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Long Beard Brewing finds its place in Riverhead

Long Beard Brewing Logo

Logo courtesy Long Beard Brewing

The lease has been signed and key is in hand. After three years of searching and plenty of waiting, Long Beard Brewing finds a new home in Riverhead, New York, at the former East 2nd Street firehouse, just two blocks away from Main Street.

When we spoke in 2014 to Paul Carlin and Craig Waltz, brewers and co-owners of Long Beard, they had their eyes fixed on Long Island’s booming beer town:

Paul and Craig of Long Beard Brewing

Paul and Craig
Photo courtesy of Long Beard Brewing

“We feel, right now, [Riverhead] is our best option for a number of reasons. The first is it’s a destination spot. Riverhead has become a hub for craft beer on Long Island. You can’t argue that. We have done a lot of research and spoken to a lot of people to help make that decision. One of the more important aspects of our brewery will be our tasting room. We want people coming in droves! Being in Riverhead will make that easier. Look what’s going on there! You are in wine country, in a town that is putting effort in revitalizing main street and bringing in much needed business and tourism. The town, itself, is friendlier to our industry, and the beer tours will be always coming in with business. It just makes sense.”

East 2nd St Firehouse in Riverhead, New York

The 2nd St Firehouse
Photo © Google Maps

They are taking over part of the firehouse, about 3,000 sq. feet, and will begin construction on the brewery portion first, with a tasting room to follow. Long Beard Brewing becomes the forth brewery in Riverhead, with neighbors Long Ireland Brewing, Moustache Brewing, and Crooked Ladder Brewery turning Riverhead into a Brewmuda Triangle. (Good pun, but wouldn’t it be Brewmuda Rectangle? — ed.)

Inside the empty 2nd St firehouse where Long Beard Brewing will open its brewery




Inside the empty 2nd St firehouse where Long Beard Brewing will open its breweryInside the new space where Long Beard Brewing will open.
Photos courtesy of Long Beard Brewing.

Long Beard is ready to start its next chapter—getting its beer into the market. Paul is excited for the future of the brewery location, saying, “This gives us tons of room for growth and a sweet kick-ass tasting room that [when completed] will have a look and feel that will make you to never want to leave!”

Follow Long Beard Brewing on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in exposition, freshly bottled.

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Ferment-Me-Nots : Questions to avoid asking your new local brewer

Recently attending the one-year anniversary party of Moustache Brewing—it seems like yesterday it was just breaking ground to its brewery in Riverhead, New York—with a pint of Milk and Honey Brown Ale in my hand, I started to think of other Long Island brewery births I have witnessed. I have watched many go from home brewer, 3-bbl systems, their first van, their first bottling line, to seeing them sell beer out of state.

Two plastic pints of Moustache Brewing beer, one amber and one dark, by a paper bag with Moustache’s logo

Memories…

It’s no surprise. The Brewers Association just listed NY 2nd in new brewery openings, 67 in 2014, and a 54% production increase over last year. There are five Long Island breweries I know of that are in the process of getting licenses, leases, or opening tasting rooms. It’s a small community, and there is a good chance you’re a friend or a friend-of-a-friend of a brewer.

Talking to brewers—and attending a grand opening or two—I have come across questions that seem to pop up every time a new brewery rears its foamy head. They’re starting to get old, and some, frankly are starting to make me cringe. Maybe it’s because I’ve asked a couple of these questions, too (d’oh!). I think it’s time for “new brew” etiquette. Why look at me, I’m the Emily Post of beer!

> Q: Can I have a free t-shirt or pint glass or…?

T-shirts and other items are a popular way to get the brewery’s name out into the public. Friends may ask, “Hey who’s that? Where are they?” This merchandise is also a source of income, small it may be, that help fund that brewery. Don’t assume that the brewery is giving away swag for free. Don’t get bent out shape when the friendly volunteer behind the counter asks for your credit card. If you want something, ask how much it is, even if you know the brewer. Don’t put him or her in an awkward situation. If you get it for free—sweet! If not, pony up and help the brewery out.

