There were so many great iconic NY dishes to choose from for my next food search, but I decided to go with something completely different. Hot dogs and cheesecake will have to wait. First, I’m going to drink lots of beer.
Okay, so it’s not technically something you eat. I probably should temporarily re-name the site Drink This NY. But in many ways, beer is liquid bread – the most delicious and refreshing bread I’ve ever tasted.
Beer is most likely our oldest beverage. Recipes have been discovered in hieroglyphics, in ancient hymns, and on Syrian tablets. The first beer was probably consumed over 6,000 years ago. And I’m willing to bet it wasn’t a Bud Light.
The first known brewery in America was opened in lower Manhattan (then known as New Amsterdam) in 1612 by Adrian Block and Hans Christiansen. There was even a street in the original Dutch colony known as Brewers Street (now Stone Street).
When the British took over, they brought us different styles of ales like stouts and porters. And then when Germans started immigrating in the mid-1800’s to areas like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side, they introduced lagers to this country. At that time, beer was drunk locally at beer gardens or breweries. Popping open a six pack in front of the TV was not really an option back then.
The main ingredients for beer are rather simple: water, grains, yeast, and hops (a type of flower). Of course, the brewing of beer has become easier with modern technology and machinery, but the process has pretty much remained the same. The grains (or malt) are milled and then boiled in water. Hops are added for aroma, flavor, and preservatives. After the mixture is cooled, it’s added to a fermenter where yeast is introduced. Yeast eats all the sugar in the mixture and turns it into carbonated alcohol. Then it stumbles home.
Speaking of stumbling home, when I was in college, I was the guy who would stand in the corner at parties while everybody else did keg stands. I just didn’t like beer. I also didn’t like massive amounts of liquid being poured down my throat upside down. But I might have been more prone to trying it if the beer tasted good. Of course, the beer they were serving at those parties were the cheapest ones on offer. Most mass produced commercial beers are made with rice or other fillers and the only real flavor profile is water.
Thankfully, the craft beer revolution has begun. When President Jimmy Carter legalized home brewing in the 1970’s, many people found a passion for making intensely flavored, small batch quality beers – something this country hadn’t really experienced since before Prohibition. And while cities like Portland and Denver are overflowing with craft breweries, New York is making a name for itself again in the beer community.
So since New York is where beer in this country started and there are lots of nearby breweries doing lots of interesting things, I’m eager to taste the best of the best. I’ll be hitting local breweries (both in the city and just on the outskirts), bars that specialize in NY craft beers, and speciality beer stores. And through it all, I’m going to try to stay moderately sober and I’m going to shut up and… Eat (or Drink) This!