Garrett Oliver: Is New York a Beer Town?
Garrett Oliver is the Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery, the author of The Brewmaster's Table, and the foremost authority in the United States on the subject of traditional beer. After years of amateur brewing inspired by beers he had encountered during a year in England, Garrett Oliver began brewing professionally at Manhattan Brewing Company in 1989 as an apprentice. He was appointed brewmaster there in 1993. He soon became widely known both here and abroad for his flavorful interpretations of traditional brewing styles and as an avid and entertaining lecturer and writer on the subject of fine beer. Garrett has hosted hundreds of beer tastings and dinners, writes regularly for beer and food-related periodicals, and is internationally recognized as an expert on traditional beer styles and their affinity with good food.
Question: Is New York a beer town?
Garrett Oliver: Well, I mean, we've gone through a huge evolution of what is going on with beer in New York City. I mean New York, New York City started brewing pretty much as soon as people showed up, breweries started here. The heyday of brewing in New York City would have been the late 1800s to around 1900. You had more than 100 breweries in Manhattan, you had 48 in Brooklyn and Brooklyn actually came first because we have a different water supply than Manhattan does, we are on Catskill-Delaware water whereas most of Manhattan is on Croton-Hardon water. At one time where the New York City Public Library main branch is at 42nd street and Bryan Park--that’s where the reservoir was, so the reservoir was this big walled thing and the water was horrible, it was disgusting, and so you couldn’t make beer out of it, so people would move out to Brooklyn to build the breweries. So at the turn of the century, in 1900 one out of every 10 beers produced in the United States was made in Brooklyn. It's one of the great brewing capitals of the world and at that time the breweries were a big part everyone’s social life, because they were huge beer gardens that help thousands and thousands of people and of course after Prohibition wiped out brewing in the United States and at that time we had thousands of breweries in the United States, by 1974 we only had 40 breweries left and they all made one kind of beer which was essentially flavorless and I think of brewing as being very much like our food culture, which has had a big comeback, you know, in the last 20 years but at the time that I first moved to England there was really only one kind of beer and what it really was was a beer facsimile the same way that when you go to supermarket and you see that big spongy loaf of white bread, you know, it’s really a chemical sponge it’s not bread. Bread doesn’t have 40 ingredients and stay fresh in bag for two weeks, so we're actually going back to what beer had been before. New York City has actually been relatively slow to catch up with the West Coast, which started their connoissieurship of beer and that grew out of their connoisseurship for wine starting in the late ‘70s in early ‘80s and then kind of leapfrogged across the rest of the country to New York city we got going in the ‘80s that when early pioneer--and that takes me to my early days--was Manhattan Brewing Company opened in 1984, and they were the first new brew pub east in the Mississippi since Prohibition so that was an outpost but we finally have caught up with the rest of the country and in some ways surpassed it. You know, if you go to Gramercy Tavern and you now see they have a vintage beer list beyond their huge beer list period. And, of course, Gramercy is among the top restaurants in New York City and therefore the world so, it's--we've come a long way--and there are many great bars and restaurants here. But what we're really hoping for and what we're seeing is beer good beer becoming part of the everyday culture and in all the bars not specialist bars and restaurants.
Question: Which places should a tourist beer drinker not miss in New York?
Garrett Oliver: Well, I can get myself in a lot of trouble in the question like that. But certainly I would not miss the blind tiger which is the premier beer bar in New York city than the west village. I would recommend going to Gramercy Tavern for getting these sort of fine dining with great beer experience and there are two parts of the restaurant, the Tavern room up. Front is less expensive than the other part of the restaurant and they don’t take reservations, so you can actually get in normally Gramercy Tavern is sold out for at least a month. And really come in experience that so from either end the beer bar and I would say that blind tiger is the top of list, you would also check out the spotted pig in the west village now become rather famous so may be going to on after noon some time and they actually have some of the British style beer on the hand pump the cascade to serve with April bloom fields tremendous food, so place of the Michelin star and cascade condition beer that is wonderful combination.
Recorded On: 3/25/08
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