Sunday, July 24, 2011

Turf War

The bustle of Flatbush Avenue dulls to a hum at the end of the dark alley. The warm orange glow of the nearby city lights forms a muted cap over the cavernous walls of warehouses and tenements buildings. The light from a few lone windows, high above the backstreet, casts down on shadowy figures. The men work silently, loading heavy barrels onto an open bed truck. Only a distant caterwaul breaks the eerie stillness. Without warning, a car's headlamps slice through the darkness—like a scalpel through flesh—illuminating the workers, their truck, and it's payload. The men freeze, blinded by the white light, as the the car's door opens. Hard-soled shoes snap against cobble. A figure steps into the light and is silhouetted by car's dual beacons. Metal slides against metal, and ends with a clack. A deafening BRRRAAATTTTT! BRAAAAATTTT! explodes from the figure as .45 caliber slugs smash into the oak barrels. Men dive for safety as wooden staves splinter and fly—a wave of foamy beer, cascades over the truck bed. Brass shell casing tinkle as they fall to the stone street. The scene is silent once again. The figure speaks before returning to the car, "Yous guys tell Oliver, 'dis is Sixpoint territory, now—capisce?" The car screams backwards and disappears into the city as police sirens wail on their approach.

Okay, I may have expressed a little dramatic license on the side of good story telling. I'm sure the guys at Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint Craft Ales get along fine. In fact, I'm pretty sure there's no animosity between the two breweries at all. The seven-year-old, Redhook brewery has however, made major in-roads into what was at one time, exclusively Brooklyn's stomping grounds. On a meteoric rise to become one of the Big Apple's most popular draught, craft brewer's, the up-start has now delved in to the world of canned beer, offering four styles—Crisp a pilsner-esque lager, Righteous Ale, an amber, Bengali Tiger IPA, of which Chad just reviewed, and Sweet Action—the brewery's best seller. While all of this canning and growing has been going on, Brooklyn Brewery hasn't been sitting on it's hands, either. Since 1988, that brewery has built itself into one of the most recognized and respected craft beer producers in the U.S. It's Local #1, #2 and Double Chocolate Stout are arguably some of the best craft beers in the U.S. Brooklyn beers are now available across the eastern seaboard and southern U.S.; in Canada and six European countries; as well as in Hong Kong and Tokyo—Not too shabby, eh? Although criticised for contracting brewing some of it's beer to Matt Brewing Co., in Utica, New York, recently Brooklyn has brought a good portion of it's brewing operation back to Williamsburg.

As I mentioned before, the punk kid—Sweet Action—is Sixpoint's most popular beer and best seller, while the Don of New York craft beer is Brooklyn's venerable Lager—also that brewery's top seller—not to mention one of the historically most popular craft beers in the entire city. So what do these beer bring to the party? I decided to find out for myself.

Brooklyn Lager takes it's inspiration from the pre-Prohibition, all malt lagers of the early 1900s. So, in a sense, this beer isn't that much different than the beer federal agents, smashed their way through barrels of, during the dark days of forced teatotalarism, in the 1920s. That in and of itself is pretty cool, but do you know what's even cooler? Brooklyn Lager is a damn good beer. It pours a red-tinted, amber-gold with zippy bubbles, beading upward. It's fruity, slightly citric, and prominently Cascadian hop, aroma is far from subdued—it hit me as soon as I opened the bottle. It's smooth, bordering on creamy, with a sweet, toasted toffee maltiness, and a crisp grass-like, peppery tartness. This is an exceptionally drinkable beer. I've had it countless times, but I'm still amazed at what a great beer this is. This is the beer that hundreds of breweries have longed to make. No matter what Brooklyn does to it's other beer, if they leave this one alone, things are gonna work out.

Sweet Action is, as described by Sixpoint owner Shane Welch, in a Framingham, Massachusetts Metrowest Daily News article, from June 1, 2011, as:
"The Sweet Action is a wickedly original creation," he said. "She said, [speaking about a friend from college] 'I really like pale ales, and I really like wheats and I really like cream ales.' I really made a fusion out of it. It's a great beer."
That covers all the bases, doesn't it? Sweet Action pours a hazy, honey-gold with a frothy head. It's citrusy, almost orangey aroma is a tell-tale, dry hop, give away. This beer gives equal weight to it's nose as it's flavor—and I'm not complaining. Speaking of flavor, Sweet Action brings first, a bready and biscuity, dry maltiness, followed by a great, juicy and sweet, peach-like quality—with a hint of mango and pine. It's bitterness numbs the tongue just slightly, and balances nicely with the earthy malt. Is it a Pale Ale? No. Is is a Cream Ale? Not quite. How about a Wheat Beer? Nope. Personally, it reminds me of the bastard child of a American Pale and a Saison—without all the Belgian yeasty funk. It's bright and fun, with a great hop kick and it's superbly quaffable.

See, there's no need for Tommy guns or muscling in. Wartime consiglieres need not apply. The borough is big enough for for two great breweries. Brooklyn Brewery made it's bones, when craft beer in New York was almost non-existent. Because of that, Sixpoint might not have been anywhere near as successful as they have been. Now, Sixpoint has a chance to learn from one of the best in U.S. craft brewing—and they're just around the corner. On the other side of the coin, a little high-quality competition from the boys south of Atlantic Avenue, might help sharpen Brooklyn up a bit.

What's most important however is that both of these amazing breweries have made me an offer, I can't refuse—drink our beer and be happy!

On a side note: Brooklyn Brewery's logo and packaging was created by graphic design giant, Milton Glaser. You might recognize Glaser's, I Love NY logo and Bob Dylan's, DYLAN album cover.

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