For the last few (mostly) frigid weeks, the Winter Garden inside New York City's Brookfield Place was transformed into a biergarten — and one night during each of those weeks, five brewers from New York state's various regions — the city, upstate and Long Island — competed in a rolling throwdown called Best Brews of New York. Each week, one brewery from each field advanced to a final showdown.
On Thursday night, March 14, Shadows and Dust, a hazy New England style-IPA from Oceanside's Barrier Brewing Co., was voted by the thousand-plus visitors to the biergarten as the Best Brew in New York; Barrier prevailed over beers from Harlem Brewing Co., The Bronx Brewery, Empire Brewing Co. (in Syracuse) and Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. (also upstate, in Elmsford) to take home the top honor.
"When we started out in 2009, it was on a small scale with not nearly as much beer as we're making now," said Mike Descarfino, sales director for Barrier Brewing. "Winning this event puts things in perspective as to how far we've come. We're just super proud and humbled to have taken this victory."
Barrier Brewing was founded in 2009 by Craig Frymark and Evan Klein, one of the first of Long Island's craft brewing boom. (Frymark has since left the company, and Klein is sole owner and brewmaster). Along the way, Barrier became especially known for its IPAs. In 2012, the brewery was inundated with four feet of water during Hurricane Sandy and closed for several months, said Descarfino. It was the generosity of other breweries — both here and upstate — that helped Barrier to weather the blow, he added.
In 2013, eight LI breweries converged at Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue to brew Surge Protector, a collaborative IPA that raised at least $58,000 for businesses and organizations impacted by Sandy, including Barrier Brewing. (In that spirit, Descarfino said, Barrier is taking part in its share of collaboration brews in recent years).
On Feb. 28, collaboration turned to friendly competition at Brookfield Place when Barrier competed against beers from Blue Point Brewing Company, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Oyster Bay Brewing Company and Montauk Brewing Company. Crowd votes bumped Barrier into the final leg. [The LI brewing scene] has exploded, compared to where it was when I started," Descarfino said. (He has been with Barrier six years). "There's a lot of great beer being made on Long Island, and a lot of new young breweries coming up. It's definitely worth a trip out to the island for the weekend to see what Long Island has to offer."
Shadows and Dust is available in cans throughout the tristate area, and Barrier Brewing now distributes in six states; 12 beers are always on tap in its Oceanside tap room.
3001 New St., Unit A2, Oceanside, 516-594-1028. barrierbrewing.com.