O Good Ale Comes

Day Five 12 Sips of Brooklyn

winter-ale-1785dec10TELL WHOEVER SOLD US THE CALENDAR (Pope Gregory XIII) that I demand a refund. It tells me winter is still 11 days away—beginning on the solstice. The truth is, December is full winter, the gloomiest part of year with its dark nights and fitful gray days. If we must break the year up into quarters, let’s admit we’ve been in winter for nearly six weeks. The solstice marks the low point of winter, the turning of the year, the slow return of the sun. No wonder my Highland ancestors lit their bonfires for Hogmanay: dispel the night, bring back the day. (Of course, from what I know of my ancestors, they probably also burned their neighbors’ barns and sheds for spite, but let that pass.)

To light up this darkest time of year, the craft brewers of Brooklyn are offering some nice and hearty ales, stouts and porters. Winter is the time of stouts and porters, dark and filling, not for your hefeweisens and pale lagers or (kill me now) light beers. For my taste, ale’s the thing for winter.

I’d hate for Robert Burns to be only remembered for Auld Lang Syne, the anthem of the new year, as he wrote other fine verse. The one that comes to mind here and speaks to the need for lightening the heart:

O gude ale comes and gude ale goes; 
Gude ale gars me sell my hose, 
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon—
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!*


Brouwerij Lane holds back the dark of winter with a wood-burning fireplace.

Brouwerij Lane holds back the dark of winter with a wood-burning fireplace.

To keep our hearts aboon through winter, let’s find some Brooklyn beer. First up, the Brooklyn Brewery “There Will Be Black,” which I got to sample before a warm wood fire on a gray day at Brouwerij Lane on Greenpoint Avenue. The Lane is a lovely place to spend the winter. The 19 taps and several display cases of bottled beer should get you nicely through our shortest afternoons and longest nights.

“There Will Be Black” is a new release in the Brewmaster’s Reserve series which has, according to their publicity, “a core of black bread and dark chocolate, wrapped in a bright coat of orangey, minty hops”. If that doesn’t sound like a winter drink, nothing does. In addition to the “Black”, Brooklyn Brewery is shipping their standard range of seasonal beers in bottles, including Winter Ale and Black Chocolate Stout.

More elusive is the Sixpoint Brewery offering: Diesel. It seems to be rolling out as we go to press, and in just the last 24 hours, it has begun popping up around the city on the new Sixpoint beer finder. We’re heading out after writing this entry to hunt its “robust chocolate and roasted flavors, with thick pine hop flavor and aroma.”


Brouwerij Lane seems to keep at least one Brooklyn brew on tap.
Its website lists the current offerings; this week There Will Be Black is on the list.

I caught up with Kelly Taylor of KelSo Beer Company at Grand Central Terminal tonight where he was offering tastings of their signature Nut Brown Lager, which is as good as an ale in my book. He suggested the KelSo Winter Lager for cold nights and also said they were brewing a Porter. Check out their Facebook page or Twitter for more information on tastings and tap availability (they don’t have a web site). They will be commandeering a number of taps for a tasting at Bierkraft tomorrow, December 11.

It’s going to be a long winter. Be careful not to sell your warm socks.

Brooklyn Brewery
79 North 11th Street, Williamsburg


Sixpoint Brewery
40 Van Dyke Street, Red Hook

KelSo Beer Company of Brooklyn
529 Waverly Avenue, Clinton Hill

Brouwerij Lane
78 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint

191 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope

*For those who find their Broad Scots rusty:

O good ale comes and good ale goes; 
Good ale makes me sell my hose (socks), 
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoes— 
Good ale keeps my heart above (uplifted)!

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Chalet Tokyo, by René Albert Chalet (a clothing designer), House Industries, 1970.

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