Brewery Name: SingleCut Beersmiths
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Astoria, New York
Background: One of my wife’s oldest friends lives in Astoria, so we always like to visit and catch up. Unfortunately, school prevented a lot of our travel, so we decided that now (after graduation) was the best time to visit. My wife’s friend had told me about this brewery that had opened up called ‘SingleCut,’ and said I should check it out. Astoria has a lot of fun spots to check out, so it only made sense that a brewery would open up there. It is also still a manufacturing area, which is what allows neighborhoods to have fun things like breweries.
I had started to hear about SingleCut from Shane, and I recently got to try their beer down in DC. This trip seemed like the perfect chance to check out this hop-forward brewery.
Growlers: Yes (also crowlers and cans).
The Beers: SingleCut had a number of beers on tap when I visited. These are the ones I managed to try:
Vibe: Sometimes you walk into a place and it just has it right. The music is good, volume is nice, setup is nice, it seems clean, and you say, “hey, we can stay here for a few hours.” SingleCut has all of that going for it. It’s a very low-key bar. They have a large collection of vinyl records, which they rotate throughout the day. The music is at just the right volume--you can listen if you want, but still have a conversation without forgetting what you were saying. The brewery has a nice rock-and-roll theme with that classic aroma of hops just tossed into the boil.
The beers are all wonderful, and they brew a wider variety of styles than I have been exposed to. Today, you usually hear about a brewery only if they have a good IPA. And that is the most popular style right now, but it gets to be a little much when places don’t offer something for everyone. I have walked into many breweries with 12 beers on tap, and 11 of them are IPAs or some form of really hoppy beer. That isn’t even great for a hop fan. You try 3-4 hoppy beers and you can’t taste it after a while. And if you don’t like hops, you don’t enjoy the brewery. My wife hates hops, and a brewery visit gets nicer if she has the chance to choose between multiple non-IPAs. That’s the mark of a great brewery. Yes, they can do one thing well, but what else can they do? SingleCut is another example of the type of brewery I love, where I find them for the hops but like them because of everything else.
Other than the tap list, there are the normal selections of games for people to play. And the staff was really attentive and helpful if you had questions of wanted to try anything. Overall, just a great Saturday drinking experience. They also had a projection of a fish bowl on one wall. I don’t know why, but I felt that was a bonus for me.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Overall reasonably priced. You can easily spend a full Saturday afternoon here without breaking the bank.
Food: They have a small kitchen featuring BBQ and some tacos. Definitely a good snack to keep yourself going if you plan on being there for a while.
Final Thoughts: This is my new favorite brewery in New York. It has all the great beer I want in a fun, casual environment.
Brewery Name: Peekskill Brewery
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: Peekskill, NY
Background: Before California was DC and before DC was New York for me. I grew up just a few miles from Peekskill and know it pretty well. Took my driving test there when I was 16 and worked some early-in-life food service jobs in the area, too. I hadn’t been back in quite some time, and while I was gone the beer scene arrived.
It’s no San Francisco or Burlington but I’m glad to see the craft brewery movement starting here. I won’t lie, I’d have been pretty bummed if this brewery was disappointing, but I’m happy to say that it was extremely enjoyable. Really glad I was able to stop by and am looking forward to increased distribution and maybe another visit in the future!
Growlers: Growlers are available, but for a pretty limited amount of the taps. About half of what’s pouring is available to take home growler-style at any given time, it seems.
The Beers: Peekskill has a pretty wide-ranging taplist, which is always a fun way to go into tasting. I have become so accustomed to super hoppy beers that I sort of expected to be a little lower on their IPAs and pale ales, but to my pleasant surprise they were some of the best ones I tried. As you can see, I decided to try every beer they had (13 when I was there), but here are a few of the highlights:
Vibe: Peekskill Brewery has a pretty successful industry-chic vibe going for it. Lots of black metal, stainless steel, and large scale wall art and drawings. There is an upstairs seating section for a meal-oriented experience and a decent size bar with additional seating on the main level.
They seemed a bit short-staffed when I visited, but the folks who did help me were great. They encouraged small pours and spent a good amount of time talking us through their recommended tasting order. It’s always a major plus to have a craft brewery experience that involves staff being excited about their product.
Once you get past all the visual aspects, there is a little bit of a pub vibe going on with big, long wood tables, big beers, and a really good level of noise when they fill up. The chalkboard beer list, wall drawings, and extremely well-done can art confuse your senses once more into more of a studio vibe this time. All of these different elements somehow work really well together and give Peekskill Brewery a really great vibe.