> Q: I invested in you in Kickstarter, so why can’t I get a free…?

A line of Long Island brewery imprinted pint glasses

One of my many brewery “investments.”

Many breweries use or have used Kickstarter to help with some aspect of their business plan. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website. Funders donate money to a business, and when it reaches its goal funders get something in return. It could be something as simple as a sticker or as grand as getting to name a beer depending on the amount donated. However, people are beginning to demand a lot for their $15. Why can’t I get free beer? Can I get a discount on that tulip glass? Why don’t I get first crack at bottle releases? Hey, you gave your money; you got your t-shirt. That’s it. The brewery is not beholden to you. Believe me, they really, really appreciate your donation, but you got something in return. Breweries are in the business of making beer, not comping their special customers. And speaking of free beer….

> Q: I know the brewer, so why can’t I get a free…?

I know the brewer, too. I know lots of them. I don’t expect free beer from any of them, at any time. Remember that awkward situation with the swag? Don’t do the same thing with the brewer’s source of income. Full disclosure, some brewers give me free beer—like, all the time. But I don’t expect it or demand it whether or not I know the pourer. Don’t make the employee behind the taps uncomfortable by saying, “Me and the brewer, we’re like best buds. She gives me free beer all the time!” Plunk your dollars down, and maybe next round you’ll get a free refill. If you do get a freebie, sneak a few dollars into the tip jar. Every dollar helps a brewery grow. Now, don’t you feel better?

Coming soon-ish sign on Blind Bat Brewery’s soon-to-open brewery

Best. “Coming Soon” Sign. Ever.
Photo courtesy: Blind Bat Brewery

> Q: When are you opening?

I’m positive when this question gets asked, a brewer loses his wings. We can’t help it. I understand; I really I do. We just want to know when we can get our hands on the wonderful, new deliciousness. Breweries try their best to give a grand opening estimation, but something always happens. ALWAYS. The inspector is on a two-week vacation, or the gas line is in the wrong spot. Congratulation, they’ve found asbestos! Better questions are, “How’s things going?” or “How are you doing?” It gives the brewer a chance to vent her frustrations but also relate all the good things that are happening at the brewery construction.

> Q: Why don’t you make more beer?

Stainless steel kettle and fermenter tanks

This costs more than my Saturn when it was a new, plus a side order of a tricked-out Kia.

Maybe because you are distracting them? Do you know how much those shiny new steel vessels cost? Holy crap balls! Yeah, that much. A lot of new brewers work two jobs to make ends meet—the one where their building their brewing business from the ground up, literally, and their actually-getting-paid full-time job. They have limited time. Maybe they can only brew at night or on the weekends, searching for the right balance of brewing, working the tasting room, brewery paperwork, etc. So be kind. Give them the time they need.

Also, please try not to disturb a brewer at work. Some have to brew when the tasting room is open. Your desire to chit-chat doesn’t help them when they should be cleaning kegs. Let the brewer be your guide. Wave hello, then walk away. Have patience with a new brewery. It may not be at your favorite bar yet, but give it a year or two. It’ll be there. Soon-ish.

Posted in booze etiquette, drunken missives.

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Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine

Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine

  • Spiced apple
  • Sweet! with that ol’ Lagunitas hoppiness and spice.
  • Pleasantly bitter

2015 limited edition. 10.6 ABV. 22oz. bottle.

I probably review more barelywines than the average beer drinker ever drinks in a lifetime. I admit, I am searching for a easily accessible replacement for The One. So please indulge me as I review yet another bitterly sweet high-alcohol barleywine. I tell you with pure intentions, once you get into the barleywines, nothing is the same.

A bottle of Lagunitas GnarleyWine with a glass filled with the dark caramel-colored beer.

A GnarlyWine barleywine.

I approached the Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine with trepidation. Unlike many of my peers, I haven’t found a Lagunitas beer that I enjoyed. Its beers are consistent, for sure, displaying a hop spice that just overwhelms me. Whatever it does, it does well, but it’s just not my wheelhouse.

But I’m not one to pass up a chance for that barleywine experience.

