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Threes Brewing of Gowanus Takes Best in Show at State Craft Beer Festival

 Of the 20 beer categories four of the top honors went to New York City brewers.
Of the 20 beer categories four of the top honors went to New York City brewers.
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GOWANUS — The state's best beer is coming from the Gowanus-based Threes Brewing, according to judges at New York's largest professionally judged craft beer competition. 

The brewery's "Vliet," a German-style pilsner, recently took the coveted title of best in show among 700 entries at the New York State Fair Craft Beer Competition.

Threes Brewing was among a trio of New York City breweries that scored gold medals in the competition. Manhattan's Heartland Brewery and the Brooklyn Brewery also earned top marks in beer categories.

The brew masters behind the winning beer at Threes Brewing say a fine line between simplicity and bold flavor was the winning recipe. 

"I think these represent what we believe in in beer — they both balance that line of complexity and simplicity," said co-owner Joshua Stylman, of the "Vliet" and gold medal Belgium farmhouse "Wandering Bine." "They’re great if you want to get flavor profiles or if you just want to drink a tall, tasty beer.”

Of the 20 beer categories, four of the top honors went to New York City brewers, which signals the five borough's rise to prominence among the state's beer houses, said the president of the New York City Brewers Guild. 

“I think it is a great symbol of how far the brewery scene in New York City has come,” said Basil Lee, owner of the Glendale's Finback Brewery. “I think a third wave of craft beer has put New York City on the map as a beer and craft beer destination.”

The Brooklyn Brewery based in Williamsburg was top of its class in the barrel aged sour category with "Kiwi's Playhouse" a beer only recently launched to the public that involves pouring the beer into white wine barrels and hand peeling kiwis with spoons for an almost beer-wine hybrid, according to the company's brew master.

"You have something that's really reminiscent of prosecco," said Garrett Oliver. "It just kind of jumps out of the glass."

Heartland Brewery, with locations in Midtown and Hell's Kitchen, took home the best strong ale for its "Old Red Nose Special Edition 14" that uses notes of the winter season for a brew with a strong punch of holiday spirit, explained Heartland's director of brewing operations.

"The flavor that really sticks out to me is like when you're roasting chestnuts for the holidays," said Greg Balena. "It came out to be just a very rich, robust classic ale and I think that third fermentation process really brings it home."

Heartland Brewery was among the city's smattering of beer makers in 2013 but that number has ballooned to more than 30 in the past four years, according to Lee who said he feels the spike is linked to folks' desire to intimately experience beer.

"Before breweries wanted to produce a lot of beer and be a regional player, but now it's very much about the local experience, being creative, people seeing how the beer is made and I think that's why breweries are thriving in New York City — it's quality over quantity." 

Even with the recent boom, comparatively, the city's number of breweries is dwarfed by that of other cities such as Portland, Denver and San Francisco, said Lee. 

"On one hand it is a dramatic rise in New York City, but we're still very underserved per capita comparatively," said Lee. "I think there’s still a lot of room to grow."