Editor’s note: This article was written for submission to Drizly’s Top Shelf Blogger program. Drizly delivers alcohol and related accoutrements from local stores in major cities, and they sent That’s So Manhattan two complimentary six-packs — Evil Twin Hipster Ale and Sixpoint Bengali — to help with this article. Since this article only reviews one beer per borough and those are both Brooklyn beers, we did not review Bengali since that is better-known.
Despite all being part of the same city, New York’s five boroughs can get a little competitive amongst each other, like siblings vying for the most attention. While we could just say they’re each unique and special in their own ways, it’s more fun fanning the flames, which is why I’ve decided to pit beer from each of the boroughs against each other to see who brews best.
Although Brooklyn clearly has the lead in terms of number and popularity of its breweries, the other boroughs have started to make their mark, and other nearby areas such as Long Island have also been producing some great beer. The state as a whole actually has over 200 craft breweries, which is the 4th most in the U.S., though there’s so many fricken people here that per capita we drop down to 33rd, according to Brewers Association.
So to find out which borough makes the tastiest beers, I enlisted my friend Barry to do a tasting of five beers, picked out in the highly unscientific manner of what was available/affordable/sounded good/what Drizly sent.
In an attempt to make the test somewhat fair, since my bias is obviously toward Manhattan, Barry and I donned sunglasses with duct tape on the inside so we couldn’t see what we were drinking.
This method wasn’t exactly foolproof, as I accidentally looked beneath the glasses and saw the type of glass the Manhattan beer went into which narrowed down the options, plus I kind of had an idea what they’d taste like since I knew the beer styles. But still, it was semi-objective, and it was a fun way to try beer since you really focus on the smell and taste.
Now on to the results, in order of best to worst:
The Big Apple/Orange: Manhattan — Alphabet City Brewing Company Easy Blonde
Surprise, surprise, Manhattan takes the cake. But really, this was the best one by far. Like the name implies, the Easy Blonde from Alphabet City Brewing Company is an easy-drinking beer that has a nice citrusy taste that’s not overpowering. It’s a full, well-balanced flavor that matures in your mouth and is reminiscent of a mimosa.
Ferry Close Runner-Up: Staten Island — Flagship Brewing Company American Wit
Apparently Staten Island has more going for it than a ferry. They can brew a pretty good beer there too. And the Flagship Brewing Company American Wit bottle has the same colors as the ferry, so that’s a nice touch.
As for the taste, it was similar to the Easy Blonde, but more citrusy and not quite as good. Barry described it as a poor man’s Shock Top, which is pretty accurate. While it has a great combination of wheat and citrus at the start of the sip, there’s no finish whatsoever. It’s not a bad beer by any means, but it feels like something’s missing as you drink it.
I Knew That Beer Before It Was Popular: Brooklyn — Evil Twin Hipster Ale
Thanks to the good folks at Drizly, we got to try the Hipster Ale from Evil Twin, which hands down wins on name and can design, but doesn’t really cut it on taste. It’s heavier than the Easy Blonde and the American Wit, with a malty flavor that was a little bitter for my liking. And like the American Wit, there wasn’t enough taste at the end of the sip or enough of an aftertaste. All in all, it was a pretty ho-hum beer. Not bad, just nothing special. But seriously, that can is awesome.
Needs More Boogie: Bronx — Bronx Brewery Bronx Banner
In case you couldn’t tell by the name, this one is from the Bronx. And while I enjoyed some other varieties from Bronx Brewery, the Bronx Banner was similar to the Hipster Ale in that it didn’t have much of a flavor profile. It didn’t really taste like much other than to say it tasted like a standard beer, which I guess means something akin to Budweiser. Barry picked up on a pine taste and thought it was a cold weather beer, but it’s not. As I listened to him harp on about how it doesn’t work having it in warm weather, I thought it was funny how wrong he was. So wrong in fact that I cracked open another one while writing this to see how it tasted again, and now I totally see what he’s talking about.
A Royal Flush: Queens — SingleCut Beersmiths Softly Spoken Magic Spells
Even though there’s some borough rivalry, I still have love for all of New York, so I hate to trash this Queens beer by SingleCut. I’ve had other beer from them that I liked, so this was really more of a style issue, since I don’t like very bitter beers. And I really did not like this double IPA at all. It was overwhelmingly bitter and roasty, and Barry agreed, even though he tends to like a wider variety than I do. To me it smelled like cigarettes and to Barry it smelled like B.O., so it literally stinks. Yet this beer has extremely high ratings on BeerAdvocate, so apparently it’s the right taste for some people, just not us.
All in all, New York has some great craft breweries that are worth our support. And while for once Manhattan is outnumbered by the other boroughs in terms of amount of breweries, in this test, Manhattan continues its reign atop the pecking order of the five boroughs.