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Best Local New York Area Breweries

June 5, 2011 12:08 PM


620getty Best Local New York Area Breweries

Chatting with restaurateur Bill Reichenbach and bartender Joe Vicidomini at David Copperfield’s House of Beer runs the gamut. They can talk with passion about dozens, if not hundreds, of different yeasts. Breweries are not just places to get beer; breweries are families and institutions tied individual brewmasters known by name and personality.

What makes a good beer? Reichenbach, who also co-owns the Hop Devil Grill and Belgian Room and moderates the New York Beer Meetup Group, names two simple factors: taste and balance. “You should always trust your senses. You don’t need an expert to tell you if you like it or not.”

Vicidomini is more critical: “I judge beer based on what it says its going to be. You can have perfectly acceptable beer, but they might call it a stout but it tastes like a wheat.” In other words, the brew had best live up to its own expectations.

Besides the big-name commercial beers every distributor delivers, several superior and locally-made beers can be found across the city. Here’s a checklist of who’s-who and what’s-what to keep track of what you like on tap.

bluepoint Best Local New York Area Breweries

Blue Point Brewing Co.

161 River Avenue

Patchogue, NY 11772

Brewing Since: November 1998

Beers: Toasted Lager, Pale Ale, Summer Ale, Winter Ale, Hoptical Illusion (IPA).

Reichenbach’s Take: “Great session beers, very drinkable. Their Toasted Lager is very, very good.”

ommegang Best Local New York Area Breweries

Brewery Ommegang

656 Century Hwy.

Cooperstown, NY 13326

Brewing Since: November 1997

Beers: Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Ommegang Witte Ale, Rare Vos Amber Ale, Three Philosophers Quadrupel, various seasonals.

Reichenbach’s Take: Burgundian Heavy Ale is complex and “ultimately delicicious… not what you expect when you drink a beer.” Of special note too is their Chocolate Indulgence Belgian chocolate stout, brewed to honor of the company’s 10th anniversary in 2007 and prone to guest reappearances from time to time.

Brooklyn Brewery

118 N. 11th St.

Brooklyn, NY 11211

Reviews & more info

Brewing Since: 1987

Beers: Brown Ale, East India Pale Ale, Lager, Pennant Ale ’55, Pilsner, Weisse, more seasonals.

Reichenbach’s Take: “Their brewer, Garrett Oliver, is like a rock star.” Their Brooklyn Buzz Bomb gets high mention.

Other Notes: Follow Garrett Oliver’s blog at

Captain Lawrence

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company - Pleasantville, NY (file / credit: Captain Lawrence Brewing Company)

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company - Pleasantville, NY (file / credit: Captain Lawrence Brewing Company)

99 Castleton St.

Pleasantville, NY (moving to Elmsford, NY)Brewing Since: 2005

Beers: Pale Ale, Liquid Gold, Smoked Porter, Captain’s Reserve – Imperial IPA, Sun Block – Belgian Style Wit, Brown Bird Brown Ale

Reichenbach’s Take: “Great guys. They’re not a big brewery yet. (Owner Scott Vaccaro) is warm. They make a great IPA.”

After operating out of Pleasantville, NY, for five years, Captain Lawrence is moving to a new location just minutes away in Elmsford due to a need for more space.

Chelsea Brewing Company

Pier 59, Chelsea Piers

New York, NY 10011

Reviews & more info

Brewing Since: April 1996

Beers: Checker Cab Blonde Ale, Sunset Red Ale, other seasonals and regionals.

Reichenbach’s Take: Chelsea Brewing has the distinction for being a survivor — the last brewery still operating on uber-expensive Manhattan real estate.

Other notes: When in the neighborhood, stop by for a taste at their taproom above the marina along the Hudson River.

Greenpoint Beer Works / Kelso and Heartland Brewery and

529 Waverly Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11238

Brewing Since: March 2003

Greenpoint/Kelso Beers: Kelso Nut Brown Lager, Pilsner, St. Gowanus, Carrollgaarden Wit, India Pale Ale, Flemish Red Ale, Recessionator, Blue Hill Project, more seasonals.

Heartland Beers: Indian River Light, Cornhusker Lager, Harvest Wheat Beer, Indiana Pale Ale, Red Rooster Ale, Farmer Jon’s Oatmeal Stout, Bavarian Black Lager, Grateful Red Lager, Mother’s Milk Maibock, Old Red Nose Ale, Smiling Pumpkin Ale, Stumpkin, Summertime Apricot Ale, Full Moon Barley Wine, Not Tonight Honey Porter, Empire Premium Beer

Reichenbach’s Take: Brewmaster Kelly Taylor, the man behind both brands, is “hard working, hard charging,” and his Farmer John’s Stout is good, decent product.