The nose got me worried. I sensed that copper flavor that is endemic to many barleywines. It’s something I’ve resigned myself to, as it seems like it’s a usual accompaniment to the process. (Not The One, of course. Never The One.) So my first sip came as a surprise. There was intense sweetness in the malt—candy sweet. That Lagunitas hop blend was lurking in there, too, but the malt slammed in first, blending excellently with the bitter hops beneath. I thought the sweetness was too intense at first, but each sip became more relaxed as the hoppiness built up a nice foundation to complement the malt. Here is a Lagunitas that I can enjoy.

Of course, it’s a limited release, and it’s not even on the Lagunitas website. So I doubt I’ll have much more time to enjoy it. It’s not The One, but it’s in the ballpark, which is all I ask for. I found the 22oz. for $5, too, so it’s extremely reasonably priced. And after consuming the bottle, everything becomes a little bit fuzzy, a little bit sweeter, and that’s a gift I’ll always treasure.

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Dogfish Head Piercing Pils

Dogfish Head Piercing Pils

Enjoyable

  • Floral pear
  • Sweet; Frontal hop kick that overwhelms the other flavors
  • Unique pear tea flavor that lingers

12oz. bottle; 6% ABV

As a big fan of pear juice in my alcohol, trying Dogfish Head Piercing Pils was inevitable as soon as I saw it. And in a pilsner-style? Be still my beating heart.

Chilled to a comfortable 45°(F), the golden pils poured into my glass with just the right amount of suds and the wonderful aromas of pear and elderflower. This was going to be great, I thought. But the first sip smacked my palette with spicy hops. Of course. I know that to be a serious beer in this modern world, the hops must be ramped up ever higher.

Piercing Pils. It’s right there in the name, Fervere!

After my initial hop shock, I tasted some delightfully playful flavors. The pear tea brings complex botanicals that really work well with a pilsner. Piercing Pils has the sweetness and gravity that I look for in good pilsners—it pours a bit more heavy than the color would suggest. The snootful of aroma that surrounds each sip is highlighted by those tea botanicals and a subtle, acidic pear scent. It starts with a unique promise and ends with that promise paid off, but, in the middle, those sharp, spicy hops seem to come from a different beer.

Listen, I’m going to enjoy my 4-pack. This isn’t a beer that’s double-hopped-up-the-wazoo. Compared to the mildest IPA, the hops in Piercing Pils are barely there. It’s a very enjoyable, unique beer, and it’s certainly possible that everyone else will find the dual flavors complementary rather than clashing. But humble ol’ me, well, I taste the clash in what otherwise would be a sublime brew.

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Clase Azul Reposado

Clase Azul Reposado

  • Warm, mellow smoked wood
  • Sweet! Fruitiness combined with that classic tequila smokiness
  • Smooth. Creamy. Just another sip.

The key to drinking well on the cheap is to be in the right place at the right time. I found myself in the company of a respected business owner, Mr. A~ of the Hamptons, just as he was toasting his success with a bottle of Tequila Clase Azul Reposado that was given to him as a gift by another pillar of East End society. As shot-size glasses were poured and raised, I offered my opinion that this was a sipping tequila, which got me in the good graces of my host.

I love tequila. It doesn’t enjoy the same cachet that whiskey does for those with oh-so sophisticated tastes. But this is an error. Smoky, with flavors that go beyond the usual esters found in hooch, good tequilas manage to clearly stay tequila while offering novel notes of fruit and candied nuts. And on the scale of what pairs well with the perfect fruit—lime—tequila is tops. Where is whiskey in that scale? On the bottom, son, way on the bottom.

Yes, my opinions tend to contradict each other depending on what’s in my glass. Tequila happened to be poured the night of the toast, so, assuredly, it was my favorite.

A white ceramic bottle of Clase Azul Reposado with blue-leaf motif and and embossed silver agave leaf

A beautiful hand-painted bottle of Teuqila Clase Azul Reposado

And, my dear readers, what a tequila to sip! Clase Azul Repasado was sweet and fruity, smooth and rich. Laughing at those who slammed down their shot as if it were some horrid “gold” tequila offered on the cheap in a sports bar (lick the salt first!), the boss and I took our time to sip and appreciate the magic in that handmade bottle. Surely, this would be my one shot at this excellent tequila coming out of that bottle of art. The price must be insane.

