Beer Here

EMAN7-LowResIt’s probably appropriate that NY Craft Beer Week- which runs September 11 through 20 and includes Per Se’s first-ever beer pairing dinner- got its start with a burst of manly pride.

Two years ago founder Josh Schaffner and a college friend from Canada- both lovers of painstakingly crafted, intensely flavored beers and the bars that pour them- met up in Philadelphia for the City of Brotherly Love’s own annual week lauding savvy suda. But after too many taunts about his hometown’s inferiority- specifically to the Big Apple’s lack of a similarly city-sanctioned brouhaha- the Inwood native got to thinking: Why doesn’t New York have a week dedicated to great brew?

So he took that same friend to favorite Manhattan bars and hit up owners on the idea. They liked what they heard, and Schaffner– a well-spoken, outgoing type– started plotting. In just seven months, the first-ever Craft Beer Week was born. Last year’s inaugural event featured Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Craft Ales as a sponsor, a tasting at South Street Seaport, self-guided walking tours to great beer bars, a few sudsy pairing dinners and a week’s worth of deals at 52 bars citywide.

Not a bad showing for a lager-loving lad who is just 25. He might be a young drinker, but Schaffner got his first taste of good beer earlier on that most of us: He went to college at McGill in Montreal, where the beer is good, the farmers market is fantastic and the drinking age is 18. A constant traveler, he’s always sought out regional eats, but says the strip-malling of our continent often got in the way. “It was really hard to find that food, but with a little work it was always possible to find a good beer.”

Now it’s even easier for New Yorkers, at least during the third week of September. This year’s Beer Week boasts several improvements over 2008: For starters, there are four local beer-pairing dinners coproduced with the Zagat Survey, at Resto (with New York’s Brewery Ommegang), Tabla (with Chicago’s Goose Island Beer), Mas (with Sam Adams) and, yes, Per Se (where Brooklyn Brewery’s celebrated brewmaster Garrett Oliver will preside).

Schaffner has also created a $35 “passport” that allows holders to drink $2 pints of craft beers at 83 bars throughout the five boroughs. And, on September 20, it all comes to a foamy head with a cask-ale fest at the massive Queens beer garden called Studio Square, featuring 40 rare or hard-to-find beers, which will all be sold in sample sizes to make multiple tastings affordable (and possible, for those who don’t possess his tolerance).