Drink up, New Yorkers! The city’s brewing industry is fizzing to new heights and showing off that success during New York Beer Week, which runs through Sunday.
The festivities — which include tastings, meet-and-greets and other events — showcase the microbreweries that have popped up across the five boroughs over the last few years, such as the Queens Brewery, Gun Hill Brewery in the Bronx and Staten Island’s Flagship Brewing.
Four years ago there were only six beer manufacturers in the city and now there are 23 companies that produce beer across NYC, according to the state’s liquor authority.
The expansion is set to continue, according to brewery owners. “One of the main things to me is that New York City is still a very young area when it comes to craft beer,” said Dave Lopez, the co-owner of Gun Hill Brewery. “There is so much room for growth in New York.”
The festival, which is organized by the New York City Brewers Guild, kicked off Friday and hosts events at bars throughout the city.
More than 200 people attended the opening bash in Chelsea Saturday, socializing with the brewers while taking in some of their new products. Guests were given small plastic cups to sample as many beers as they could.
“We’re fans of beer,” said Michael Milani, 38, of the Upper East Side. “It’s fun to try out the different beers they have here and it’s good to support local businesses.”
Kelly Taylor, president of the New York City Brewers Guild, said a different organization started the event seven years ago. The guild took over in 2012, right when the industry started to pick up locally thanks to laws in Albany that streamlined the process of becoming a microbrewer and awarded entrepreneurs with incentives.
The creation of the “farm brewery” license in 2012 allowed manufacturers that produce fewer than 60 million gallons a year in New York a 14 cent tax break per gallon for the first 500,000 gallons.
The state adopted the “craft act” last year, which increased the beer production cap from 60,000 barrels to 75,000 and allowed brewers to hold tastings and sell their product by the bottle or glass without a separate license.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation said New York’s microbrewery industry employed 218 people in 2013 and those jobs generated $7.15 million in wages.
Taylor said New York was actually behind other states in recognizing the industry’s potential, but that the state is effectively catching up. Ethan Long, co-founder of the Rockaway Brewing Company, said customers often prefer local flavor while the city’s active nightlife scene lends itself to word-of-mouth publicity campaigns.
“It’s a great place with lots of local support for making beer and a developing sensibility that is unique among beer regions,” he said.
Other brewery owners say the competition to be the best pushes them to make a better product.
“We don’t brew based on style,” said Anthony Accardi, the co-founder of Transmitter Brewery in Long Island City. “We try not to categorize the beers too much. Our take is to make beer that tastes good, no matter what you call it.”
Taylor said beer week events, such as “Smash and Brew,” in which brewers are tasked to come up with a beer using five malts and hops ingredients from state farms, are tailored around competition.
Rich Castagna, 40, a lifelong Maspeth resident and founder of Bridge and Tunnel Brewery, said New York is essential to his product.
“I want to tell New York City stories through the beer because I’m a local guy, born and raised here,” he said.
(WITH NOELANI MONTERO)