I don’t give Patron much thought, except to note to anyone that would listen that’s it’s just overpriced hype. But here, the Patron-effect makes it seem like a $90 bottle of tequila isn’t outrageous. Clase Azul Repasado is surely worth it, comparatively; although, I’m sure I’ll not get the chance to try it again at that price. There’s always luck, though—being in the right place at the right time.

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Long Island Craft Brewers to Look for in 2015

We’ve got several new breweries opening in 2015 in Long Island. We’ll be looking for them at local bars, restaurants, beer distributors, and in tasting rooms. Here’s where it’s all happening:

Farmingdale, New York

A Taste of Long Island, a specialty private-use kitchen, and now brewery, will be home to three nano-breweries who will be crafting at the location. They include 1940’s Brewing Company with brewer Charles Becker, Po’Boy Brewery with brewer Bobby Rodriguez, and The Brewer’s Collective with brewers Sarah Dougherty, Tim Dougherty, Mike DePietto, Brad Kohles, and Dan Russo.

Logos for 1940s Brewing, Po Boy Brewery, and The Brewers Collective


Bellport, New York

Bellport BrewingBellport Brewing Co. with brewers Brian Baker and Chris Kelley. This brewery has been quietly working under the radar and is looking for a tasting room in Bellport. We’re sure to see Bellport Brewing at upcoming beer events.


Holbrook, New York

Saint James BrewerySaint James Brewery with owners Rachel and Jamie Adams—Jamie is also the brewer. They’ve poured at many local craft beer events, but now St. James may have a possible tasting room by the new year.

Squarehead BrewingSquareHead Brewing Company with brewer Dave Jordan. We discovered its brews at the North Fork Craft Beer Festival in 2014, and we’re hoping to see more from it in the upcoming year.

Spider Bite BrewingSpider Bite Brewing Co. with brewer Larry Goldstein, just received its license to open a tasting room and micro-brewery. Spider Bite is not new brewery—you can find their beer in four- and six-packs across Long Island—but it had no official location. There’s talk of a possible future brew with ties with a certain online beer blogger.


Northport, New York

Cow Harbor BeerCow Harbor Beer Company is slated to start brewing in early 2015, if all construction goes as planned. Its first brews should be available to the public by spring.

Posted in exposition, freshly bottled.

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Craft Beer New Kids, No More:
Part 1—Yonkers Brewing

So, after two years of struggling with supplies, regulations, licenses, and the always constant outflow of money, you finally open your brewery. Congratulations! You’re the new kid in town! If you’ve done your marketing homework correctly, local media are knocking on your door to publish your story. You’ve received constant calls and emails from beer distributors, bars, and restaurants wanting to get your beer on tap. Twitter and Instagram are abuzz with pictures and good reviews. But six months later, the spotlight fades. Now what?

In this five-part series, we ask local New York breweries what happens when the spotlight has dimmed, the fanfare has quieted, and the not-so-newsworthy hard work of running a business begins. This week, we talk to Yonkers Brewing Co. co-founder, Nick Califano.

Yonkers Brewing Co.

  1. How are your relationships with those first restaurants, bars, and distributors when you opened compared to now? Do they continue to support you?

    (Nick): Bars and restaurants are very eager to be a part of “the next best thing.” Luckily, we have been embraced by our local bars and restaurants not only in the beginning, but throughout our two years in the market. It’s easy to “talk the talk,” to get on the shelves and on the taps in the beginning, but it’s that “walking the walk” that keeps you there. We work for their support every day and have produced high quality beers that people enjoy and will hopefully continue to enjoy for years to come.

