MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
Across from West Side Manhattan’s meat district at Chelsea Pier, high-ceilinged CHELSEA BREWING COMPANY, founded 1996 (but closed by 2017), opened to a half-circled winding wood bar (enclosing massive holding tanks) with spacious upstairs and dockside dining plus far right brass-tanked brewing vessels.
On tap, October ’04, at Hudson Bay marina brewery, tried zesty citric-hopped ashy-pined grapefruit rind-soured Henry Hudson IPA, soft corn-husked floral-accented Chelsea Standard Ale, and bland dry-spiced perfume-hopped Summer Solstice Wheat with High Times editor Steve Bloom. Best bet: espresso-deepened maple-cherry sweetened burnt wood-finished Chelsea Oatmeal Stout.
During April Fool’s Day, ’08, hung out with veteran brewer, Chris Sheehan. Quaffed slow sipping brandy-licked candi-sugared bruised orange-banana-cherry-sweetened red apple-ripened pear-melon-infused earthen grape-diffused 1,000 Gyle Imperial Mild (boasting 10.9% alcohol blear) and boozy swoon, Frosty’s Winter Wheat, with its faded cracked wheat spine inaugurating white-peppered orange rind, grapefruit peel, and black currant lucidity. Chelsea Cherry Wheat’s 8.1% alcohol-burn seeped into red cherry whir, whiskey-soaked swerve, and phenol hop bittering.
In May ’08, soaked up pine needle-y grapefruit-orange-peel embittered peach-apricot-restrained Hop Angel IPA and berry-seized woodruff-wafted enzyme-hopped floral-backed Blackberry Wheat. Better still was luscious chocolate-malted cocoa-dried cappuccino-milked licorice-stained oats-toasted burnt coffee-finished Chelsea Cream Stout.
November ’08, had Buffalo wings and jalapeno poppers with Chi-town buddy, Doug Van Dell, then consumed rich hop-charred Chelsea Gotham Stout, a tar-like molasses-thick full body with sticky anise overriding chewing tobacco, ashen wood, and honeyed maple illusions. Pre-Christmas ’08, drained a growler of Chelsea Rye’s Up, a rye wheat beer with dry phenol-hopped pumpernickel-cocoa-tobacco notes and wood-lacquered hazelnut-walnut singe.
After interviewing rock band, The Used, with High Times Cultivation Editor, Danny Danko, retreated to Chelsea Brewing, September ’09. Drained summery yellow-fruited, woody hop-prickled, tersely mineral-grained, lightly currant-embittered Chelsea Ultimate Summer Ale.
Hosted by Chelsea Brewing Company during March 28-30, 2008, Manhattan’s 1st Annual Cask Festival was an overwhelming success. By Sunday opening, more than half of the 38 quarter-barreled entries had been consumed in the previous two-day 24-hour flourish of activity.
Having imbibed mass cask conditioned ales at New Haven’s BruRm@ Bar in ‘07 (whose brewer, Jeff Browning, roamed ‘round sampling ales at Chelsea’s Saturday afternoon session), I had high expectations. Incipiently sampled BruRm’s ‘Charlie Mopps’ IPA, a slender-bodied English Bitter hybrid with resinous hop oils affecting vegetal leafy-topsoil sequence, wood-lacquered red-fruited tangents, and dinky herbaceous lurk.
Analogously, Saturday’s session continued with Cascade hop-spiced wood-singed Scotch-licked fig-date-dipped Kelso Hop Lager (from nearby Greenpoint). Similar moderate-bodied fare included Sixpoint Apollo Pale Wheat, a bark-twig-etched lemon-soured orange-bruised bitter with dry plantain reminder coiling white-peppered stint as well as Kelso Nut Brown Ale, an offbeat tea-like chocolate-seeded orange-burnt bitter with recessive peanut shell, walnut, and almond tinge.
