Best Coffee and Craft Beer in New York
Spotted: coffee and craft beer on the Upper East Side.
DTUT was a popular coffee hangout on the Upper East Side until its closing in 2007. Now just a few blocks north of its previous location, DTUT is the perfect retreat for a cup of coffee or a delicious craft beer.
Corey Lopez-Thomas, owner of the new DTUT (which stands for Downtown Uptown), revamped the simultaneous café/ bar with Irving Farms coffee from Hudson Valley. He told us he loves their consistently delicious coffee and admires their love for the science of brewing.
Lopez-Thomas wants customers to feel at ease when ordering craft beers. He says that the term shouldn’t alienate people. That’s why beer representatives come to DTUT to give the staff lessons. Knowing the difference between an ale and a lager or how hoppy a beer is can help bartenders suggest beers to newcomers. The bar's lengthy craft beer list includes favorites like Fire Island Sea Salt Ale, Six Point, and Dogfish Head.
Café during the day and bar at night, the revamped DTUT is a great venue, showcasing sustainably-sourced artisan coffee and authentic, creative craft beers.
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If that’s true, I’ll add that it takes a heck of a lot of coffee to brew great beer, or in my case, write about it. A strong cup of joe is a prerequisite to starting the day, but I could probably drink coffee all day if I didn’t think it would screw up my sleep pattern.
The good news for my fellow coffee and beer fans is that American small and independent craft brewers are also fond of coffee—not just to keep them going, but to complement their creations. As beer pundits argue over the merits of the current cloudy, fruit IPA trend, I take pleasure in seeing more and more breweries coming out with a variety of coffee beers this year. Coffee and beer need not occupy separate spaces, and I am not the only one excited for the increased variety.
Coffee beers are nothing new. Even before we were lucky enough to have Brian Yeager write about breweries teaming up with roasters and coffee shops, the java stout was a popular treat to find on a tap room menu.
Coffee and stout share common tastes and flavor characteristics that make them perfect compliments. Roasted coffee beans are most similar to roasted barley—an important malt variety that makes a stout a stout—which has a similar chocolate, espresso trait. If you ever have the opportunity to try some roasted barley, you will immediately think, “Hey, this tastes exactly like coffee beans smell.”
Of course, small brewers never seem content to rest on their laurels, and many find that coffee is a great addition to other styles of beer as well. The most interesting of which may be coffee IPAs, which I first experienced at Boulder’s Fate Brewing Co. Brewer Jeff Griffith used the sturdy bitterness of the two beverages to temper each other—the effect being a refreshing beer with an amazingly fresh and bright mocha flavor.
If you love your hops as much as your beans, coffee IPA is a style to seek out, but the dark roasty beers, the likes of brown ales, porters and stouts, will always offer brewers an opportunity to create the quintessential beer experience for craft and café lovers alike.
These are the top 5 Breweries in New York
New York state has more than 320 breweries — some 200 of which opened in the last five years. Which got New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thinking, “Which one’s the best?” That led to the Taste NY Craft Beer Challenge and a public poll of 170 breweries from May 1 to May 12. Now the results are in.
The top five breweries in New York according to more than 42,000 online votes are:
- Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown
- Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester
- Prison City Pub and Brewery in Auburn
- The Roscoe NY Beer Co. in Roscoe
- Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood
There’s just one problem. Technically speaking, Genesee isn’t a craft brewery. It’s the oldest brewery in New York (founded in 1878), but it’s now wholly owned by the Costa Rican Florida Ice and Farm Company. It’s also, apparently, beloved state wide.
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Brewery Ommegang opened in 1997 and specializes in farmhouse ales and Belgian styles. It’s owned by the Belgian company Duvel Moortgat.
Prison City opened in 2014, and its Mass Riot IPA has gotten rave reviews.
Roscoe Beer Co. opened in 2013 in the Catskills and was “created by folks who enjoy the great outdoors.”
Southern Tier Brewing is one of the biggest craft breweries in the state, and works with Victory Brewing Co.
The top beer will be selected by Mario Batali, Cuomo, and a panel of beer judges on the night of May 17.
The Beer Bar to Visit: As Is
Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t get much love in culinary circles, but if you’re looking for a beautifully designed bar that features 20 of the most exciting taps in the city, (featuring NYC breweries like Grimm Artisanal Ales, as well as beers from grail-worthy breweries like Hill Farmstead and Cantillon), that’s where you’re headed.