Other Notes: Heartland Brewery has seven locations in various landmarks around the city, including a corner of the Empire State Building.

F.X. Matt / Saranac

811 Edward St.

Utica, NY 13502

Brewing Since: 1888

Beers: Pale Ale, Adirondack Lager, Black Forest, Black & Tan, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, Lake Placid IPA, Lake Placid 46’er Pale Ale, more seasonals.

Reichenbach’s Take: Their huge facility has stood for generations, surviving up and downs to become one of the oldest brewery facilities in the country.

High Point Brewing Company (aka Ramstein Beers)

22 Park Place

Butler, NJ

Brewing Since: 1994

Beers: Ramstein Blonde, Classic, Northern Hills Amber Lager, Golden Lager, more seasonals and specials.

Reichenbach’s Take: “They make very good wheat beers, they’re spot on.”

Ithaca Beer Company

606 Elmira Road

Ithaca, NY 14850

Brewing Since: 1998

Beers: Apricot Wheat, CascaZilla, Flower Power India Pale Ale, Nut Brown, Pale Ale, various seasonals and specials.

Vicidomini’s Take: “They are a great brewery, probably the best in New York City.” Their Flower Power unfiltered IPA and Blueberry Sour Power get a big shout out. (They have a hippie theme going there.)

Reichenbach’s Take: “Great guys, great beer.”

Middle Ages Brewing

120 Wilkinson St.

Syracuse, NY

Brewing Since: 1995

Beers: Apricot Ale, Beast Bitter, Black Heart Stout, Double Wench, Dragonslayer, Druid Fluid, Grail Ale, Highlander Scotch Ale, ImPaled Ale, Kilt Tilter, Old Marcus, Raspberry Ale, Swallow Wit, Syracuse Pale Ale, Tenth Anniversary Ale, The Duke of Winship, Tripel Crown, Wailing Wench, Winter Wheat, Wizard’s Winter.

Reichenbach’s Take: Favorites include the Wailing Wench and ImPaled Ale, in part due to the their names.

Other notes: Dinosaur BBQ carries a house brew made especially for the iconic barbeque rib joint.

Otter Creek and Wolaver’s

793 Exchange Street

Middlebury VT

Brewing Since: 1991 (Otter Creek), 1998 (Wolaver’s)

Otter Creek Beers: Copper Ale, Pale Ale, Stovepipe Porter, Vermont Lager, Solstice Session Ale, Russian Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Quercus Vitis Humulus, various seasonals.

Wolaver’s Beers: Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout, seasonals.

Reichenbach’s Take: “Session” (as in Solstice Session Ale) means drinkable, versus some beer that are so intense, they can be called “pallette wreckers.” Also, since these brewers feature an organic line of brew, he makes sure to highlight them in his bars for Earth Day.

Sixpoint Craft Ales

40 Van Dyke St.

Brooklyn, NY

Brewing Since: 2004

Beers: Apollo Pale Wheat Ale, Bengali Tiger American IPA

Vicidomini’s Take: “They’re epic in Brooklyn, a native son that everyone loves.”

Southampton Brewery

40 Bowden Square

Southampton, NY

* Brewing Since: 1996

* Beers: Double White, Altbier, India Pale Ale, seasonals.

* Reichenbach’s Take: “Phil Markowski: Great brewmaster, award-winning.”

Victory Brewing Co.

420 Acorn Lane

Downingtown, PA 19335

Brewing Since: 1996

Beers: HopDevil, Prima Pils, Golden Monkey, Storm King Stout, Hop Wallop, Victory Lager, Donnybrook Stout, V-12, Helios Ale, Festbier, WildDevil, seasonals.

Reichenbach’s Take: Both his bar on Saint Marks Place and Victory’s signature beer (no relation) take their name from a creature of legendary Belgian folklore, a sort of gremlin who might spoil a batch of beer should you displease him in or near your home. Many Belgian beers tend to have diabolic names and themes.

Other Notes: Follow Victory’s beer blog at

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.

905 Line St.

Easton, PA 18042

Brewing Since: 1995

Beers: Double Simcoe IPA, Hops Infusion, Blithering Idiot, Old Heathen, Merry Monks, seasonals.

Vicidomini’s Take: “A great brewery, tiny. They make a lot of strong, full-flavored beer,” some lots of barley wine and oak-aged beers, strong in both flavor and alcoholic content (so-called “big beers”).

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