Dogs: No dogs inside, but this was another cold weather visit for me. It looks like they may have some space outside for seating when it's warmer, but was hard to tell with snow on the ground
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. Truly middle of the road. I expected everything to be about a buck cheaper, but certainly wasn’t put off by the pricing. Full pours run between 6-8 bucks and food is fair as well. The small pours are affordable if you’re going for a full spectrum too!
Food: GREAT food menu here. In my mind, a best-of-both-worlds menu as far as brewpubs go. They’ve got that upscale bar menu going, with apps like beer mac n cheese, carnitas nachos, and fried pickles, but also offer wings, burgers, and a few larger scale dishes like fish and chips. Everything is priced pretty fairly, and portions seemed real solid (admittedly I did my classic liquid dinner, unfortunately).
Final Thoughts: Really happy to see a good craft brewery pop up in my original stomping grounds. For whatever reason, it seems like the huge swath of New York between the finger lakes and the city are late to the beer game, but hopefully Peekskill Brewery is a sign of good things to come. Without a doubt some of the better beer I’ve had from the region, and the brewery is a great place to stop and hang for a while.
Brewery Name: North Country Hard Cider
Type of Cidery: Retail Cidery
Location: 3 Front St, Lower, Rollinsford, NH. In classic mill town fashion, the roads can be a little tough to navigate, with a lot of unexpected one-way streets. Basically, enter the complex of buildings and go down toward the water on the right side. You’ll see the sign for the taproom there.
Facebook: North Country Hard Cider
Background: Deep down, I always knew I’d be the first to write about a cidery. Living in New England, you can barely take two steps without stumbling upon a new and exciting place making hard cider. Enter North Country, a unique little cidery tucked away in the rural mill town of Rollinsford, NH. North Country first grabbed my attention when I saw one of their growlers marked “Squash Cider” in a grocery store. My interest was piqued, but I assumed they would chicken out and just spice it with nutmeg and cinnamon--basically treating it like a pumpkin cider. But no. North Country roasted a boatload of squash and added it right into the recipe. The result is like nothing I had ever tasted, and wound up being unexpectedly delicious. To date, it might be my favorite cider I’ve ever had. Needless to say, after such a surprisingly amazing experience, I knew I’d have to make a visit to the taproom.
Growlers: Yep. You can buy and fill growlers in the taproom, and North Country has a small selection of bottled ciders available for purchase as well.
The Ciders: North Country had more than half a dozen different ciders on offer when I visited, and I was only too pleased to try all of them. Among those that I tasted, these were the ones that stuck with me the most:
Vibe: I love the vibe here. I happened to visit on a rainy day, which was unfortunate because they have a nice little outdoor area that would have been nice to enjoy. The cidery is located on the shore of the Salmon Falls River, in the old mill town of Rollinsford. It’s an absolutely beautiful area (although the streets can be a little maze-like), and I recommend visiting on a slightly less monsoon-y day than me if you want the full experience.
The inside of the taproom is gorgeous as well. Exposed brick and beautifully finished hardwood are everywhere you look, and a nice big window gives you a great view into the pressroom. There are board games scattered around the room to keep you entertained, and even though there isn’t a whole lot of space, it doesn’t ever feel particularly cramped. North Country makes really nice use of the limited seating area in a way that encourages patrons to talk and interact with one another (this is particularly true if you happened to bring a friendly dog with you).
The staff was really friendly, and we enjoyed talking to the woman behind the bar as she explained the different ciders to us. I visited alongside my girlfriend, who has a gluten allergy (tough luck dating a beer blogger, huh?), and they were extremely knowledgeable about which ciders would be safe to drink (as you can probably guess, the answer was mostly “stay away from anything barrel-aged”). We could see more staff in the back, busily bottling beers and preparing the next batch of ciders for kegging and distribution.
I talked about it already, but the thing that really draws me to North Country is the creativity they show in their ciders. The squash cider I mentioned above might be the single best cider I’ve ever tasted--and it’s definitely the most creative. Throw in a whole host of different barrel-aged ciders and flavor profiles that range from pleasantly savory to extremely tart, and it’s clear that this is a cidery that knows how to operate across a broad range of styles--and do them all well.
Dogs: Yes. There a handful of dogs in the cidery when we arrived, and we had a great time playing with them while we worked our way through the enormous tasting platters we had accrued for ourselves.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Shockingly affordable considering the quality of the cider you’re getting...not to mention the enormous tasters.
Food: No food here. The taproom is purely for enjoying cider.