The partners at As Is, Benjamin Pratt and Brandon Duff, perfectly represent what makes the New York beer scene so relevant: Two devoted beer obsessives with food, coffee, and booze industry experience, who will happily chat with you about a brewery they’re pumped on, because that's what they like to do. Many beer bars feel stale and outdated, but Pratt and Duff's youthfulness shows on all levels of As Is, from the A$AP Rocky or Sylvan Esso bumping through the stereo system to the regular bottle shares hosted on Sunday afternoons to frozen margaritas swirling in the machine behind the bar to the list of cocktails on draft. And most important, the taps feature a constantly changing list of new, innovative breweries from the states and beyond. The space, covered in geometric tile, weaving its way through dark wood grains and lush, green plants, catches the afternoon light roaring down 10th Ave., which makes the bar prime, dreamy Instagram territory, even though it's only a ten minute walk from Times Square. Sure, people come to As Is to try new beers, but really, people come to As Is because it’s a hell of a good time.
Patrons basking in As Is' afternoon light
Your second stop: Blind Tiger Ale House – A true OG in the New York beer scene (opened in 1995), the Blind Tiger has relationships deep in the New York beer scene, which allow tons of exclusive beers to show up on its all-inclusive tap list, including hop-forward brews from new-school breweries like Industrial Arts and classics from craft beer pioneers like Founders. Get there at an off hour to snag a seat at the Greenwich Village bar (it gets crowded). Head to Joe’s for a slice (or three) after.
Look out for beers from these breweries: Finback (for juicy IPAs and barrel-aged stouts), Barrier (for Money, the best flagship, single IPA brewed in NY), Other Half (for dank, double IPAs in beautiful cans), Grimm (for fruit-forward sours and imperial stouts), Plan Bee Farm Brewery (for funky sour ales with unexpected ingredients), and Suarez Family Brewery (for perfect lagers and balanced saisons).
These New York Craft Brewers Are Releasing New Beers On Black Friday
Willow Rock will release the 2019 edition of Bear Ninja Cowboy.
While Black Friday is the shopping kickoff to the holiday season, there are several craft beer brewers in New York State that are claiming the day in the name of beer — they will be releasing limited edition brews.
"For craft beer enthusiasts, Black Friday is a day to hunt down rare and specialty beer releases. As the New York State craft beer industry has grown to more than 450+ breweries, so has Black Friday as a beer holiday. Brewers have used the day as an opportunity to brew unique and special offerings for consumers to share with friends and family over the holiday season,” says Chloe Kay, New York State Brewers Association.
Brittany Statt, marketing director, Rohrbach Brewing Company, says that the opportunity for brewers to create buzz surrounding the day is, in part, thanks to two trends. The first, she says, is the appeal of purchasing unique gifts for friends and family. The second is the continued growth of the maker and shop local movements, combined with the consumer desire for experiences.
“I think people as a whole are moving towards supporting local, small businesses and we're seeing that trend carry through to 'big store' traditions like Black Friday. Consumers are looking for an alternative, more fulfilling way to spend their dollars on Black Friday. Breweries can offer a unique experience — you can enjoy a pint with friends or family while also still getting some shopping done. We're releasing a special beer for the excitement of the day, while also offering retail specials. We're grateful that people choose to spend Black Friday with us and feel that they should be rewarded,” adds Statt.
Here are some of the beers that will be available on Black Friday:
Crafty Ales & Lagers in Phelps, NY will be doing a “Blackout” where their nine beers on taps will be dark for the day. Varieties include a chocolate porter, coffee porter, milk stout aged on coffee liqueur-soaked oak chips, black IPA and an aged imperial stout with vanilla. They’re also releasing June’s Molasses Cookie Brown Ale, based on the founder and original brewer’s grandma’s recipe for molasses cookies and made with baked molasses cookies. All of these beers will be available at the brewery as tastings or pints, or to-go as growlers and crowlers.
