By François Steichen
Time waits for no one, and between errands and phone calls this Saturday, my day’s Plan A got away from me. Then Plan B did too.
No matter. One of the gratifying aspects of the Great American Brewery Revival is the sheer number of establishments catering to a hankering for suds. I embarked on Plan C, and actually ended up quite chuffed to have chosen the path less traveled.
My first sub-substitute was the Wolf & Warrior Brewing Company, on East Post Road in White Plains, easily reached off I-287 and up Route 22, then back down Lower Broadway. My second was the Yonkers Brewing Company, on Main Street, in the center of Yonkers and a 200-yard walk to the Hudson River boardwalk area.
WOLF & WARRIOR BREWING COMPANY
There are 16 selections on tap at Wolf & Warrior. The five-beer flight I chose consisted of the Hoppy American Lager, the Golden Ale, the Saison, the English Porter, and the Passion Fruit and Mango IPA.
Wolf and Warrior cares a lot about the customer experience. That much is obvious. The Bartender was both informed and solicitous – nay, calmly enthusiastic – about the beers on offer, and she asked all the right questions to put me in the right mood to enjoy the beers. As I was leaving, the Owner asked me about my experience, and not in a merely perfunctory manner.
The beers have no faults on the front end: the American Lager has full flavor on the attack, which is more than can be said for most commercial American Lagers. The Golden Ale is malty; the Saison had nice banana and witbier flavors; the Porter was nicely roasted; the Fruited IPA did not overwhelm with juicy hops.
The back palate of every beer I tasted, however, tailed off in flavor a bit too abruptly. This is clearly a rectifiable omission, since it is so consistent across the beers. Too little malt? A pH that is too high? Water that has insufficient salts in it, or the wrong kinds of salts?
I have enjoyed White Plains’s recent revival, and I would very much like Wolf and Warrior to become a destination brewery for Westchester’s capital city. The basics are there, with only a tweak necessary.
YONKERS BREWING COMPANY
Yonkers Brewing Company (YBC) has a big space in a well-traveled neighborhood of a city larger than White Plains. And one of its beers has a tie to Connecticut!
Yonkers’s staff is surprisingly welcoming and attentive for such a bustling joint. YBC is obviously the neighborhood pub in these parts, yet it opens its arms to all passersby. At 5 PM on a Saturday, it was hopping. I had a full view of the kitchen, the bar, and the table area; and the staff was – if not out of breath – moving quite purposefully at all times.
One incident in particular made me smile. I had not noticed that YBC offered flights, since this was not stated on the menu. Flights are my preferred manner of tasting, since I can take a limited number of sips and get out without worrying about after-effects. Here, I was about to order a third beer – necessitating a long walk before getting in my car later – when Nora the Bartender said “maybe you’d like a taste of the other beers on the menu?”
It was a preventative step that was quite unnecessary, but it offered an elegant way out of my dilemma. Bartender Ethics 101, if you will, delivered in an incredibly diplomatic fashion.
Nora is now my hero. Still, she wasn’t the only YBC staff member I would put on a pedestal. There was the chatty waitress who filled me in on questions about the menu, the kitchen staff that executes an appealing menu instead of just going through the motions, and the Owner’s brother, Joe, whom I happened to sit next to and who – unprompted – informed me about the history of YBC.
YBC is as much restaurant as brewery. Food here is Irish-pub-plus, befitting Yonkers’s emerald roots as well as its transformation over a number of decades now. No one will accuse YBC of being a health spa; the salmon burger, fish tacos, and vegetarian “Beyond Burger” – supplemented by Hummus, Cauliflower Bites and Charcuterie appetizers – are the only nods toward fitness.
The portions are large, and they tend toward the fried, grilled and sautéd, but the kitchen allows the food to speak for itself. No gloppy sauces, no overdone meats, no dry tacos or chicken. The 3/4”-thick slabs of bacon are a shock of cognitive dissonance. Or as Nora informed me: “Yup. We don’t mess around here.”
Moving on to the beers, I started with a Mexican Lager, the “Cerveza del Valiente” (Beer of the Brave), which was full-bodied, much like the Johnny Lawrence American Lager I had had at Wolf & Warrior. I then went with the “Modern Kicks” Wheat Beer, which was fine, but really an IPA in hiding, given its use of Centennial and Azaca hops. And as an “IPA-light,” it worked quite well, especially since I have tired of dank, overwrought, juicy IPAs.
That’s about the time that Nora came to the rescue with the Insiders’ 411, slamming down two one-ounce tastes of beer: the Nitro Chocolate Milk Stout and the Cha Cha Stout Chai. Delicious, BIG chocolate on the Milk Stout, yet still every bit a beer. And a gorgeous, subtle chai flavor that blended surprisingly well in a beer. She followed up with a Guava & Pineapple Sour that was well made, even if I felt the flavor taper off a bit on the back palate.
Which brings us to the flagship beer at YBC: the Yonkers 914. It has become so popular, sold in stores and restaurants throughout the Tri-State Area, that YBC has had to contract with a larger producer to make it at volume. The producer? A brewery all Nutmeggers know well: Two Roads Brewing Company of Stratford! The 914 well outpaced the American Lager, which I now realized works more as a Lager-light than the full, well-balanced 914.
So get out of your Greenwich comfort zone a bit. Drive up to White Plains or down to Yonkers for a little brew fun. You won’t regret it!
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François Steichen founded and owns Frenchy’s Wine Road, a Connecticut company that writes copy and content for the wine, spirits and cider industries.
He is a resident of Old Greenwich with 16 years’ experience in the Wine Industry. François started at Harry’s Wines in Fairfield; worked at Acker, Merrall and Condit, in New York, the oldest wine store in America; and has managed stores in Greenwich.
François holds the WSET Diploma, the gold standard in wine education. At 10 years of age, François took his first – chaperoned – sip of a sparkling wine. Since that moment, the magic of fermentation and spontaneously-produced bubbles has never truly relinquished its hold on his curiosity.