The Best Beers in New York, According to the State’s Annual Beer Competition
The Great American Beer Festival—the country’s premiere beer competition—is still seven weeks away. (Tickets went on sale yesterday, and two of the four sessions are still available.) But for the second consecutive year, beer lovers in New York don’t have to wait to see which brews judges think are the best in their state. New York’s brewers association has just announced the winners of the second annual New York State Craft Beer Competition.
This year’s competition featured 642 entries from 123 breweries—or just over 29 percent of the 420 breweries currently operating in the state. The event actually attracted 65 fewer entries than last year’s inaugural competition; however, according to Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle, it still manages to rank as the country’s second largest statewide beer competition behind only California.
For 2018, the biggest winner is almost certainly Threes Brewing. The Brooklyn-based brewery that opened in 2014 took home two medals—a gold for their Passing Time Grisette in the Belgian Farmhouse category and a bronze for their Eternal Return: Sauv Blanc in the Wild and Sour Ale category—but their grisette also took home the coveted overall top prize, the Governor’s Excelsior Cup.
Adding to the intrigue of this victory is that Threes also took the Excelsior Cup at last year’s event with a completely different beer: the brewery’s flagship Vliet Pilsner. Keep in mind, the competition is a blind tasting, and Threes won back-to-back years with remarkably different styles: A pilsner is a clean-tasting lager while a grisette is a farmhouse beer. Clearly, the pressure is on for next year.
“In a time when New York is producing some amazing beer, it is an honor to have been named the winner of the Excelsior Cup one time, let alone two years in a row,” Threes Co-Founder and CEO Joshua Stylman told us via email. “It's especially exciting to see a nuanced style, Grissette, gain recognition over some of the trendier beers available in today's market. We couldn't be prouder of the team.”
Other big winners include the venerable Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, New York, which took four medals—a gold, two silvers, and a bronze – as well as Big Ditch Brewing: The Buffalo brewery that opened in 2014 also took home four medals, all bronze.
Interestingly, the two most popular categories for entries couldn’t have been more different: New England IPA and Light Lagers both attracted 58 entries. The oft-praised Auburn-based brewery Prison City took the gold in the former, IPA category for their Control For Smilers. Meanwhile, Bottomless Brewing in the nearby Finger Lakes city of Geneva was given the Light Lager gold for its Bohemian Pilsner.
Two other interesting observations: First, a couple of long-standing, big-name beers from major breweries landed gold medals. Toasted Lager, the flagship from the Anheuser-Busch-owned Blue Point Brewing Company took gold in the Amber and Dark Lagers category; meanwhile, Witte, one of the best known offerings from the Duvel Moorgat-owned Brewery Ommegang took gold in the Wheat Beer category. And a second quick thought: No gold was awarded in the Stout category, meaning the judges decided that no beer truly nailed the stout style – a bit odd seeing as stouts are so common. Then again, summer isn’t your typical stout season, so maybe that helps explain things?
If you want to try some of these beer, the Governor’s Excelsior Cup winner and other awardees will be on display and available for purchase in the Horticulture Building at the New York State Fair, which runs from August 17 until September 3. You can also see the entire list of winners on NewYorkCraftBeer.com.