There's nothing like a holiday to make one feel refreshed - unless it happens to be a week in New York
in August, in which case you can only expect to feel
hot, sweaty, exhausted and exhilarated most of the time, and usually all at once. This is where my lovely partner and I were lucky enough to go recently and, being a stupid, ugly, gap-toothed, beer-obsessed Leedsian c**t (© Hugh at Benrik.co.uk), I took the chance to see what our cousins across the pond were doing by way of beer retailing specifically, and beer culture generally.
I can't pretend to have gone without expectations;
when I was last there, 10 years ago, it was possible to buy a reasonable selection of beers in most corner delis and grocery stores. Sam Adams Boston Lager, Brooklyn Lager, maybe Anchor Steam, errr, Rolling Rock, umm, well, that was sort of it, really, in the part of Brooklyn where I stayed. This was a great improvement on my first visit about 20 years ago when
I endeared myself to the locals ( when I say endeared, I mean bored and baffled) by drinking black and tan mixed with a shot of Peach Snapple Iced Tea.
I have no idea what I was thinking.
I thought that going straight to what looked like the best beer shop in Brooklyn might be a reasonable start. Bierkraft sells a great selection of beer, cheese and chocolate - a combination upon which I can see myself existing for quite a while before dying, bloated but happy. And
it didn't disappoint, sending me into the kind of stupefied state where I
look at everything three times
then realise that I can't make a choice and leave empty-handed. Then I go back and do it again, perhaps making a few purchases from the Extreme Beer category
- if you're only having a couple, they might as well be impressive.
A couple of nights later
I nip out to buy beer to go with some Middle Eastern food. Gutted that I haven't planned my beer purchasing more conscientiously, I
hit the nearest grocery store, expecting to see the usual suspects, having already decided that I'll buy as much Brooklyn Lager as I can carry . But
the choice isn't just acceptable, it's mind-boggling. Ommegang Hennepin; Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA; Harpoon IPA; Magic Hat #9; Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale. If most of this sounds unfamiliar to you, you're not alone. I had been bamboozled by beer in the American equivalent of the local corner store. Oh, the shame. Me, with my reputation, unable to choose a few beers. So I did the obvious thing - I bought them all and staggered back .
You might think it's unsurprising to be able to buy great beer from a large selection in one of the biggest cities on earth, but it was a trick that was repeated in most of the small shops
I went to while spending a few days upstate. The beer is there, it's great, it's reasonably priced and, even for a beer geek,
something new is always at hand. It didn't quite match the thrill of drinking Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse fresh from the conditioning tank at the Brooklyn Brewery, poured by Garrett Oliver, but, as a grizzled, experienced hop-hunter, I was still impressed by what was on offer.
I really do heart New York.