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Black Friday is also Willow Rock Brewing Company’s anniversary, on which they release a different iteration of their Bear, Ninja, Cowboy series each year. This year, the beer is a dark Russian imperial stout full with notes of toffee, dark chocolate and malt and 10.2% ABV. This year’s batch will be available in cans and on draft while supplies last, starting on Black Friday. The series also represents a tournament they host every year on their anniversary — played like rock, paper, scissors, it’s a full-bodied experience where people act out each fearsome warrior in an attempt to be crowned the Willow Rock BNC Champion.
For Rising Storm Brewing Co., canning is a rare occurrence so they are expecting a big turnout for their double can release on Black Friday. Starting at 11am, two beers will be released, Boise N The Hood: a New England Style IPA focused on the Idaho 7 hop, and Cherry Raspberry Pomegranate It Was Written: a sour IPA loaded with fruit.
To help warm you up, Galaxy Brewing Company will be releasing their Ghost of Christmas on Black Friday. It’s a Belgian Strong Dark beer clocking in at 9.8% ABV, with chocolate, orange peel, cinnamon, raisins, honey and a little bit of ghost peppers. It is only a little spicy, just enough to give you some holiday warmth, the brewery notes. The special holiday beer will be available in a 750ml bottle for $14.99.
Bolton Landing Brewing Co. will release their Festival Slacks Holiday Belgian Dubbel, a classic Belgian Dubbel with a holiday twist subtly spiced with Santa’s secret spice blend. It has a complex yet clean malt character with pronounced notes of raisins, semi-sweet chocolate, dates, and hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. It will be available in their taproom on draft and by crowler to-go, and distributed across Upstate NY/Capital Region.
Brewers Make a Comeback In a State They Once Left
New Jersey once was home to some of the largest and most respected breweries in the country. With names like Ballantine, Rheingold and Pabst, among others, brewing was the fourth-largest industry in Newark, and the seventh-largest in the state, nearly 100 years ago.
Today, things are quite different. With the exception of the Anheuser-Busch plant in Newark, which produces about seven million barrels of Budweiser and Bud Light per year, all other licensed beer manufacturers in the state are microbreweries or brewpubs -- each producing fewer than 15,000 barrels annually.
''The state is certainly not what it used to be when it comes to beer, which is a terrible and baffling thing,'' said Paul Gatza, director of the Association of Brewers in Boulder, Colo. ''Given the diversity of craft beer these days, coupled with the diversity of the New York metro area, the beer industry should be booming and creating some wonderful beers. But it is not.''
There are, however, those who believe the Garden State's taps will soon flow again with large quantities of microbrewed beer and ale.
And so the faithful gathered in late June on a grassy field at Waterloo Village in Stanhope to celebrate all things brew at the seventh annual Garden State Craft Brewers festival.
A showcase of the state's microbreweries and brewpubs, the festival gives ''hopheads'' and '𧯮r goddesses'' a chance to taste new beers, discuss fermenting and other processes with brewers, swap recipes and socialize with people who turn up their noses at the sight of a Bud Light.
''We're a passionate bunch when it comes to beer,'' said Joe Battaglia, 28, a home brewer from Newark who attended with several friends. ''We're also snobs. Coors, Budweiser, Miller, all those beers that are mainstream pale in comparison to the rich, creative, better-tasting beers presented here.''
About a dozen of the state's 16 licensed microbreweries and brewpubs were represented at the festival, and they doled out samples of beer and ale with names like Triumph Jewish Rye, Tun Tavern IPA Über, Triumph Coffee and Cream Stout and Gaslight Hopfest to hundreds of thirsty visitors.
New Jersey's beer roots go back to the 1800's, according to the New Jersey Historical Society, when German immigrant brewers set up shop in Newark along the banks of what was then a pristine Passaic River. By 1910, brewing in the state was a $20 million-plus business, and the brewers and imbibers were flying high.
During World War I, many of the state's German brewers fled to the Midwest to escape persecution, said Chad Leinaweaver, director of the library at the New Jersey Historical Society.
The breweries were dealt another blow by Prohibition, and by the 1950's only a handful of breweries were left in the state. The Rheingold Brewery in Orange closed its doors in 1977, followed by Pabst in Newark in 1985, leaving Anheuser-Busch as the only operating brewery in New Jersey.
Then, in the 1990's, the microbrewery craze began sweeping the nation, though it was not until 1995 that New Jersey issued its first brewpub license since Prohibition, to the Ship Inn Restaurant and Brewery in Milford.