  2. How important is social media to a small brewer—being engaged with your customer? Is it possible to be too engaged?

    Engagement is a top priority, and we consider it one of the perks of being a growing business. We are lucky enough to have the ability to get to know our customers via social outlets. We try and create personal connections with our consumer base so they view us as an entity beyond “just a craft brewery.” Social media allows us to get to know the consumers and allows the consumers to get to know us, so make sure you get to know us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

  3. Events are a large part of getting your brewery recognized at the beginning. Do you continue to attend them? Does the cost factor and return-on-investment become bigger concerns now that you are more established?

    Nick Califano of Yonkers Brewing Co.

    Nick Califano likes the display behind him.

    Events are essential in building your brand. We take advantage of most events in our local market as well as peripheral markets we expect to break into in the near future. We have stayed on the event path as we are firm believers in the value of face-to-face marketing. It’s not too often you get to lead a customer through the intended experience of your product. The investment mounts in both time and product, but we still believe it’s all worth it.

  4. How do you balance your current brewing situation and your future expansion needs?

    Co-Founders John Rubbo and Nick Califano

    Yonkers Brewery co-founders, John Rubbo and Nick Califano

    What’s balance? (Laughs) It’s hard to imagine a true balance between current needs and future needs. It’s very easy to get caught up in tomorrow and forget about the sales needed today to get you there. We work hard every day to build the foundation for tomorrow. Sure, we think about our growth constantly and are always planning the next steps, but you have to stay grounded and take it one day at a time. Plus, it helps when you have a good business partner so you can split the focus!

  5. What is the most important thing for your business right now?

    Our community is the most important thing to us right now. They have been our biggest fans throughout this whole process. They see the power of a small business like ours and how it can jump start our neighborhood and our city, and they have championed the brand like no other. They are our biggest cheerleaders and without their support we would not be where we are today.

Thanks, Nick! We’re behind you 100%!

Next time, we talk to Barrage Brewing.

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News for Long Island Craft Beer Locavores

  • Pumpkin beers may be on every tap handle, but it still feels like summer at Port Jeff Brewing Company. Stop by the tasting room near the water, and enjoy warm-weather brews like Waterfront Wheat, White’s Beach Wit, and Peach Wheat. Pick up a growler before the cool winds blow in. Can’t wait for the official start of fall on Monday? Port Jeff Brewing also has Boo Brew on tap, a pumpkin ale made with “organic pumpkin, molasses, nutmeg, cinnamon, and our secret specialty spices.”

  • Long Ireland Brewing has been busy this summer. After releasing Trinity IPA, brewed with Magnum, Simcoe and Amarillo hops for #IPADay, it introduced it’s first lager, Polish Town Pilsner to honor the 40th anniversary of the Polish Town Festival in Riverhead. Only 300 bottles were available for sale at the tasting room, but it can still be found on tap. And then the big one:: Get ready for Long Ireland’s annual Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day party at the brewery. Admission is free, and the festival includes live music, food, and of course, fresh cold beer. The party takes place tomorrow, September 20, from 1–6 PM.

  • Our neighbor up north, The Bronx Brewery, is expanding its workforce, seeking an outside sales rep to help its business grow. The brewery is also finishing up its new brew house and tasting room. A grand opening date will be announced soon—oh, those pesky bureaucratic inspections.

  • Speaking of tasting rooms, even though Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. held the grand opening celebration, its still in the final stages of construction of the secondary, and expanded, brewing facility and tasting room in Peconic. Expect an expansion of the brewery’s beer throughout Long Island and the Tri-State Area. We have no doubt the tasting room will be a must-visit North Fork destination. We predict 2015 will be the Year of Greenport Harbor. Do whales roar?

Posted in busman’s holiday, field trip, freshly bottled, ponies and jiggers.

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The Canonic Tonic — Part 1

Were we talking about gin? My favorite subject! Or maybe it’s tied with my favorite mixer, tonic water. When I was wee, my favorite place to be was behind a restaurant or home bar. My folks were in the food-service industry, so it wasn’t like I was some urchin making coin by spit-cleaning the glasses. Rather, bars were places with hanging crystal glasses, foreign and unique scents, endless ice, and magical guns that shot out soda.