Ate delicious Cobb Salad mid-Saturday alongside muddled clarify-buttered black tea-embittered pumpernickel-bread crumbed chocolate-covered date-sated Brooklyn Blast! Double IPA as well as dry fig-soured wood-stained whiskey-binged nut-skinned The Livery Hoppy Chick IPA – one of three Michigan offerings. Also emulating from the Wolverine State were funky orange-molded apricot-sweet cherry-tart Jolly Pumpkin E.S.Bam and sticky licorice-laced coffee-roasted black chocolate-y shoe-polished Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier.
Other worthy Midwest revelations included Indiana-based Three Floyd’s Brian Boru Irish Red Ale, with its perfume-hopped red-fruited tea-like bark-parched fig-dried tartness, and Illinois-based Two Brothers’ Hop Juice Double IPA, a piney-fronted bruised orange-centered apple-peach-sweetened whiskey-malted triumph. Wisconsin’s outrageously fine Sprecher Bourbon-Barrel Scotch Ale sported peat-smoked bourbon-burgundy-brandy frontage and vanilla-sweet cinnamon-cardamom-spiced cherry-plum-prune illusions.
During Sunday lunch, consumed a trio of host brewer Chelsea’s offerings. Firstly, Chelsea Nut Brown Ale had a tealeaf-y peanut-shelled walnut sear, spoiled orange-souring, and latent cocoa bean bittering. Better were Chelsea Black Hole XXX Stout, with its dark-spiced brown chocolate theme, piney hop-charred dry coffee bean bittering, and buttery anise flow, and the wholly superb Chelsea ‘The Tsar’s Revenge’ Imperial Stout, a robust hop-toasted coffee-grounded molasses-draped cherry-dried grain-smoked mahogany-moistened enlightenment.
Representing Pennsylvania, Weyerbacher Hop Infusion Amber Ale caressed tangy apple-peach-pineapple ripeness with bitter floral-hopped orange-grapefruit peeling and ashy cinder. Sly Fox Seamus Red Ale retained an unsweetened ice tea-like gird for mushroom-y fig-gourd-quince acridity. I regrettably missed out on Harrisburg-based Troegs offerings, Nugget Nectar and HopBack Amber (both quite excellent in bottled version).
Upstate New York upstart Butternuts made an impressive showing with both Snapperhead Dry-Hopped IPA, a piney oak-veneered nectar boasting bright apple-apricot-grapefruit tartness over grassy bottom, and oily soy-milked brown chocolate-y Moo Thunder Milk Stout. Also fairly new, Pleasantville’s Captain Lawrence Smoke From the Oak, a dazzling oak-aged smoked porter elevated bourbon boozing above vanilla-chocolate creaminess, vinous plum-port, earthen red grape, and charred hickory. Northernmost Empire State brewer, Buffalo’s Flying Bison, crafted Warbird IPA, a phenol spice-hopped red-fruited nutty-bottomed goodie.
Making for a superfine digestif, New England Wet Willy Scottish Wee Heavy doused brandied barleywine summit with brown-sugared vanilla-butterscotch illusions and bruised banana blip. Though Otter Creek Wolaver’s All-American Ale kicked before I could get my grubby paws on it, the admirable Vermont brewery’s Otter Creek Sea Otter Baltic Porter proved to be an exceptional dessert beer, bringing lactic milk chocolate-y richness to toffee-sweetened black cherry-soured center and oily coffee bottom.
Upon leaving, 5 PM, Sunday, Chelsea Cask Ale impresario Ron Carlson and Brew News publisher Bill Metzger (who’d admirably driven hundreds of miles obtaining many of these cask conditioned ales) seemed extremely pleased.
Since Chelsea Brewing’s first cask fest was so wildly popular, owner Pat Greene decided Manhattan’s 2nd Cask Festival should run merely six months hence during September 19-21, 2008. Before sampling the latest firkin-styled brews, I stumbled across Chelsea Obergariges Festbier, a robust, yet easygoing, top-fermented Oktoberfest with dark-spiced lemon-squeezed grapefruit frontage, toasted French bread backdrop, and friendly date-fig reminder.