''It wasn't easy,'' said Ann Hall, co-owner of the Ship Inn. ''The state was and is well behind other areas, like Seattle, Vermont and Maryland, when it comes to issuing licenses to breweries.
'ɺt first, there were two types of breweries opening -- those who wanted a quick buck and those who were serious about the beer,'' she said. ''Today, the brewers in the state that survived are in this for the long haul. We are serious about beer. We know tradition.''
Ms. Hall and many brewery owners and brewers expressed frustration with what they see as the strong grip large distributors like Budweiser and Miller have on the state.
''There are quality beers being produced in the state, and many residents don't realize that. They'll buy Bud Light because it's what they see on television and because it is familiar,'' said Rick Reed, brewer at the Cricket Hill brewery in Fairfield. ''We're trying to change drinkers' perception to show them what good beer is, to go back to the roots of quality brewing.''
The best current example of brewery success in New Jersey is the Flying Fish Brewing Company of Cherry Hill, which produces 8,500 barrels a year.
''If Flying Fish can successfully expand regionally, like Saranac or Brooklyn Beer have, then New Jersey could be back on the map as a maker of fine beers, lose the stigma and help the other state's brewers to make a strong push to regain some of the market,'' said Mr. Gatza of the Association of Brewers.
Gregory J. Zaccardi, president of the High Point Wheat Beer Company, a microbrewery in Butler, said: ''The future, as I see it, will be a repeat of the past. New Jersey will become a destination for brewers and serious beer drinkers. It's happening slowly, but it's happening.''
The Beauty Queens
Ever since this emerging coffee company began serving their own roasts out of the back of a Williamsburg barbershop, they've turned heads (and not just because of their gorgeous packaging). Led by a Stumptown alum, Parlor offers a small, ever-changing selection of delicately roasted beans you can order online from around the world—if it's too tough for you to make it to the barbershop, that is.
The view from San Francisco's Sightglass Coffee
Photo courtesy of Sightglass Coffee
A more recent comer to the San Francisco game, Sightglass inspires just as much love as the city's long-established boutique brands. Their café in South of Market is one of the country's most striking, and their on-the-lighter-side roasts are presented in the most adorable Kraft bags with handsome info tags—each time you get one, it's like buying a wrapped coffee present for yourself.
One of the Pacific Northwest's finest artisan roasters is located not in Seattle or Portland, but rather between the two, in the small Washington town of Olympia. There, in a region where coffee roasting is almost as popular as beards or beer, Olympia Coffee Roasters devotes loving care to everything from bean sourcing to the almost unbearably handsome packaging.
It's always exciting to see great coffee taken seriously in places you might not expect, and Fayetteville, Arkansas' Onyx Coffee is a great example. From the intricately conceived bags to the roaster's own initials on each batch, this roaster is taking all aspects of craft roasting to the max, showcasing classic styles of coffee like funky, natural-processed Ethiopians to experimental, lactic-acid-processed (!) micro-lot coffees.
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The bar was fashioned from thick marble, and the walls were covered in wood salvaged from upstate barns. Mikkeller, which has contracted with brewers in Holland, Scotland and Norway and has bars in Copenhagen (where the company is headquartered), San Francisco, Stockholm and Bangkok, has greater global reach than Evil Twin Jeppe concentrates on the American market, New York particularly. His beer is available at specialty shops and restaurants across the city, including Eleven Madison Park and Pok Pok. “Being a gypsy brewer, I don’t have my own brewery, so I couldn’t showcase beers at my own place,” Jeppe said. With Torst, that has changed. Mounted on a marble slab were 21 beer taps, a third of them devoted to Evil Twin Jeppe had a $16,000, custom-built draft system called a flux capacitor, which allows the bartender to control the precise carbonation and temperature of each selection. Despite this elaborate rig, Jeppe said: “I didn’t want Torst to be just a geeky place, just for beer nerds. I like to go out sometimes and not only be around fat men that drink beer.”