Final Thoughts: My palate for cider isn’t nearly as refined as my palate for beer, but you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the offerings at North Country Cider. Just the opposite, in fact--they offer so many different styles of cider across so many different flavor profiles that this might actually be the perfect place to go if you’re looking to figure out what sort of cider you like best. There’s something for everyone here, and I can’t recommend visiting North Country highly enough.
Brewery Name: Shanty Shack Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Facebook: Shanty Shack Brewing
Background: Santa Cruz is among the long list of California beach towns with blossoming beer scenes. Many come with the laid back Cali style that is associated with the region, and Shanty Shack embodies it perfectly.
Shanty Shack was born from two friends who developed of a truly innovative way to get their brewery off the ground. When they started out, the partners took an approach similar to that of a food share or community supported agriculture system by brewing beer and delivering personally to customers' doorsteps. Along the way, they found ways to incorporate local produce and herbs into the beers and made friends with local chefs who helped with food pairings and pushing their flavors even further.
All this work was done in anticipation of opening a brick and mortar location in Santa Cruz, complete with a tasting room, a beer garden, and room for live music. It's a microbrewery for sure, but size matters not when the place is full of happy people enjoying good craft beer!
Growlers: Crowlers are offered as a to-go option, but it didn't look like growlers were sold or filled.
The Beers: This was a relatively tame stop as far as the number of beers goes (you know, the whole driving a car bit), but we happened to stop by on a day that they had a couple of extra-exciting beers on tap:
Vibe: You can just tell these guys like beer and everything about the craft beer industry. The shop is cozy, but still offers plenty of space to sit inside at hightops or outside at picnic tables, enjoy live music, play outdoor games, or enjoy the beer garden. They make really great use of the space they've got and they keep everything clean but not corporate.
It was nice and crowded (plus a live band) so I wasn’t able to catch our beertender's name, but she was awesome! She told us a bit about their barreling program and gave some suggestions for each flavor profile. Extremely attentive, responsive, and pleasant--definitely one of the better interactions I've had at a Santa Cruz brewery.
In addition to the litany of seating areas and options, the live music seems to be a semi-regular thing, as is partnering with the food trucks that hang near the beer garden. Cornhole (with a sweet Shanty Shack paintjob) is available, and board games are inside, too. The parking is a bit hit or miss since it's in a mostly permit-restricted area, but we visited on a Saturday when it was very busy and still found a space after a few passes.
Dogs: Shanty Shack is very dog-friendly, with tons of space for the pups to run around as well.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. Super fairly priced for craft beer. Full pours are 6 to 8 bucks and vary a bit in size if it's a barrel aged beer or the like. Food is at food truck prices, but since it's not Shanty Shacks, I didn't really factor that in. Crowlers (when available) go for about $12, which is in-line with pint prices--so all around, no complaints on the dollar bills.
Food: Mentioned it a few times already, but they've got a space outside for a food truck, and, from what I can tell, that's a pretty common setup. Based on their website, it looks like they do some tasting room-style food on the premises during lunchtime (cheese, hummus, sandos, the like) and a few weekly dinners. The popcorn machine in the tasting room is a nice touch as well.
Final Thoughts: Great spot to remind you that drinking a good craft beer should be done comfortably and with friends. The venue breeds relaxation and everyone there seems to soak it up. Absolutely full endorsement from me when in (or heading through) Santa Cruz.
Brewery Name: OEC Brewing
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 7 Fox Hollow Road, Oxford, CT 06478. It’s a little off the beaten path, down a long and winding road past a few scattered office buildings and up a small hill. You may think you’ve gone too far, but you haven’t. You’ll see their name painted on a rock at the base of a long driveway. Just go up the drive and you’ll see their building and parking lot.
Facebook: OEC Brewing
Background: When you think of New England sours, OEC is the first brewery that comes to mind. These guys are the best. The top of the top. The cream of the crop. The undisputed champions of beers that made your taste buds scream and your lips pucker. If you like sours, chances are you’ve heard of OEC. Oh, and for the curious: OEC stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, which translates to "Order of the Eccentric Boilers."
Growlers: Yes. You can purchase growlers there (and at a very reasonable price) or bring your own. OEC prefers to fill pop-top growlers rather than screw-top because of the process through which they inject CO2 into each beer. Because of the added CO2, OEC’s growlers keep much longer than growlers from many other breweries. According to the brewers, an unopened OEC growler can last several months before declining in quality. It’s worth noting that not every beer is available for growler fills. When I visited, there were just two options for fills, with the remainder able to be purchased in bottles.
The Beers: OEC had eight beers on tap when I wandered in, and, of course, I had to try all eight of them. Normally I wouldn’t bat an eye at tasting eight different beers, but sours are a bit of a different animal, and a part of me was nervous about pouring that much acid into my system at once. I shouldn’t have been. Each and every one of these beers was delicious, well balanced, and left me wanting more.
