New York State beers can never be said to lack diversity. Looking for a sour ale brewed with spent Seyval Blanc grapes, exposed to wild yeasts and aged for 6 months in oak barrels? The Brewery at Bacchus has got you covered. Perhaps a deceptively dark, slightly sour gose brewed with whole-shell oysters? Grab the Black-Oyster Cult from Newburgh Brewing Company. Or an unfiltered, unpasteurized black pale ale aged in charred-oak mezcal barrels? Try the Bronx Brewery. The list goes on and on.
One option, however, has been conspicuously absent from the exhaustive variety of New York beer: a certified-organic brewery using exclusively non-GMO ingredients. Enter Smart Beer. Headquartered in New Paltz, but brewed in Saratoga Springs, Smart Beer is New York State’s first all-organic beer company. Founded by Gabriel Heymann, the company was developed in response to his thirst “for a beer that was made from sustainable ingredients and a brand that supported his social and environment values.” Their premier flagship beer “Organic Golden Ale” launched this October and will likely soon be on store shelves or on tap in a town near you. Because of our steadfast, unwavering commitment to the highest standards of journalistic excellence (or any other excuse you’d prefer we use to drink beer), we got to try it first.
Sorry to spoil the ending, but it’s good. Very good. The Organic Golden Ale is a “premium organic ale” brewed with orange peel and licorice root. Rather than go straight for something exotic or outlandish, Smart Beer’s first foray shoots pretty straight, and drinks like a pretty standard American-style BPA. In fact, it’s very reminiscent of some other BPAs produced by some of its American cousins. Ommegang’s BPA and Hennepin come immediately to mind, and funnily enough so does the Fire Pit Golden Ale produced by its neighbors in New Paltz, Yard Owl Brewery. This isn’t to say Smart Beer’s Golden Ale isn’t great in its own right: by using a familiar style, the quality of the ingredients can really shine through, and they do. The nose has those familiar Belgian notes like banana and caramel, along with the characteristic hint of mustiness. On the palate, it’s incredibly well-balanced, with the lighter flavors of the nose complemented really well by a fuller-bodied mouthfeel. The texture stands out in particular; brewing in Saratoga Springs provides access to their great water, and it matches the flavors of this beer exceptionally. The orange peel and licorice are very subtle, and rather than dominate they complement and sharpen the flavors to create a really well-rounded package.
While Smart Beer’s first offering doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it’s well-realized, well-crafted and a definite success. Although the use of certified organic ingredients is more important to some people than others, just about everybody would enjoy the Organic Golden Ale. If you’re in the area on November 21st, be sure to check out the launch party! Hosted at Snug Harbor in New Paltz, favorite local bands Upstate Rubdown and Sonic Lovebot provide the soundtrack for the kickoff.