Tap New York, the state's largest craft beer and fine food event, kicks off the festivities for its 15th year at Hunter Mountain this Saturday, with beer tastings from over 85 breweries, live music, cooking demonstrations, and awards for the best breweries in New York and the Hudson Valley. In anticipation of Tap NY's big winners, we've picked our top five beers from the Hudson Valley (and slightly beyond). On par with the region's microdistillery boom, the Hudson Valley has seen numerous craft breweries open over the past few years, and what's on tap is becoming increasingly varied and interesting. To that, we say cheers!
1. Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA—Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Elmsford
It's called "imperial" for a reason. The stronger, hoppier, and fuller-bodied version of the standard India pale ale, imperial—or double—IPAs taste like they've been knighted: glowing gold, richly hopped, and plush with a full, boozy body. Captain Lawrence's version of the style is one of the best of its kind, made in the Hudson Valley or anywhere. "The bros" from Beer Advocate give it a perfect score of 100, ranking it as world-class.
2. Joe Mama's Milk—Keegan Ales, Kingston
The hyper older cousin of Mother's Milk Stout, Joe Mama's is made of the same dark, creamy base, but it's jacked up a couple notches with brown sugar (to increase the alcohol content) and coffee from Kingston's own Monkey Joe's Roasting Co. Its thick, mocha-colored foam; full, warming mouthfeel; and bittersweet finish makes Joe Mama's a choice companion for a cold night.
3. Sauer Peach—Sloop Brewing Company, Poughkeepsie
Sour ales range from bone dry to carmely sweet, but they all share that cheek-sucking tartness that leaves your taste buds singing. Sloop Brewing's version of the style is a bottle-conditioned Berliner Weissbier, so its acidic pop is filled out with a yeasty wheat flavor and texture. The addition of the peach nectar makes this beer not only distinctive, but semi-irresistable. And at 4.3% alcohol by volume, it's drinkable, too!
4. Ommegang Abbey Ale—Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown
Like Captain Lawrence's Imperial IPA, Ommegang's Abbey Ale is considered a world-class beer (yes, the Beer Advocate Bros give it a perfect score of 100). Ommegang is a New York brewery that makes only Belgian-style beers, and their Abbey Ale is a classic. Abbey's are known for their dark, biscuity maltiness, with rich notes of raisin, caramel, and chocolate. Ommegang's version of the style is wonderfully balanced, with earthy and sweet flavors in satisfying harmony.
5. Newburgh Saison—Newburgh Brewing Company, Newburgh
A saison, also known as a farmhouse ale, is a Belgian style that was originally created to keep farm workers refreshed and hydrated without getting them too drunk (back when water wasn't clean enough to safely drink). Newburgh's Saison has all of the right characteristics of the style: light, citrusy, a bit bubbly, and low in alcohol—just the right beer for a hot day, on or off the job.