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"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
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Beer sellers: Bierkraft, Brooklyn, New York City

First published in Beers of the World, February 2009

: Sometime in New York City...

“Gourmet Grocery and Beer Emporium” reads the strapline atop Bierkraft, one of several specialist shops that cluster in Brooklyn’s leafy Park Slope neighbourhood, and the beer emporium of your imagination may very well look something like this. The well-stocked shelves and fridges lining the walls house a dazzling array of zythological delights, with well over 1,000 beers in stock at any one time, each one from a craft producer, while three beer engines and nine pressurised taps dispense fresh draught beer, including exclusive dry hopped caskings.

Shelves at Bierkraft, New York City

Unsurprisingly, brewers from the northeast corner of the USA account for just under half the beers – you’ll spot names like Allagash, Ithaca and Southern Tier, as well as Brooklyn micros Sixpoint and Kelso. But there’s wide representation from the rest of the US and an excellent international range, including tiny Wallonian micros like La Botteresse, small UK producers like BrewDog and Burton Bridge, and even Japanese craft brews, plus a good real cider selection.

Chocolates with beer? Bierkraft, New York City.

And as if being arguably the best specialist beer outlet in New York City wasn’t enough, owner-managers Daphne and Richard Scholz and Benjamin Granger ensure they live up to the “Gourmet Grocery” bit too. Their food lines include 250 cheeses, a range of charcuterie, and a seriously sweet-toothed collection of artisanal chocolates and candies. Numerous items boast a beer connection, including their own brown ale-dosed Shameless Ice Cream Sandwiches.

This approach helps emphasise the quality of the beer by positioning it alongside products that are more readily accepted as gourmet fodder. And there are sure some fine and special beers here, including several US-brewed rarities in wine-size 750ml bottles that command wine-sized prices of $30 or more. Standard US 12oz (355ml) bottles are mostly $2.25 each – higher than the supermarket, but you’re paying for the tender loving care and good advice, and all are available singly rather than in the obligatory six-packs that so often frustrate North American beer hunting expeditions.

Ben Granger (left) and Daphne Scholz, Bierkfraft, New York City

Richard was a Wall Street financial analyst and an avid home brewer whose beers were so good a friend offered to invest in his hobby. But he and freelance writer Daphne found establishing a brewpub too expensive so went for a store instead, opening Bierkraft in 2001. Four years later they were joined by Ben, a former pastry chef and cheese specialist at a swanky Manhattan restaurant and also a home brewer with a useful sideline in DIY skills – he built the new cask beer engines out of cutting boards and skateboard parts.

Fridges at Bierkraft, New York City

The trio have built up a dedicated regional following as well as welcoming regulars from other parts of the country and Canada and visiting beer lovers from elsewhere. BBC America ordered a huge gift basket for the cast of The History Boys when there were on Broadway, “because those boys love beer,” says Daphne. The community feel is underlined by regular and very informative tastings twice a month, in the back yard if the weather’s warm enough and usually matching beer with current food lines.

Congratulations to New York GABF winners

They’ve worked hard to track the astonishing development of US craft brewing. “Brewers are becoming a lot smarter and very experimental, and there’s now a huge variety of beers,” says cellar manager Jonah Scholz. “But ‘local’ is now a big word, and craft beer has caught on so much brewers don’t need to send out of state, so it’s becoming more of an effort to source them”. Long may that effort continue, and the shelves of the emporium continue to bulge.

Fact file

Address: 191 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Phone: +1 718 230 7600
Web: www.bierkraft.com
Hours: Mon-Thu 1130-2030, Fri 1130-2100, Sat 1100-2100, Sun 1100-2000
Drink in? No (except tastings)
Mail order: Yes, online (USA only)

Manager’s favourites:
Ben: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Ithaca Flower Power, Sixpoint GNT
Daphne (“How could you?!! It’s like choosing between your kids!”): Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball, Southern Tier Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary, Vapeur Cochonette
Richard: Fullers 1845, Shmaltz He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA, Duvel-Moortgat Maredsous Brune

Beer picks

  • Allagash Victoria 9%, Portland, Maine. Refined and expensive golden ale brewed with Chardonnay grapes to give a well-balanced and elegant liquorice- and rose-tinged crisp malt flavour.
  • Keegan Mother’s Milk 6%, Kingston, New York. Decent creamy coffee, chocolate and charred wood milk stout that’s also refreshing and tangy, if a little dry for the style.
  • Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs 7.7%, Southampton, New York. Typically imaginative American fusion, a saison style ale dosed with lavender, chamomile, marigold and dog rose: complex, perfumed and lightly tart.
  • Southern Tier Hoppe 10%, Lakewood, New York. Imperial pale that’s floral rather than forbiddingly bitter, with pineapple, tobacco, malty peach and cleansing pine notes.
  • Victory Prima Pils 5.3%, Downington, Pennsylvania. Well-established award-winning craft brewed lager with pineapple aroma, crisp vanilla biscuit palate and long, chewy and bitterish finish.

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