Oh, I loved soda. Cola, especially, but the occasional spritzes of orange or lemon-lime sodas were just a touch away. I loved that the letters C, O, and L on the guns would dispense sweet elixirs of joy. Sometimes, there was an R for root beer, or G for ginger ale. So exotic! Root beer is every kid’s go-to for the harder stuff. Vanilla and birch and sarsaparilla! Drinking it was like becoming a cowboy, howdy. Ginger ale was sophisticated stuff, my monocle set upon my upturned nose. Yes, it was spicy and sweet, like the Boer War or whatever nonsense my prepubescent brain thought was just the end-all of English class and dignity.

S was always a disappointment. What was that, salted water? Yeah, it was bubbly, but it didn’t taste good, no sweeteners or caramel colors. Eventually, I would water-down my colas with seltzer and, eventually, learn to appreciate it for itself. I’ve written an article about it. You should read it sometime.

And then there was Q. Younger me hated that stuff. Spritz it in a glass, and it smelled like 7-Up with something exciting added to it. Lemony? Sure. But what was that enticing scent? Quinine? Why was it there? To help people with malaria? This stuff must be magical! Instead, it was horrible. Absolutely undrinkable.

My folks spared me the forbidden knowledge of its use for pairing with gin (or, if desperate, vodka). So I was left with this undrinkable mess that had no place on the soda gun, which otherwise brought me so much joy. Occasionally, a one-liter bottle would appear in my refrigerator. Surely, I thought, it’s soda, so it must have some redeeming quality. I would open it and smell that sweet, citrusy enigma, and think I must have misjudged it the last time I tried it. A sip, and a confirmation that I had not, would teach me once again to never trust the Q.

And, when in time, I became aware of the possibilities opened to me once I learned to enjoy a tasty beverage, I still was of the opinion that tonic water was nastiness in a glass, and that my dear gin was the worst of of the Big Five (vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, and gin—or what I now refer to as the Holy Quintuplet). When it was suggested to me to try a Gin and tonic, I literally scoffed. Tonic water was awful! Gin tasted like a bar smelled!

Try it. It’s grand. Somehow, the harshness of gin completely complements the astringency of tonic water. God is infinite in His wisdom. The Gin and tonic is cool, refreshing, and bubbly. It’s everything I wanted in a drink as a child, with something for the adult in me as well. The knowledge of this was censored as I skulked behind the bars of my childhood. That’s probably for the best, because as an adult, I take the Gin and tonic as a sign that the Universe is a benevolent place, and that the English managed to stumble into a lot of luck no matter how awful they were.

Wait. Where was I? Ah, tonic water. It still makes no sense to me. It’s harsh stuff. Most modern versions of it are sweetened to the point of absurdity. I doubt that 98% produced actually has quinine in it. Still, stick it with speed-rack gin and it’s tastier than half the concoctions any mixologist can throw together with just three ingredients, gin, tonic water, and lime. It can’t be mixed poorly. Put in too much gin? Still tastes good. Can’t ever have too much lime.

And it’s insidious. As I learned to enjoy the Gin and tonic, I learned to enjoy gin. My top liquor in the Holy Quintuplet is tequila, but gin is just slightly below it. (Thougtful readers may know my least favorite.)

Still, I knew, instinctively, that my tonics were subpar. I didn’t know what a good tonic should taste like, but I was sure that I hadn’t had it yet. Any time I came across something new, I would try it. Eventually, I would find that cane-sugar-sweetened tonics tasted better than the tonics with corn syrup. Listing quinine as an ingredient made the tonic exponentially better, which seems obvious, but I still don’t get it—quinine is nasty stuff. What I didn’t expect was that the less sugar used (not the same as sugar-free!) the better it tasted. And then I tried Fever-tree. I think I have more to say about that.

Posted in drunken missives, exposition.

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Gin Ag’in

It’s been almost five years since I wrote about my favorite gin, Bombay Sapphire, and four years since my positive gin experiences doubled when I tried Hedrick’s gin. Then, gin was getting the short shrift in the liquor store. Flavored vodkas—as if there should be such a thing—were dominating the shelf space, with and tequila and flavored rums squeezing in. Now, whiskey is the dominant spirit, but, lo and behold, gins are proliferating at quite a clip. I imagine that the complexity of whiskey has emboldened the palates of drinkers to the point where juniper and heat no longer scare them away.