Jeppe’s affability notwithstanding, he was full of bravado when it came to discussing business. “I wanted to change the beer scene in New York,” he said. “I wanted to show New York how to do it.” I ordered an Evil Twin beer called Bikini, a mere 2.7 percent alcohol by volume, and when I expressed surprise at its abundant flavor, Jeppe took a shot at his brother’s tendencies. “For me, drinkability is the most important,” Jeppe said. “I’m not gonna make a Dark Lord” — the ultrarich Three Floyds stout. “It’s a fun beer to try, but it’s undrinkable. I don’t want to sound like I put down my brother’s beer, but he’s in the line of Three Floyds a bit too much. He’s very fascinated with what they do. He makes this blueberry spontaneous” — a Belgian-inspired ale — “and I hate it. I think it’s disgusting. It tastes like Kool-Aid.”
Laughing, Jeppe told me about Bozo, a high-alcohol stout that he designed expressly to “make fun of” the extreme flavor experiments in which craft brewers like Mikkeller often engage. “We added cocoa, chocolate, coconut, cinnamon, oak chips, chili, coffee, vanilla, hazelnut, chestnut, marshmallows,” Jeppe said. “It’s not a beer I’d drink, but it came out excellent, and it gets crazy high ratings.”
Mikkel and Jeppe grew up in Niva, a small town 20 miles north of Copenhagen. Their father, Jens Borg Nielsen, was the warden of Vestre prison in Copenhagen their mother did administrative work in the Danish Prison and Probation Service. When the brothers were 8, their parents divorced, and Nielsen, accepting a job at another prison, moved six hours north and had two more children.
The twins incorporated their mother’s surname, Bjergso, into their own, dropping “Nielsen.” “It was hard for my mom to have two kids, and we didn’t have a lot of money,” Mikkel recalled, “so I didn’t like the fact that my father had moved away and got a new family and didn’t show an interest in me. But I try not to spend time on being angry at people.” He described his relationship with Nielsen today as “very good” Jeppe, whose feelings are much less sanguine, has replaced the vestigial “Borg”’ with “Jarnit,” his wife’s surname. The divorce, Jeppe told me, was “extremely rough,” but it had the effect of tightening the twins’ bond: “It was us against the world, always together. Defending each other.”
But they were also intensely competitive with each other, a dynamic that manifested early and sometimes comically. “Mikkel and I were born less than two minutes apart,” Jeppe told me. “He came first, but I was supposed to. He was laying the wrong way, and he came out through a C-section. If we’d been delivered the normal way, I would have been first. I like to say he made trouble before he was even born.” As small children, the twins competed to see who could empty the dishwasher faster, and such timed trials continued into adolescence. “From about 11 years old, we started middle-distance running, and we became really good,” Mikkel said. As Jeppe put it: “We always had someone we wanted to beat.” In 1994, the twins entered an 800-meter race at the Aarhus Games, an international track-and-field event. “It was our best race, and the difference between us was, like, one-hundredth of a second,” Mikkel said. “I came in second. Jeppe was third.”
Mikkel discovered craft beer while studying at Kansas State University, which he attended on a running scholarship and where he took chemistry and physics courses. His first taste was a bottle of Dead Guy, from Oregon’s Rogue Ales. “I remember thinking it was interesting,” he said, “but I didn’t pay attention. I went back to Coors Light, drinking what everybody else did. I loved the Silver Bullets. Remember those cans?” After freshman year, his passion for running waned, and he returned to Copenhagen, where he found “a beer revolution” underway, echoing the American craft-beer boom of the 1980s: “We had been completely dominated by Carlsberg,” Mikkel says, and “people got tired of it.” He joined a beer club started by Jeppe, where they and several of their friends drank and discussed the most interesting brews they could find. In 2005, Jeppe opened a beer store called Olbutikken, which became well known among beer drinkers. Mikkel, who worked as a science teacher, began home-brewing in his spare time with an old running pal named Kristian Keller. Forming Mikkeller in Mikkel’s kitchen, they found an early hit in Beer Geek Breakfast, a stout brewed with French-press coffee, which Jeppe agreed to stock. A year or so later, Keller left the business — he wanted to be a writer — and Mikkel took control of the company.
