Oct 072008

Chelsea Brewing Company

Chelsea Brewing Company

OK, so we were on a river, not a sea, and it wasn’t made of beer. But, we did spend a great night combining sailing, beer, and cheese with the Chelsea Brewing Company last week.

My girlfriend and I were guests aboard the 80-foot classic pilot schooner Adirondack for Chelsea’s Art of Beer and Cheese Pairing Event on Monday, September 29th. The event started at the brewery, located at the Chelsea Piers sports complex in NYC. We got there a bit early, and were able to enjoy a pint before the event started. I admired the pretty copper serving tanks behind the bar while drinking an Obergäriges Festbier, which was a hoppy take on an Märzen/Oktoberfest. We also had the pretzel appetizer, which was great – I love a good pretzel with my beer.

We were taken from the bar area to the brewery, where the “tour” began. This was the least impressive part of the night, consisting of gathering around the brewing vessels and listening to one of Chelsea’s brewers talk for a few minutes about the process of making beer. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed seeing the tanks and listening to the speech, but I’ve seen quite a few breweries and already know how beer is made. On the whole, the tour portion seemed unorganized and I don’t think the non-brewers there came away with a real appreciation or understanding of the process.

Luckily, the sail portion of the night more than made up for any shortcomings. We left the brewery and boarded the Adirondack for a two hour cruise around New York harbor. It was a beautiful night, warm for the end of September, with clear skies and enough wind to power the schooner without making it uncomfortable. We had the good fortune of sitting by our captain, Cat, who took the time to answer our questions about sailing and navigating the harbor.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

During the sail, we were treated to several beer and cheese pairings, all of which were delicious. The highlight was definitely the Catskill Hop Harvest Ale, a wet hop beer which exceeded all of my expectations. It had a huge hop nose and big hop flavor, but it was much smoother than a big-hop beer like an IPA. The hop flavor came across without being intrusive, and and the result was a symphony of citrusy and spicy hops with a strong malt backbone. A close second was Chelsea’s Black Hole XXX stout. This beer achieved all the positives of a stout’s flavor profile (chocolate, coffee, earthy, roasty) without being overly bitter or heavy. Delicious…even my girlfriend, not a huge stout drinker, loved it! Both the stout and the wet hop ale came home with us in growlers that night.

I have misplaced my list of the cheeses offered during the sail, but they were all well-paired, tasty, and served with bread. I will post the names once I find the list.

The sail would’ve been worth the money on its own – the nighttime tour of downtown Manhattan is something everyone should see once. We got some nice closeups of the Statue of Liberty, along with some non-traditional sights such as the Coast Guard cutter we had to navigate around. Captain Cat was extremely friendly and professional, even in the face of some moron who had too much to drink and was being borderline disrespectful (guess there’s one on every trip like this).

It was a sad moment when we docked back at the pier. We wandered inside to get our growlers, and talked for a few moments with Ian, Chelsea’s marketing guru. Ian showed us pictures of their recent hop harvest in upstate New York (which led to the Catskill Hop Harvest Ale), and you could tell he was genuinely excited about the brewery and their beers. That’s nice to see, and will make all the difference as Chelsea expands.

It was a very enjoyable night and a unique experience on many levels, and we plan on attending again next year (you’re out of luck for 2008, since we were on the last scheduled sail for the year). I definitely recommend trying to get your hands on some of the wet hop ale (it goes fast), but if you miss it, try some of Chelsea’s other offerings – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Tell Ian that Lootcorp sent ya.

Sailing on the Adirondack

Sailing on the Adirondack