New York state's first craft beer contest: Which winners should you try?

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707 entries. 63 medals. So which beers to try?
By Don Cazentre

The first-ever New York State Craft Beer competition took place last week, awarding one top prize (the Governor's Excelsior Cup) and 63 gold, silver and bronze medals to 45 different breweries.. We could run out and try them all, but where to start?
We took a run through the list of winners, noting the categories and beer names, researched the descriptions and came up with these intriguing possibilities.
Photo: Judging the first New York Craft Beer Competition in Rochester, July 29.
Paul Leone

Light lagers? In a craft beer contest?
This was the first-ever New York Craft Beer competition, and the big winner, the Vliet Pilsner from Threes Brewing Co, in Brooklyn, was entered in the category called "light lager." It won the Governor's Excelsior Cup for the top beer in the state.
But wait, aren't light lagers what the craft beer movement rebelled against?
Yes, and no. Craft beer was (and is) a reaction to the mass-produced, fizzy yellow "premium" lagers/pilsners that dominated the market in the late 20th century (even more then than today). You know: Bud/Miller/Coors. Those mass-market lagers are made with what are known as adjunct grains, like corn or rice, that lower costs, lighten the body and reduce flavor.
But craft pilsners and lager are not made with the cheap filler grains, and are designed to maximize aroma, flavor and body for the style. "Craft lagers, and I mean full-flavored lagers, are popping up everywhere," said Paul Leone, director of the New York State Brewers Assocaition, which sponsored the contest held last week in Rochester. "There has been a real resurgence in craft lager."
The "light" in this category, by the way, refers to color, not calories, strength or flavor.
Upstate New York breweries took silver and bronze in this category: Lockport Lager from the New York Beer Project in Lockport, Niagara County and the Pilsner from the brand-new Young Lion Brewing Co. in Canandaigua.
Fruity, spicy, sassy
Let's get this out of the way first: There are lots of beers with over-the-top names. It's not surprising that many of the most eye-catching names are found in the "Fruit and Spice Beer" category.
The gold medal went to Pinky Up, from, the Peekskill Brewery in the lower Hudson Valley. It's a sour beer made with pink guava, and "dry-hopped" with Motueka, Centennial and Cascade varieties. Then there's the silver medalist: Sassypants. This saison-style beer from Roc Brewing Co. in Rochester gets its name from the combination of tropical fruit and jalapeno peppers used in the brew.
The best name probably goes to the bronze medal winner: Mango Infused Goseface Killah Gose. This is a mango-accented gose (a salty and sour German-style beer), from the Aurora Ale and Lager Co. in King Ferry, Cayuga County.

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