The arrangement between Olbutikken and Mikkeller was symbiotic. The store helped to put Mikkeller on the beer map Mikkeller became Olbutikken’s marquee draw. There was an implicit pact between the Bjergso boys: One would stick to selling beer, the other to brewing it. In 2010, however, Mikkel opened a flagship Mikkeller bar a short walk from Olbutikken. It was not a bottle shop, but the business “started to create conflict” nonetheless, Schon said. “The agreement that they’d had fell apart.” Soon after the bar opened, Jeppe started Evil Twin, and things went downhill. “I don’t know the details, but how would you feel if your brother copied your entire business plan?” Boggess said. Schon recalls being with the twins around this time. “Mikkel would say, ‘Tell my brother this,’ and Jeppe would respond, ‘Tell my brother this,’ ” Schon said. “They were 10 feet apart, but they refused to talk to each other.”
Jeppe acknowledged that when the first Mikkeller bar opened, it felt divisive: “Mikkeller had always been my house brand, and when Mikkel opened his bar, I said, ‘If he’s not gonna do it for me, I’ll just do it myself.’ ” But Jeppe said that his real anger stemmed from a quarrel over a 2009 real estate transaction, when Mikkel tried, he said, to back out of a deal to purchase Jeppe’s apartment. “For me, it wasn’t about money,” Jeppe said. “It was about the coldness in how he did it. He was like, ‘I don’t care.’ I felt a betrayal, big time. That’s where it all went really wrong. We almost got into physical fights. We didn’t, but almost. This episode made me realize that just because we grew up together, just because we’re twins. . . .” Jeppe trailed off, then declared: “You don’t choose your siblings.” (Mikkel disputes Jeppe’s account.)
I asked Jeppe if he had talked through these grievances with Mikkel. “We went to therapy right before I moved to the States — like, couples’ therapy,” Jeppe said. These visits spanned several months, but he deemed them unproductive. “I was crying, I put myself on the spot, and he was pretty cold, just sitting there looking at me.” And yet, he said, the therapist had been Mikkel’s idea. “He probably feels it somewhere,” Jeppe said. He added that, not long ago, Mikkel emailed him, hoping to reopen a dialogue, “but I feel it’s worthless to even try anymore.”
“Jeppe, on some level, is a little more insecure than Mikkel,” says Keller, who has known the twins since adolescence. “Jeppe always seems like he needs to prove himself more. That’s why he talks more. Whereas Mikkel is not trying to convince you to like him. So he comes off more relaxed or sure of himself. I’m not sure he is, but he comes off that way.”
Still, Mikkel’s troubles with his brother clearly weighed on him, even as he tried to make it seem otherwise. Over dinner one night, I asked him if he’d visited Jeppe in America. “I’d like to see my brother’s bar,” he replied, with a touch of wistfulness. A beat later, he added: “But I have no reason to go there. I don’t really have a market in New York.” Later on, when I pressed him, he cast his troubles with Jeppe as an irreducible fact of genetics. “It’s being the same person,” Mikkel said in what became something of a refrain. “You’ll only understand it if you’re a twin.”
As we traveled through Belgium, Mikkel rarely mentioned Jeppe unless I did so first, and he was eager to quit the topic of his family for a happier one: beer and how he makes it. In the lobby of his hotel, he sat with his laptop, focused on business. “Our daily work is a lot about logistics,” he said. Mikkeller’s staff consists of fewer than a dozen full-time employees. “We could probably use more people,” he said, “but we have a really good group right now. I don’t want a big staff.” Mikkel likes to hire people with unlikely backgrounds. Alsing, before he came to Mikkeller, was a major in the Danish Army, serving a seven-month deployment in Feyzabad, Afghanistan. Mikkel told me that he had recently been charmed by a job applicant whose résumé began, “I worked in a forest with an ax and a chain saw. . . .”
Last year, Mikkel brought on a full-time art director, an American named Keith Shore, whose portfolio includes illustrations for McSweeney’s books and merchandise design for the Shins. (Shore is an acquaintance of mine.) His Mikkeller labels, featuring misshapen cartoon characters that evoke construction-paper cutouts, give the brand a look both whimsical and, in a market dominated by labels either unremarkable or garish, anomalously cool. Mikkel attributes Mikkeller’s success to the scrupulous attention he pays not only to beer but also to the context within which customers encounter it. “I hate to look at ugly things,” he said. “If I’m in a bar, and it’s ugly, I don’t want to be there.” He added: “I’d never put a good beer in a bottle that looked bad. The beer wouldn’t be good anymore.”
