Brewing - Oaklyn, NJ): I first had this beer in a tiny little restaurant in Cape May, NJ and I’ve sought it out again many times since and each time it transports me right back to that moment when I first tasted it. A super drinkable flavor bomb of a pale ale, this one boasts plenty of juicy citrusy goodness with a smooth, slightly hoppy character. Sit out on the deck and put a few of these away while grilling some burgers or reading a book and you’ll be in heaven.
Noir et Bleu (Big Oyster Brewery - Lewes, DE): Belgian-style beers are my absolute favorites and I’m about to shout out three very distinctly different ones from three different breweries. While the well-known Dogfish Head is the big player in the Delaware craft beer game, there are certainly other notable breweries around and Big Oyster is one of them. Their Belgian Tripel, Noir et Bleu, is smooth as smooth can be at 9% ABV and robust and complex in flavor, with hints of blueberry on the finish (hence the name). Whenever I am in the area, I always look for this one in the liquor store.
Three Philosophers (Brewery Ommegang - Cooperstown, NY): I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention one of Ommegang’s beers, as the brewery is located in the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and is one of the best breweries in New York State. To me their top offering is their Three Philosophers Belgian Quadrupel. It is journey of malty deliciousness with hints of dark cherry. There is also a variant aged in bourbon barrels that is fantastic and plays up the natural flavors of the beer even more. This is everything a dark and decadent Belgian quad should be. Sip it by the fire pit on a crisp fall evening and savor it.
Brewtus’ Hammer (River Horse Brewing Co. - Ewing, NJ): To round out our Belgian offerings, I give you my favorite Saison in Brewtus’ Hammer. River Horse is my favorite New Jersey brewery and this beer is an excellent example of why. The lingonberry gives it a super unique flavor that sets it apart from other saisons I’ve tasted. It manages to be light and smooth while also packed with flavor—a veritable bouquet of floral notes greet you on the nose and the lingonberry really kicks in as it hits your mouth, giving it a bright finish.
El Sully (21st Amendment Brewery - San Francisco, CA): I first tried El Sully after seeing it on a shelf while stocking up on beer for our tent at a music festival, and it’s been my go-to beer ever since. It was the first craft version of Mexican lager that I’d seen and has had me seeking out that style of beer whenever a really good brewery makes it. Oaxaca Libre by Mikkeller is another really good take on the style, and El Tren from KCBC is very good, too. I’d also include Lone Tree in Colorado and Saint Archer in California on this list, both of which just call their versions “Mexican lager.” El Sully itself isn’t the easiest beer to find right now, but it is still being distributed in the New York area during the pandemic.
Vliet (Threes Brewing - Brooklyn, NY): I had only been to Threes once before the pandemic, back when Amazin’ Avenue alum Eno Sarris was part of a launch event for the beer website called October. Eno has moved on from that gig, and I’ll admit that I didn’t really have any strong takes about the beer at Threes based on that night. Once shipping beer within New York State became the norm during the pandemic, though, I ordered some Vliet and absolutely love it. There’s not a ton of variety on my list here in terms of overall style and type of beer, but each beer here is unique. Sometimes I think Vliet is the very best of the bunch.
Metric (Industrial Arts - Garnerville, NY): It’s appropriate to put these beers back-to-back because Industrial Arts brews Vliet for Threes in a partnership between the breweries because they have a bit more real estate to work with. But Metric is another great pilsner with a unique taste. Like Vliet, it’s a very high quality beer. I’ve always preferred lagers in general but have rarely been drinking ales over the past couple of years after having had a west coast IPA kick a few years back now.
Spirit of ‘76 (Gun Hill Brewing - Bronx, NY): If you’ve never heard of Gun Hill and enjoy stouts, by all means, start with their award-winning Void of Light. And if you’re looking for something that’s easy to drink a few cans of, Spirit of ‘76 is definitely another good option. This was one of the beers on the menu at our wedding. And if you’re looking for good beer from The Bronx, be sure to check out Bronx Brewery, too.
House Lager (Jack’s Abby - Framingham, MA): Again, my list here doesn’t have a ton of variety in styles, but Jack’s Abby’s House Lager is definitely a different-tasting beer from the others on my list here. As a craft brewery that specializes in lagers, it took me a bit longer to find a beer of theirs that I really liked than I expected the first time I heard of them, but it’s really solid beer and can be found in 15-packs that are one of the most affordable options I’ve seen out there for good beer. And considering that Sam Adams’ Boston Lager was my go-to beer for years and is still in my rotation, it’s appropriate to have a lager from Massachusetts on this list.
