Coincidentally, my vacation to New York City fell on the same week as Craft Beer Week. Huzzah! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when I found. It was a moment better embodied in victory dance than words.
I purchased the “Passport” application for my iPhone and had a list of bars, events, and discounts for the week conveniently at my fingertips. The best part: $3 pints at most beer bars. Umm… yes, please!
Perhaps the best event that we attended: lunch at Birreria with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.
Birreria is a restaurant and brewery on the rooftop of Eataly, an Italian market/grocery store, in the Flatiron District. It’s a collaboration project between Dogfish Head, Baladin and Del Borgo and it is simply amazing. Their brew system is, simply put, gorgeous and filled the rooftop restaurant with the sweet smells of boiling wort.
All of their beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and naturally carbonated and served through traditional hand pumps at the ‘perfect’ temperature.
The lunch started with a tour by Sam Calagione and the head brewer, Sam Brookes. Of course, no brewery tour is complete without a pint and so we started with the Sophia, a traditionally brewed Belgian Wit with long black peppercorns selected by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich & Birreria Brothers.
One of the great components of the restaurant is the retractable glass roof. Outside the rain came down in sheets, but provided a welcome background to a very hearty lunch.
The lunch kicked off with a few platters of salumi and glasses (?) of pretzel sticks.
A few minutes later the cheese followed.
And then came the wonder that is the beer battered fried shiitake mushrooms.
The Antipasti was paired with Birra Del Borgo Genziana, a saison spiced with gentian root (which is known for its earthy bitterness and coriander notes). The beer had something to offer for the entire first course. It was dry, crisp, and stepped up from the wheat beer we started with. There was no shortage of pours, either… a half full glass meant a top off was on its way.
Before the second course, Sam stood up and let us know that the glasses were limited and they only had enough for one per person. Then came my favorite quote of the day: Beer drinkers spit and wine drinkers swallow, so let’s all drink at a beer drinker’s pace. I guzzled my fourth pour to empty my glass for the next beer. It was hardly the end of the first course and I was drinking the equivalent of a third beer…
The second course: MEAT. And lots of it. First came the grilled quail, beef short ribs, fried pork ribs, and smoked lamb sausages.
These were paired with a Dogfish Head 2010 Bitches Brew, a bold, dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread honey beer with gesho root.
About ten minutes into the second course they brought out a few small bowls roasted root vegetables. We all had a good laugh at how the healthy portion of the lunch was more of an afterthought and left the buttered carrots alone.
Before the last course, Sam introduced Christian DeBenedetti, author of The Great American Beer Trail and the beer ‘curator’ whose name escapes me, but both shared their passion of beer and how they have turned it into a career.
The last course was a forgettable tiramisu that was paired with a not-so-forgettable Italian Beer, Baladin Super, an amber strong ale with hints of cinnamon.
To end the meal: an absolutely unforgettable beer. Sam introduced a new Dogfish Head collaboration, Urkontinent. He let us know we were the first after an initial group of 8 to try it. Over a week has passed and I’m still thinking about this beer… it’s an interesting dark ale that’s relatively light in body with unique floral and spice notes from the Australian waddleseed, myrica gale, and African Rooibos tea that are added to the brew.
After the lunch, Sam walked around and introduced himself to everyone. His excitement for the beers and food never wavered and he seemed genuinely interested every time someone would ask him about something. I’m not going to lie – I was impressed. When he stopped by our table, ee talked about different Texas brewers he knew, the Alamo Drafthouse, and the explosion of the Austin beer scene. Very cool.
I had high expectations for the lunch and the experience surpassed those expectations. If you ever find yourself in Manhatten and you enjoy really good craft beer – go to Birreria and order a flight.
Above is our table, which included @OneHopAtATime – a fellow homebrewer. I love meeting fellow craft beer enthusiasts. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “Good people drink good beer.” All in all, it was a pretty f’ing fantastic way to spend the afternoon.