Vibe: This place is awesome. Getting here is a bit of an experience as Oxford, CT isn’t...well, it isn’t particularly close to anything. About two hours outside New York City and 45 minutes or so from the shore of the Long Island Sound, OEC is nestled into the lush, beautiful countryside of Connecticut. To get there, you’ll pass through some small towns, drive along some narrow, winding roads, and ultimately make your way through a generously spaced neighborhood of commercial buildings before you find OEC nestled atop a small, wooded hillside.
The facility itself looks almost homey. Some tanks are visible and the people walking out the front door dollying pallets of beer to their cars are hard to miss. But overall, it doesn’t necessarily look the way you might expect one of the most celebrated breweries in New England to look.
That all changes when you open the front door (which, I would like to note, is so tall and beautifully crafted that it almost feels like entering a castle). Take one step into the interior of the building and you’ll see a handful of brewing tanks to your right, just behind a small row of tables. Go up a small set of stairs and the area opens up in a big way. Looming before you is a huge tasting room, filled with various types of seating, and a door to a small porch outside where you can sit and sip your beer in sunny weather (sadly, it was raining when I arrived).
I sat at the bar myself, where I had to laugh a little every time someone new sidled up to order a drink. Each new person was greeted with some variation of “hi, welcome to OEC! You know all of our beers are sour, right?” I can only imagine how many surprised (and probably negative) reactions they’ve received in the past from people expecting a more standard brew. As much as I love sours, I fully understand that they are an acquired taste, and it’s probably best to make sure people know what they’re getting into.
I ordered all eight beers that OEC had on tap, and sat there for probably a little over an hour, sipping each one in turn. Sours are delicious, but, as much as I love tart beer, I figured it was best to give myself a little time to adjust to the acidic assault on my stomach. I only say this because, although I spent a lot of time at the bar, I never felt like I was being hustled out the door or pressured to leave. The staff could not have been friendlier, and I enjoyed talking to the women running the house. The patrons were friendly as well, and I had the chance to talk to a few different people as they came up to order drinks. If it weren’t for the fact that I had to get back in my car and drive home, I would have been happy to order another drink and spend even more time there.
Dogs: Yes, you can bring your dog to OEC Brewing. A little while after I arrived, someone came in and sat just behind the bar with the most adorable black lab puppy I’ve ever seen in my life. A few minutes later a family with three tiny children came in and sat at the bar. The kids playing with the puppy pretty much put my beer drinking experience on cute overload.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$$$. Look, there are no two ways about it: these are pricey beers. Even the tasters aren't cheap--the eight-beer sample flight I ordered cost me $25. But the fact is, you get what you pay for. You’re not going to find a place that puts more care into the brewing process. Hell, you’re not going to find a place that puts more care into the bottling process. Or the growler filling process. Every step of the way, OEC is dedicated to putting the best possible product in front of their customers. That translates to higher prices, but it’s something you’ll have to make peace with. Beer this good doesn’t happen by accident, and you’re paying premium prices for a premium product. Bottles generally run in the $13 to $20 range, though some occasionally run low and others occasionally run high.
It’s also worth noting that you can purchase bottles online and pick them up in the taproom. Although the taproom itself is only open one day a week, you can also pick up your purchases during normal 9-5 hours on weekdays (although you should reach out to give them a heads-up 24 hours before). OEC will store your purchases for you until the end of the calendar year, giving you plenty of time to make it to the taproom for pickup. That said, they also charge a $1.50 storage fee per bottle. This is more than reasonable, but it is something you should be aware of.
Did Shane Buy Yet ANOTHER glass? You bet I did! As always, if a brewery I like sells a style of glass that I don’t have, I am literally powerless to resist buying it. This time, it was a stemmed sour glass with a slightly fluted body.
Food: Not really. There are some snacky options like chips or a soft pretzel, but OEC isn’t equipped with a full kitchen for food service. That said, from what I saw it looks like they are fine with you bringing outside food in. I saw a couple of pizza floating around on the tables inside.
Final Thoughts: If you like sours, you absolutely have to visit OEC. I’ll put it in the simplest possible terms: they are the best. They know what they’re doing. They had a half dozen or so different styles of sour beer on tap when I visited, and each one was better than the last. They aren’t just experts on goses. They aren’t just experts on weisses. They aren’t just experts on lambics. They’re expects on all of those styles and more. OEC has my highest possible recommendation. For lovers of sour beer, this is a can’t miss place.
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