Got to Fest ‘round noon to beat heavy traffic at bar and met fellow brew buff, Frank Colella, an estate planner whose ‘rundangerously’ blogspot salutes ultra marathon running, the Grateful Dead, and craft beers. Quaffed Sixpoint Belgian Rye (with Chocolate Nibs) and Sixpoint Sweet Re-Action Pale Ale with Colella. The former had a serene honey-spiced chocolate malting, peat-y rye caress, and green tea bittering overlaying rock-candied sugar beets. The latter, a Belgian-American Pale Ale hybrid, countered soft lemony orange peel-currant bitterness with floral-herbal nuances.
Next up, Pizzeria Uno Gust ‘N Gale Porter bolstered burnt sugared brown chocolate with cocoa-soured iced coffee sedation, leaving vegetal dry fig reminder. In comparison, Pittsfield Gerry Dog Oatmeal Stout lacked expectant coffee-chocolate sustenance, going for a grain-roasted nutty mocha theme lightened by black cherry-soured dry-fruited balm.
Two major highlights of my first day sampling came next. Firstly, Milly’s Tavern Tennessee T.N.T. Barleywine brought brown sugared chocolate liqueur surge to syrupy Jack Daniels whiskey sweetness as emergent bourbon-sherry boozing rose above tertiary vanilla, toffee, raisin, and dried fig illusions. Secondly, Brooklyn Black Ops Stout merged bourbon-burgundy anodyne with wood-charred black cherry, oaken vanilla, and licorice notes.
Hooked up with Seattle Merchant du Vin rep (and ex-Uber Tavern agent) Rick Carpenter thereafter. We consumed only international offering, Harviestoun Ice Maiden Golden Ale (from Scotland) initially, but its grassy-hopped wood-tinged orange-grapefruit-currant flicker got soapy. Slightly better were grout-y citric-fronted herb-backed Cascade-hopped Southampton Fresh Hop ESB, resin-y black chocolate-centered wood-stained veggie-stewed Fuggle-hopped The Livery Herb Superb Black IPA, and floral-dusted orange-fruited nut-bottomed Harvest Moon Elmes’ Mild Manor.
Watched Giants-Bengals football game during Sunday tasting session. First up, Big Rock Double Trouble Sour Belgian may’ve gotten flat, as its cider-y funk, dried fig-date gunk, and unripe green grape tartness seemed diminished. Better were biscuit-y wood-lacquered red-orange-fruited peanut-shelled Chelsea Pro Am Long Island Altbier and earthen lemon-spiced grapefruit rind-embittered Chelsea Catskill Hop Harvest. Defiant Little Thumper Pale Ale offered light-bodied bread-crusted lemony hop spice and Butternut’s ESP (Extra Special Porkslap) had cologne-wafted chamomile tea flutter, sun-dried sour fig respite, and veggie trace. To cap off another fine Manhattan Cask Ale Fest, quaffed zesty hop-oiled fig-soaked apple-apricot-tangerine-fruited Blue Point ESB.
January ’10, interviewed rapper MC Paul Barman, then drove one mile north to Chelsea for spectral Hoppy Holidaze, a boozy (10.25% alcohol) fruit-spiced seasonal with wheat-honeyed candied apple, red grape, cherry, peach, and pineapple sweetness countering piney grapefruit rind bittering.
Upon Chris Sheehan’s departure to Newark’s Port 44, new brewer Mark Szmaida stepped in.
During one-hour stopby the Tuesday after Labor Day ’13, discovered two more Chelsea brews while eating spinach dip and olive-oiled tomato-topped bruschetta bread. First up, dry-toned Pumpkin Pie Ale offered pumpkin pie-spiced gourd and butternut illusions as well as soft yellow fruiting above pastry-floured cinnamon dusting.
Fruitful Blueberry Wheat lacquered fresh sweet ‘n sour blueberry syrup above its coarsely-hopped white wheat spine, picking up ancillary raspberry-strawberry undertones to deepen its hard candied citric center.