The day after our visit to de Proef, we headed south, toward several breweries that specialize in lambic ales. Lambics are produced by what’s known as spontaneous fermentation, in which wort, a sugary mush extracted from boiled starch sources, is poured into a shallow metal basin called a koelschip, where it is exposed to the open air, rich in bacteria and wild yeasts. The taste of good lambics — dry, sour, with varying degrees of funk — derives largely from a wild yeast called Brettanomyces, which in most beers is considered a contaminant. Mikkel calls spontaneous beers, which age in wooden barrels, “by far the most interesting, both to make and taste. When I do a recipe, I know what comes out of it. With lambics, though, it’s impossible, because what’s in the air now will be different tomorrow, and all barrels are different. It’s a lot more like winemaking. I think I’d do that if I could, instead of brewing beer. I like being not in control of everything.”
As we approached the town of Lembeek, he said: “You are about to meet the godfather of lambics. In the ’70s, no one was buying lambics anymore. They were almost dying out. This guy kept it alive.” We soon arrived at Brouwerij Boon, where the godfather in question, a 60-year-old man named Frank Boon, greeted Mikkel warmly. Inside, Boon gestured toward a set of windows that are thrown open during brewing season, which lasts from fall into early April. “We capture wild yeast from the surroundings,” Boon said. “Below 10-degrees Celsius, unwanted bacteria can live, but they don’t develop to a troublesome degree. If we keep brewing past then, the lambic tastes like sour soup. You can smell the change in the air, the grass growing. The beer gets goût de fin de saison — a nice name for something not very nice.”
In a cavernous storeroom, wooden barrels were fitted with blowholes that Boon’s crew had plugged with billiard balls gases could escape during fermentation, nudging up the balls, which otherwise maintained a seal. When I asked Boon what he liked about Mikkel’s beer, he responded with a fable intended to praise Mikkel’s unorthodox, prolific creativity: “A bee is intelligent, but if you put it in a bottle and you point the opening of the bottle away from the sun, the bee will only fly toward the sun, and he will never escape. If you put 20 mosquitoes into the bottle instead, they may have no intelligence, but they fly in every direction, and one will be free in two seconds.” Mikkel raised an eyebrow gamely. “So you are saying I’m a mosquito?” he asked.
The lambics you encounter most commonly — fruit-flavor varieties made by relatively big brewers like Belle-Vue and Lindemans — are very sweet. Mikkel was eager to visit smaller producers, whose ales are subtler and scarcer. One of these was 3 Fonteinen, a venerated brewery in Beersel not much larger than an auto-body shop, where we arrived the next day. The head brewer was Armand Debelder, who has known Mikkel and Jeppe for several years and calls them “very special both.” Jeppe approached Debelder during the Olbutikken days about selling 3 Fonteinen in Copenhagen, and Debelder was charmed: “He had passion for the beer,” Debelder said. “When you talked to him, you felt it immediately.”
To celebrate Mikkel’s visit, Debelder fetched a dusty bottle of Millennium Geuze. Bottled in 1998, the beer has become a collector’s item. “This originally sold for the equivalent of 8 euros,” Debelder said. “I have heard of people selling bottles for €950 — crazy!” Among beer connoisseurs’ favorite descriptors for wild ales are “farmhouse,” “barnyard” and “horse blanket,” and as I tasted the 16-year-old geuze, I expected some serious horse blanket. But it was bright and crisp. “It tastes fresher than younger beers,” Mikkel said, shaking his head in amazement.
Mikkel believes that producing beer on too large a scale invariably hurts excellence. After Debelder mentioned Sam Calagione, whose Delaware-based Dogfish Head brewery makes some of America’s most popular craft beers, Mikkel said: “Sam’s a really good guy. But I don’t really like all of his beers. It tastes like he filters them. They’re not as extreme as when he started. I think, as he’s gotten big, he’s lost touch with the quality.”
Back in Copenhagen, several days later, I dropped in on the Mikkeller office, located on a busy thoroughfare in Vesterbro, above a Cantonese restaurant. In an hour Mikkel would join Boggess to check out a vast, white-tiled industrial space in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district, where Mikkeller plans to open a brewpub with the help of Three Floyds this year. That evening, Mikkel was co-hosting a private beer-dinner at a restaurant called Mielcke & Hurtigkarl. His desk lay at one end of a long room, overlooking a double-row of workstations where staff members quietly tapped at keyboards and murmured into phones. “Mikkel doesn’t like a lot of talking in the office,” Alsing told me. “If you need to have a conversation, or even a phone call, you go into the kitchen.”
