The Queens Beer Festival returns on Oct. 5 and 6 to put a spotlight on the local brewers who have helped make the borough a destination for beer-loving New Yorkers.
Twenty-five local breweries will offer unlimited tastings at LIC Flea & Food, which was started in 2013 by Queens locals Elizabeth Aloni and Josh Schneps. They opened the first all-Queens beer garden at the festival in 2014, right when they “saw the Queens beer scene explode,” Aloni said.
“Brooklyn had been leading the explosion of craft breweries, and Queens offered more space at more affordable rents, making it an attractive place to open a brewery,” she said. “This, coupled with the support of local beer lovers, supported the tremendous growth of Queens breweries.”
Now, there are more than 11 breweries in this outer borough alone.
Big aLICe Brewing, which started in 2013 and opened its first taproom shortly thereafter near the Queensboro Bridge, attests to the appeal of Queens, as well. Though its setup is more by chance, since owners Kyle Hurst and Scott Berger lived and worked a few blocks from their flagship location at 8-08 43rd Rd., they’ve witnessed a close-knit community of local craft beer makers emerge within the past six years.
“All of the breweries here love working together to grow Long Island City as a brewery destination, which can be seen in the newly launched Long Island City Brewery Trail,” said Mark Hirst, head of sales and operations and certified Cicerone at Big aLICe. “The combination of industrial zoning adjacent to the residential developments at Hunters Point make it the perfect melting pot for breweries to flourish.”
Big aLICe has been participating in the Queens Beer Fest since it started in 2016, and is proud to have been involved since the inaugural event.
“We love to shout about how great the Queens beer scene is,” Hirst said. “And this is a great opportunity to highlight the borough’s amazing breweries to the whole of NYC and beyond.”
The team at SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria — which was likely the very first brewery in the borough, founded in 2011 — is equally pleased with how much the industry has grown since their start.
“We’re one of the OGs in the Queens scene, so it’s been an incredible experience watching this tiny hobby industry grow into a major manufacturing job maker in Queens County,” said General Manager Dan Bronson. “And all done while keeping our Queens value of community at the forefront.”
At Rockaway Brewing Company — which has two Queens locations, one in the Far Rockaways and one in Long Island City — opened in 2012. But owners Ethan Long and Marcus Burnett had been home brewing for years behind their bungalow in the Rockaways after long days at the beach.
“I had another business in LIC at the same time so my two local communities were the most eastern and most western parts of Queens,” Long said. “Our goal was to make beer that was local. Queens, with its diverse population and myriad warehouses, was underserved. As people started to realize what was available, it gave rise to more small businesses and breweries that mirrored more people moving to Queens.”
With their new canning line, Long said Rockaway Brewing is churning out new beers every week. At the festival, their newest can offerings will be available — like a hazy double IPA called “Regrettable Haircut.”
Other participating Queens breweries include: Queens Brewery and Bridge and Tunnel from Ridgewood, LIC Beer Project and Fifth Hammer from Long Island City, and Mikkeller Brewing from Citi Field in Flushing. Now the festival extends even beyond Queens to include other city, upstate and Long Island breweries such as Coney Island Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery, Gun Hill Brewing Company, Montauk Brewing Company and more.
There are a few options for tickets: general admission is $39, which includes two hours of unlimited beer tastings and a souvenir tasting mug; and early admission for $49, which allows you to skip the line and enjoy an extra half-hour of unlimited tastings (plus the souvenir mug, of course). There are two different time slots on both days: 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. (or from noon for the early bird); and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. (or 3 p.m., for early admission). For $79, you can enjoy the entire day (noon to 5:30 p.m.).
Besides just tasting ales, lager and IPAs, reps from each brewery will be on-site to answer questions about unique brewing styles, new local beers and cutting edge beer-crafting techniques.
Tickets can be purchased here.