Alewife’s festival of Beer and Balls (meat, that is) lifted its glass to a crowd of appreciative punters in ways that achieved so much more in quality and style than my previous excursion to this beer-lovers haven on 51stAvenue in Long Island City. Beers (all local NY) represented included interesting stronger-than average beers (10-12%!), hop driven IPAs and some nice darker-than-the-night stoat and spicy wheat beers. Finding matches to the range of meatballs was an enjoyable experience.
I had attended the APorkopolypse pig and beer fest a few months ago and felt that the system of tickets for beer and food was a little unfriendly. Today’s deal was tickets for the food and as much beer as you wanted to taste, making this a much more welcoming experience.
Meatballs were offered by local restaurants Alewife and Open Door (that new place on 50th between Vernon and Jackson) and Manhattan establishiments Dirty Burger and Tommy Lasagne. Each offered choices with the prize, for me, going to the home team Alewife for their three options, especially the Dragon Ball – generously spiced (clove, cinnamon etc) balls in a Schezuan sauce. That’s not to say that the other offerings were low-key. The chilli-led sauce for Dirty Burger’s 25 spice option required at least twice the amount of beer to quell but was very tasty, the sauce sitting around the meat so that your taste buds were able to taste both the meat and the sauce without retreating to a glass of milk. Open Door’s options were also very tasty, great meat and respectful flavorings. I wanted a final taste-off but by the time I had done the rounds the dishes were empty.
My favourite in the beer department was the “Notorious IPA – Chinook”from Bed-Stuy brewery, not blatantly advertized but hidden as an “under the counter” option and served by the brewer himself in an experiment to gain votes from customers in choosing between his two beers; the other being termed more “aggressive”. This made the occasion extra special, discussing hops and brewing with the man responsible, head brewer Charlie Wildman is quite a different experience from the “I’m only here to serve the beer and don’t know much about it” reactions from most of the servers. Bed-Stuy brewery is a venture partly owned by Alewife owner Patrick Donagher who plans to bring brewing onto the Alewife premises, thus joining other locals like Rockaway in offering “Fresh-As” beers to the local scene; a welcome boost to the local economy and the variety of ales available to locals, as well as those who travel miles to enjoy our growing neighborhood food and drink options.
by Eric Hathaway