The lighting fixtures and furniture, in complementary shades of fuchsia, grape and cobalt, were the work, mostly, of Verner Panton, a Danish designer whose psychedelically undulating creations Mikkel collects. “His designs were totally outrageous,” he said. “He used different colors, materials, shapes. He did what I want to do: What no one expects.” Mikkel didn’t mention it, but Jeppe is an avid Panton collector, too.
One recent weekend, I joined Jeppe in South Carolina, where he’d been invited to participate in the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. He gave a seminar on contract-brewing, a cooking presentation with the Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker and a private dinner at Edmund’s Oast, a gourmet brewpub. After these obligations were through, he drove across the Cooper River into Mount Pleasant, to a small brewery called Westbrook.
Evil Twin has been contracting with Westbrook for several years. “Like, 80 percent of their capacity is taken up by my beer right now,” Jeppe said as he pushed through the front door. Inside was Micah Melton, the chef de cuisine at Aviary, Grant Achatz’s high-concept Chicago cocktail bar. Melton had come to Charleston for the festival, too, and he and Jeppe were inaugurating a new collaborative brew that involved blueberries, cured raisins, lemon peels and a half-dozen other things. (For all his digs at Mikkel’s extravagant concoctions, Jeppe has a maximalist streak of his own.)
As Jeppe sniffed from a bag of Sorachi Ace hops and tasted a new beet-and-licorice-infused beer straight from the fermenting vat, my mind flashed to Mikkel doing the exact same thing across the world, at de Proef — the twins mirroring each other, with an ocean of resentments and recriminations between them.
This May, Mikkeller will hold its annual beer festival in Copenhagen, and as always, Mikkel has invited a select group of brewers, including Jeppe, to showcase their wares. In 2013, Jeppe pulled out at the last minute, upset by a heated email exchange with Mikkel. I asked if he would go this year, and he said that he’d already bought his plane ticket. “Do I want to go?” Jeppe asked. “I don’t know. Not really. But I think it would be more of a victory for Mikkel if I don’t, because then he can say, ‘He canceled again.’ ” Jeppe nodded solemnly. “Me showing up is gonna be worse for him.”
GEORGIA: Rev Coffee Roasters in Smyrna
Rev Coffee Roasters/Facebook
Rev Coffee Roasters' website claims the cafe never learned the meaning of the word "decent" and thus has never settled for anything below perfection. The house-roasted beans certainly seem to be raising the coffee bar with thousands of four- and five-star reviews across Yelp, Google, and Foursquare.
New York Food Festivals & Shows (Food, Wine, Beer & Agricultural Events)
December 31, 2020
Times Square New Year's Eve Ball
New York, New York
A VIRTUALLY ENHANCED CELEBRATION that brings Times Square and the Ball to you digitally no matter where you are, scaled-back and socially-distanced live elements still to be determined, and an extremely limited group of in-person honorees, socially distanced, who will reflect the themes, challenges and inspirations of 2020. DETAILS TO BE DETERMINED.
Annual Coffee & Tea Festival NYC
Brooklyn, New York
The Coffee & Tea Festival NYC is back and full of flavor and will be held at the Brooklyn EXPO Center! Join more than 75 exhibitors from around the globe as they pour tastings of their finest coffees and teas and introduce you to new and award-winning products – the lineup will surpass all years past and include more coffee, as requested! This international extravaganza celebrating all things coffee and tea will offer two days of programs from well-known industry pros and pioneers, pairings, tastings, and more! The 28,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall will also feature some of the most delectable sweet and savory foods to compliment the spectacular collection of coffees and teas. Bring your family, bring your friends – make it an inexpensive and delicious day out! Attendance: 8,000.
Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo
Brooklyn, New York
Come to New York for this 2 day Fiery Foods Festival to get the ultimate endorphin rush. The weekend promises to be packed with entertainment with live music, fire breathers, spicy food vendors, awards show, eating challenges & contests, adult beverages and the BEST Hot Sauce Companies from North America. There isn't a better place in NYC to get your food cranked up.