THE BOOZE BIN
By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
Earlier this month, I was invited to a typical professional walk-around tasting at a trendy restaurant in downtown NYC. Having attended and organized over ten years’ worth of these kinds of tastings in the wine industry, I felt overly prepared for the experience.
Everything was as expected. A room full of buyers, distributors and media…check. Proud and interesting producers and importers pouring their wares to an eager crowd with seemingly unquenchable thirst…check. A dusting of disheveled, wild-eyed party crashers, shoveling beautiful charcuterie platters down as if it was their last meal…check. Yup, everything was in place.
All except for one thing. This packed room of professionals didn’t come to swirl, sniff and spit a range of fancy-pants wines. No, we were all here to taste all those well-known and sought after craft beers from Belgium…Portland…FRANCE. Yes, France people. And YES, I do win the esoteric contest of the day.
Held at DBGB on the Lower East Side of NYC, the tasting was organized by the French Craft Brewer’s Association. I couldn’t resist trying both Daniel Boulud’s newest eatery and craft beers from the wine capital of the world in one mouthful. I guessed a few other people had a similar thought as I avoided elbows and glassware in the jammed and buzzing room. It was clearly an industry on the rise.
Though nationwide beers sales of the big brands have fallen, craft breweries are enjoying incredible growth. Siting the annual BMO Capital Markets Beer Report, Market Watch reports that American “small breweries have risen in number from about 10 in the early 1980s to more than 1600 in 2010.” By sourcing high-quality, local ingredients and appealing to the foodie crowd thirsty for a more fulfilling beer experience, domestic craft brewers like Fat Tire-producers New Belgium Brewing and DogFish Head are experiencing significant growth and expanding rapidly.
In the era where beer gardens are popping up at every corner, gastronomes are experimenting with beer as an ingredient , the New York Times’ wine writer devotes a feature article to the ultimate in beer reference books and New York’s finest restaurant is expanding their fine beer program, one has to wonder if craft beer is the new wine? Perhaps. I just hope beer snobs don’t become quite as ubiquitous as their vinous counterparts.