Bottles of Bulldog, Glorious Gin, Greenhook, and New Amsterdam gin

One of these things is not like the other.
Photo composite of images from originating sites.

Bulldog Gin

  • Mellow juniper with lemon peel
  • Super smooth and bright herbal note
  • Very little heat

I came across Bulldog gin at a friend’s party. Chilled and alone, it was perfectly fine to sip, and paired with tonic water, it was sublime. It’s very smooth, and the juniper is held in check by a compliment of botanicals that play well together. In particular, I was able to taste the coriander, a woefully underused spice with a sweet lemony kick. (As an aside: Coriander is the fruit of cilantro. The herb and the spice taste nothing alike, and those that despise cilantro won’t find the soapy taste within the seed. In other English-speaking countries, cilantro is called coriander and coriander is called coriander seed. Why America wants to confuse the relation between the two is beyond me.) Bulldog, an English gin, was first launched in New York, so my friend was in the vanguard when he purchased it. Now available worldwide, it’s worth looking for.

Breuckelen Distilling Glorious Gin

  • Anise and citrus
  • Rich earthy herb with ginger kick
  • Warm pine

Is New York a hub for good gin? In my limited purview, it’s a great place. Brooklyn, in particular, is producing two astoundingly good gins. Breuckelen Distilling is notable for its superb wheat and rye whiskeys—more on that at another time. But its gin is a standout, with an earthy, herbaceous flavor, from rosemary backing up the juniper berries. Citrus notes are supplied by lemon and grapefruit, rounded off with the sweet spice of ginger. Many gins boast of the amount of botanicals, implying more is better, but Breuckelen’s Glorious Gin works magic with just the five, each one providing comforting familiarity while producing a complexity of flavor.

Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin

Essential!

  • Flowery with cinnamon notes
  • Buttery with light floral sweetness and unique spice kick
  • Smooth and herbal

Then, when I ask for recommendations, there is the gin that is always named by those that know their stuff: Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin. It’s a killer gin. Smoother than a 94-proof bottle has any right to be, Greenhook’s gin is spiced with nine botanicals, including elderflower, my currently favorite flavor. It’s exotic, but not alien. It’s welcoming in scent and buttery on the tongue. It’s a gin that can get prodigal gin drinkers back into the fold, and make the gin-wary into fans. It works beautifully with lime, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay any liquor. I get Bulldog and Breuckelen’s Glorious Gin quite often, but in between each, I’ll buy another bottle of Greenhook.

There’s something that each of these gins have in common—they all start with wheat as the grain used to create the mash for distilling. Knowing the little that I know of chemistry, I can’t wrap my head around what a difference the grain makes, but corn mashes fall flat on the tongue, where as these three wheat distilled gins all have a wonderfully velvety, buttery feel. I’ve become a grain-snob because of these three. Also, I’m a fan that I can usually find each of these for less than $40. Gin’s prices haven’t spiked the way whiskey’s has.

New Amsterdam Gin

Keep it corked

  • Orange peel with mild juniper
  • Unpleasant orange-ish
  • Mild, but that orange flavor lingers

And yet, I am stingy. My penny-pinching leads me astray. For $18 I picked up a bottle of New Amsterdam gin. New Amsterdam is less forthcoming about its ingredients, with its website noting that it’s “crafted with botanicals, citrus elements and a light touch of juniper.” The citrus elements taste like someone dropped a bottle of St Joseph’s chewable children’s aspirin into the gin. The sweet, not-quite-orange flavor is close to undrinkable. At half the price of the other gins, it still is not worth it. I’ve found some mixers that support, or mask, the odd flavor, but it will take me a long time to finish.

I’d almost think that it’s better to stick with what I know and buy reliable brands. But if I did that exclusively, I wouldn’t have tried the Brooklyn-based gins, sticking to my Bombay Sapphire. My world would have been smaller for it. I won’t let the one bad choice stop me from experiencing the growing world of artisanal gin.

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