Recently, in the food issue of the New Yorker, Burkhard Bilger chronicled the rise of so-called “extreme,” or craft beer in America—about 6% of the market and growing. Bilger framed his piece as a battle between the upstart Dogfish Head brewery, with its adventurous and creative brews, versus the monolithic Budweiser, with its insistence on Teutonic simplicity and consistency (read: tasteless swill). Of greater interest, perhaps, is the evolution of the microbrew-beerpub phenomenon in general: America is returning to its 19th-century roots, offering far more varieties of complex beers, while market forces kill off the more extravagant monstrosities. (I mean, c’mon, unless you’re the chairman of the Hanseatic League or an Estonian bricklayer, do you really need to drink Das Yak Sweat Doppelbock made with ten times the RDA-approved quantity of hops? Seriously.)
Suffice it to say, it’s a good time to be a beer snob in New York City. From the McSorley’s stalwarts to the Barcade regulars, our numbers are swelling, up and down Bleeker Street, in the crevices of Midtown, to Biergartens in Queens and further south in the specialty shops of Brooklyn. It would appear that craft beer has stolen the thunder from $4 coffee and $15 Cosmos as the new drink of choice in these trying times. But where to look?
New York is like the internet: It has everything you could possibly ever want and more, but you have to know where to look, otherwise you feel like you’re on a bus searching for a Fabergé egg in Dallas. Thankfully, where there is beer, there are fanatics. For most of us, BeerMenus.com is our one-stop guide, exclusively documenting, tracking and pinpointing who is pouring what and where in the city. Run by Will Stephens from Bierkraft in Park Slope—which itself boasts over 900 beers in its cellar—BeerMenus allows you to make sense of it all and get the best deal. So, if your best friend is still addicted to Bud, it’s now easier than ever to stage an intervention (And no, Budweiser American Ale doesn’t count).
Now, when I think of the holidays, I think about drinking. And when you reach my age, the holidays are less about what thoughtful yet truly misguided gifts you receive and return and more about what kind of drink will get you pleasantly hammered and calm in amidst the chaos. The holidays demand some sort of liquid fortitude to stand up to the constant inquiries regarding your career plans and marital prospects, while your niece, nephew and other anonymous tow-headed children treat you like the rock wall at Crunch.
My recommendation this year is Anchor Christmas Ale, brewed from November to mid-January for the past 34 years. (Founded in 1896 in San Francisco, Anchor Brewery was the only craft brewery in the United States for much of the last century.) It has a different recipe each year, typically featuring the same holiday spices that make everything you’ll eat in the next few weeks taste like it was made by fat well-meaning elves, which is to say, delicious. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate and bring in the New Year. Cheers. ~ DANIEL ARIZONA
Picture credit: trialsanderrors (via Flickr)