SingleCut Beersmiths: For my money, the best brewery in NYC is this Astoria gem. I’ve probably had at least twenty of their beers and liked almost all of them, but I have especially enjoyed their hazy IPAs. There are few better experiences than sipping on a pint of “Weird & Gilly” or a “Kim Hibiscus Sour” while destroying the SingleCut staff team in Friday bar trivia. Come for the delicious beers, stay for the hilarious wrestling-style promos the bartenders cut in between rounds.
Destination Unknown Beer Company: My favorite Long Island brewery, much like SingleCut, rarely disappoints. Their flagship “For Science” hazy IPA is very good, but my favorite DUBCO beers are the ones that include lactose, like the delicious “Milkshake IPA.” The “Gilgo Gose,” which combines Himalayan pink salt, pink guava and passion fruit, is one of my favorite sour beers.
Mikkeller Brewing NYC: If you’re a beer lover who has been to Citi Field within the past few years and have not visited the brewery that is literally attached to the stadium, you best remedy that once you are able. I don’t have any specific beer recommendations, but every time I’ve been there, the selection has been fantastic. Plus, it’s just a great atmosphere for a pre or post-game drink if, like me, McFadden’s is not really your speed.
Evil Twin Brewing NYC: I can’t mention Mikkeller and not give a shout out to Evil Twin, which is founded by the twin brother of Mikkeller’s founder. The greenhouse brewery in Ridgewood is absolutely beautiful, and the selection is generally excellent. I recently had the “What Even Is Blue Raspberry?” sour, which was one of the most tart and delicious beers I’ve ever had.
Quick hitters: Brooklyn Bel Air Sour is my go-to sour beer. Great South Bay’s L’eggo My Berries tastes like maple syrup and strawberries, if you’re into that sort of thing (I very much am). I have had good experiences at Fifth Hammer, LIC Beer Project, Big ALICe, and ICONYC, among others; Astoria / Long Island City has a great brewery scene and I recommend checking out a bunch of them once that is a thing that people can do again.
For those who live in New York State, I recommend TapRm.com, which has a good selection of beers and ships anywhere in state for free on orders over $25. Their customer service went above and beyond when I dealt with them, and they are currently donating $10 to a COVID relief fund for every $50 spent.
Juicy Pebbulls (Bolero Snort - Carlstadt, NJ): My least favorite thing about the ‘beer scene’ is the over-reliance on buzzwords. One that has recently bugged me is the ‘juicy’ tag placed on many IPAs. I know the term has an actual definition, but it seems like every IPA with a fruity smell has to slap a JUICY image on its bottle/can and really lean into that descriptor.
That said, Juicy Pebbulls, from local NJ brewery Bolero Snort, is a damn good juicy IPA. Made with lime zest and lactose, not to mention aping its logo and can design, it is attempting to evoke Fruity Pebbles and, while it isn’t exactly a 1:1 comparison, you do get a little cereal vibe to it. That combination makes it a more unique juicy IPA, and a really enjoyable pour.
Dayblazer Easygoing Ale (New Belgium - Denver, CO): Next up on the annoying buzzword list is ‘crushable.’ Again, I get its usefulness; it is handy if I know a beer is going to knock me on my ass after 2, or if I can enjoy more over the course of a long party (side note: remember parties?). Every summer, I try to keep a case of Dayblazer in my fridge, because it is a perfect ‘mow the lawn + grill a burger + play outside with the kids’ beer. It is a cream ale with a low ABV, but its taste elevates it far above the types of beers I may have used for these activities.
Orange Cream Beer (Defiant - Pearl River, NY): I haven’t had an Orange Creamsicle in a dog’s age, but whenever I’m at Defiant over the summer (side note: remember going to breweries and hanging out and, in Defiant’s case, eating a ton of barbeque?), I pick up some Orange Cream Ale. It’s not overly sweet or sugary like the name may suggest, but it’s a witbier with some vanilla and orange notes that are absolutely present but not overpowering. I’m feeling the summery vibes right now and may just have to brave the wild of Pearl River to pick up a few four-packs of this.