A New York Stein of Mind

Each batch of John Dory Oyster Stout calls for 50 pounds of shells.

Move over wine, ingredients-obsessed chefs are getting into craft beer they’ve helped create.

Some now boast custom suds using local harvests, which gives “beer, here!” a whole new meaning.

Shift Drink ($10), a mindmeld between Colicchio & Sons beverage manager Chase Rabenn and Empire State Brewing’s director of brewing operations Tim Butler, began with phone calls about beer styles, but when it came time to brew, Rabenn went upstate to witness the first batch firsthand. The result combines English pale malts, a little rye malt and English crystal malt, all perfumed with aromatic New York–grown hops. Butler says each batch varies a little with the hop harvest. The locavore cred doesn’t stop with the ingredient list: It’s all brewed with renewable energy via New York wind, water and biomass.

Fifteen years ago Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s John Stage approached Syracuse’s Middle Ages Brewing in search of a custom ale to pair with his justifiably famous barbecue. “John knew exactly what he wanted,” says owner and head brewer Marc Rubenstein “and we went from there.” The result: an English-style ale that combines Cascade hops, British malt and New York apricots. Now each August, Rubenstein gets a delivery of enough perfectly ripe local stone fruit, puts them through a press and adds the juice to the kettle during the boil. Ape Hangar Ale ($5) isn’t what you’d call fruity, but it is what we’d call the perfect beer to wash down ’cue. Bonus: Dinosaur, long beloved in Harlem and now with a Park Slope outpost, boasts a total of six New York suds on tap at all times. Nice!

When April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman were opening the sea-centric John Dory in Midtown, they knew they wanted an oyster stout on tap—and they wanted Sixpoint to make it with the kitchen’s empty oyster shells.

“We had been friends with them forever,” says Sixpoint’s Jeff Gorlechen, “so it was definitely collaborative.”

Each batch calls for 50 pounds of shells. “They throw ’em in the back of a taxi to Brooklyn in a garbage bag,” says Gorlechen. At the brewery they go directly into the mash where the minerals leach into the liquid. “New York water is fantastic for making beer,” says Gorlechen, “but this tastes like you made it with mineral water.” Post brew, the shells serve yet another purpose—along with spent grain, they become fertilizer at a local cattle farm.

While it might merely be the power of suggestion in this typically roasty-toned stout, damned if we don’t get a bit o’ brine on the subtly bitter end of each sip. Needless to say, it’s perfect with East Coast oysters on the half shell.

Amy Zavatto

Amy Zavatto is the daughter of an old school Italian butcher who used to sell bay scallops alongside steaks, and is also the former Deputy Editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She holds her Level III Certification in Wine and Spirits from the WSET, and contributes to Imbibe, Whisky Advocate, SOMMJournal, Liquor.com, and others. She is the author of Forager's Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients and The Architecture of the Cocktail. She's stomped around vineyards from the Finger Lakes to the Loire Valley and toured distilleries everywhere from Kentucky to Jalisco to the Highlands of Scotland. When not doing all those other things, Amy is the Director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance.

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