From February 23 through March 2, New York City will celebrate its 11th annual Beer Week, sponsored by the New York City Brewers Guild (NYCBG). With events at 100 beer destinations across the boroughs, you can celebrate the vibrant culture of NYC craft beer.
The guild formed in 2012 or 2013, depending on who you ask. “There needed to be some central location for the breweries to get together, meet and start fighting to promote themselves and each other,” says Dave Lopez, co-owner of Gun Hill Brewing in the Bronx, who currently serves as the guild’s treasurer.
Beer Week was launched in 2008 by Josh Schaffner, and it has taken a decade for the NYC-specific identity of the festival to emerge, not mimicking other cities. “You can have an entire week surrounding it,” says Lopez.
It’s also exciting to see signs of regional expansion, welcoming breweries like California’s Casa Agria to the party. It wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. “For the first time in a while,” says Lopez of the 2018 Beer Week, “the guild was on solid financial footing, so we had the flexibility to offer something different.”
Gabrielle Barry, who represents Brooklyn Brewery as their education manager in Europe, argues that this renaissance is occurring not only within the NYC scene but on the national and international levels. “I think what we’re seeing in the last five and 10 years is a bit of tradition balancing with innovation.”
Brooklyn Brewery has a unique perspective as part of the old guard of craft beer. The guild is a support system for the brewing community, whether the concern is quality control or brand representation. “We are able to use our voice, specifically in NYC, to hold space for the smaller breweries that are developing,” says Barry.
At its founding, the guild was composed of around five members. Contrast this to today’s membership, with over 30 participating breweries with active tasting rooms. Part of the mission of NYCBG is “to foster a healthy, ethical and growth-focused craft beer industry throughout the city.” Despite the competitive nature of the beer world, the guild seems to have created an environment where everyone is on the same team.
“We’re trying to do that,” Lopez says. “But at the end of the day, it’s collegial competition. If we’re working together, ultimately it helps everybody out.”
Barry adds, “In the very early days of this, there was ankle biting and friction to define ourselves by who we were and who we were not. I don’t find it productive. And I think we all need to be building toward the greater good.”
The greater good, of course, is a scene that is palpable from your neighborhood bar to Evil Twin’s newly opened (and long awaited) venture in Ridgewood. The proof is in the can, and as the years go by, the NYCBG will continue to draw in even more focused national and international attention to the way we do beer in NYC.
For more information and a list of events, visit the event’s website.
Photos by Holly J. Garman, HMG Public Relations, Inc., courtesy of New York City Brewers Guild/NYC Beer Week.