by Paul Deines
I need to tell you about Other Half Brewing.
There’s a lot of twee awesomeness in my corner of Brooklyn, from the secret puppet storage in Grand Army Plaza or the sudden excitement surrounding shuffleboard. It can get to be a bit much, and I’d be lying if I said the preciousness of brownstone Brooklyn didn’t grate occasionally. Still, there’s an amazing gem on the far southern border of Carroll Gardens, just over the 9th Street canal crossing, across the street from a McDonalds. In an unadorned warehouse space near the entrance to the Battery Tunnel is a new brewery producing, hands-down, the tastiest IPAs in New York City. This is Other Half.
This city has seen a spate of quality breweries emerge in recent years. Brooklyn Brewery, with its prolific and beloved brewmaster Garrett Oliver, has dominated the craft scene from Williamsburg since 1996 And in Red Hook, Sixpoint Brewery has produced flavorful canned ales and lagers going back to 2004. But a more recent crop of micro-brewers are storming the scene. In Queens, you can find sour sessionables from Singlecut Beersmiths and hoppy offerings from Finback Brewery. In Park Slope, gypsy brewers Grimm Artisanal Ales make some big and exciting English and Belgian style ales. Bronx Brewery, too, is gaining some traction with its flagship Pale Ale.
But Other Half Brewing is the revelation.
Other Half Brewing commenced operations in late 2013, and in the year that followed co-founders Matt Monahan and Sam Richardson have staked a claim on two styles: tart saisons and intensely rich West Coast style IPAs. Other Half almost never bottles its offerings (only one-time releases of an imperial stout and barrel-aged saison, so far), and its small production allows it to self-distribute to restaurants and bars. So, if you make it to one of the approximately 60 establishments pouring Other Half brews, it is your solemn duty to order one.
Their IPAs, in particular, are platonic ideals of hoppiness. They showcase the bitterness and floral/fruit/earth qualities of their component hops, but they’re totally refreshing and drinkable even when they reach ABV’s north of 10%. These IPAs are sweet, pulsing, nectary flavor explosions, and today I’m talking about their newest release: Other Half Nelson IPA.
The Nelson Sauvin hop is one of the stars of modern American craft brewing. Grown in New Zealand, it imparts passion fruit, grape and tropical fruit notes, not unlike the bouquet of a Sauvignon Blanc wine. They tend to be found in tasty pale ales, and Other Half’s Nelson IPA has some serious hype behind it. A bar/bottle-shop near me drained a half-barrel in less than one shift in October.
Well, I grabbed my half growler at the claustrophobic-but-awesome tasting room connected to the brewery. I poured the Nelson IPA into my snifter and got my expectations unreasonably high. It’s a solid gold straw liquid with a fluffy head that gives way to a few stubborn suds atop. The nose is incredibly juicy but not saccharine (a major selling point of all Other Half’s pale ales), with notes of grapefruit, peach, kiwi, pineapple, all fresh and wet but cut with dewy grass and just a hint of pinecone. The taste is slightly biscuity with a surprisingly assertive malt backing. Still, this breadiness is only the stage on which the aforementioned fruit explodes with just a hint of stinging bitterness at the end. It’s a light-to-medium-weight ale with minimal burn, easy drinking.
So, the Nelson IPA is as titillating and delectable as anything I’ve had from this brewer. It’s not as explosively amazing as Hop Showers, Cool Summer Bro, or All Green Everything (which I’ve taken to calling Brooklyn’s Heady Topper to compel folks to seek it out). Still, it’s as good a fresh IPA as you’ll find in New York right now. Hop to it!
NELSON IPA (Other Half Brewing) In case it wasn’t clear, Other Half only distributes in the five boroughs, and pretty much all their offerings are available on a rotating basis only on draft. If you’re in New York, get to the tasting room soon and try as many as you can.