Brookfield Place—that shopping mall with indoor palm trees down in Battery Park City—turned into a haven for beer lovers over the past three weeks. From February 22 to March 15, the space hosted a contest to determine the best brewery in New York City. Dubbed the 5 Borough Challenge: Best Brews of NYC, the three-week tasting event allowed visitors to try beers from across the city and vote for their favorites. A panel of judges also threw down their opinions on the best brewery in Gotham.
The contest was narrowed down to five finalists, one from each borough. Harlem Brewery won the fan vote, and Kings County Brewers Collection was deemed superior by the judges. Not to be outdone, the Time Out New York editorial team assembled a beer-tasting squad to determine which of the contest’s finalists was in fact the best brewery in town. In addition to the two winners, we sipped on brews from Rockaway Brewing, Bronx Brewery and Flagship Brewing Co. And while we completely respect the fans and judge’s opinions, we humbly disagree with them.
Here's how we ranked the five breweries.
1) Queens: Rockaway Brewing Company
The Queens candidate in the contest reigned supreme for our tasting squad. The brewery produces an excellent and diverse collection of beers out of its Long Island City space and is unabashed about putting out experimental brews that challenge its customers.
Try this: Rockaway American Pils, a light, low-ABV pilsner that’d be perfect for a day on the beach.
2) Manhattan: Harlem Brewing Company
Manhattan doesn’t have the space to allow for very many breweries to flourish, but Harlem’s namesake beer producer is a pleasant surprise. Harlem Brewery Company innovates where it can but has a great, beloved lineup of regular beers that have attracted a devoted following.
Try this: Harlem Sugar Hill Golden Ale, the brewery’s flagship beer. It’s just rich enough and has some chocolatey notes that round it out quite nicely.
3) Brooklyn: Kings County Brewers Collective
Third feels a bit low on the list for this Bushwick brewery, which has become a beloved staple for Brooklynites in recent years. It’s located in a stretch of the neighborhood that was once referred to as Brewer’s Row, and the team there take that legacy quite seriously.
Try this: Marble of Doom II, a raspberry sour ale that is tart, fruity and a little bit funky.
4) Bronx: The Bronx Brewery
The Bronx Brewery’s ever-rotating collection of seasonal beers tend to be terrific, but its flagship brews can often be lackluster. Like many successful beer makers in the 21st century, it relies on a solid collection of IPAs that are worth sipping any time of the year.
Try this: No Resolutions IPA, a slightly funky, pretty skunky hoppy ale that finishes without much bite.
5) Staten Island: The Flagship Brewing Co.
Coming in last is the brewery in...where else? Staten Island. The place cranks out a commendable IPA, and its lager and wit are also worth keeping an eye out for. The spot also offers $5 brewery tours on Saturdays that are worth the ferry ride.
Try this: Flagship IPA, the brewery’s, well, flagship IPA. It’s a no-nonsense beer that finishes quick and does not linger.