SOMERS, N.Y. – DeCicco & Sons is a beer lover's dream.
Always a leader in craft offerings, the family-owned grocer took that to another level with its new Somers location (266 Route 202), their seventh store in Westchester and eighth overall.
In addition to a dedicated beer aisle featuring hundreds of local and global options—sold by the case or individually—the store also has a full-service craft beer and wine bar with 32 draught lines with growlers and crowlers to go.
“Us naturally being a grocer that focused on specialized, high-quality import ingredients, beer was just kind of the natural next step,” said Brendon O’Brien, craft beer director/merchant of joy for DeCicco & Sons.
The American craft-beer movement started in the mid-1990s, a time period dominated by a handful of macrobreweries. With a few exceptions, most craft beers were being produced overseas.
“In the mid-90s, we were really one of the first companies to embrace import beer and give it a big section in our store,” O’Brien said. “Then as American craft continued to grow, those sections doubled, tripled, quadrupled in size until they were an entire aisle in our store. Not a lot of grocery stores can boast that they have that.”
DeCicco’s soon began offering draft beer to go in 64-ounce glass growlers. Then in 2010, their Brewster location became the first grocery store in the state to install a bar.
“I think that was a huge turning point for us,” O’Brien said. “Until then, we had dedicated beer aisles, we had growler stations, but the bars allowed us this whole other dimension. It allowed our stores to be this kind of meeting ground for like-minded people who love craft beer and could come here and geek out and talk beer with the person sitting next to them.”
DeCicco’s opened its second bar in Armonk in 2013, its third in Millwood in 2016, and its fourth in Somers in 2019.
“The success of those bars are the reasons we really don’t open stores without them now. It’s such a part of our fabric as a company,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien called the recent invention of crowlers a “game-changer.” Rather than a 64-ounce glass jug, the 32-ounce crowlers offer draft beer to go in aluminum cans.
“The size of them is very approachable,” O’Brien said. “I think the portability has really led to their success.”
Like with their bars, DeCicco’s was among the first stores in New York State to offer crowlers. DeCicco’s also hosts beer events and has staff on hand to offer their expertise.
“We want everybody to leave here with a memorable experience and we want them to come back because they were just so blown away by what we do,” O’Brien said. “We are so passionate about what we do. We love fostering that growth. We love educating our customers.”
To that end, O’Brien shared with us six craft beer and seltzer selections and food pairings for Super Bowl Sunday.
Brendon O’Brien’s Super Bowl Selections
Vliet, Threes Brewing (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Pilsner, 5.2% ABV
I think any time you’re entertaining, one of the most important things is to have “mass appeal” beers that everybody at your party is able to enjoy.
The first beer is one that I absolutely think fits that bill. This pilsner is light, it’s approachable, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring by any means. This beer still has a tremendous amount of structure and a really nice hop character.
This, in terms of pairing, is going to work with everything on your table. I think there are few party pairings more classic than hot wings and a nice pilsner. It’s just so nice. It cuts the heat. The wings make you thirsty, this satiates that thirst but makes you want more wings.
If you’re a macro beer consumer, everything you’re drinking is based off a pilsner originally. So, it’s a familiar taste.
This is the crowd-pleaser. Everybody is going to dig this.
Wrench, Industrial Arts (Garnerville, N.Y.), New England IPA, 6.8% ABV
There is no denying that IPAs (India pale ales) are the most popular style in craft beer. They outsell everything almost 10-to-1 in terms of style. The most dominant style driving those sales are what’s considered a Northeast or a New England style. Usually, these beers are hazier in appearance, as opposed to being translucent. They tend to be brimming with citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavors, and usually have decidedly very low bitterness.
Industrial Arts’ Wrench is our No. 1 selling beer across the board. We historically have never had a beer that has been so dominant and successful with us. That’s including Budweiser and Stella Artois. This beer has now been in existence for two-and-a-half years. Every single one of those months with the exception of one or two, it has been our No. 1 item across the board.
I always like taking something that has big tropical flavors and pairing it with something with heat to it. The tropical element playing off the spice I think is really nice. So, if you’re doing something like pulled pork tacos with habaneros, this beer is so nice with it. It’s going to complement that heat. You can certainly do it with hot wings. But I just think it’s really pleasing with spicier food.
Taras Boulba, De la Senne (Brussels, Belgium), Blonde Ale, 4.5% ABV
As our fanbase and our audience grows, I think it’s our job as beer professionals to shine a light on some of these more traditional styles. They are one of only two breweries located in the city of Brussels. In my humble opinion, this man (Yvan De Baets) is the best brewer in the world, as least for my palette. There are no shortage of great breweries, but time and time again he floors me with his creations.
It is a hoppy blonde ale, but it definitely has its roots in traditional Belgian styles. If there was ever a beer, something that’s approachable and is going to go with every piece of food and every person at the table, it’s this. This, for me, is a repeatable beer. I can sit there and have this one beer all night and not get bored of it.
It has a pale golden malt base that is complex with cereal grains to it, and this really nice hop note that is herbal, lightly spicy and just a little of that pine and citrus, enough to give this beer dimension, but you can still throw back six of them and not think twice that you had the same beer over and over again. They keep the alcohol at this at 4.5%, so it is perfect for something like the Super Bowl. It’s just another crowd-pleaser.
I love this with crudités, veggies, hummus—just thoughtfully curated veggie dishes or dishes that reflect more herbal, natural food qualities, as opposed to something over the top spicy or crazy ten-layered. If you have a nice veggie platter, you’re pretending to be healthy at the Super Bowl, this beer is going to go great with it.
Farmhouse Pale Ale, Oxbow Brewing (Newcastle, Maine), Belgian Saison, 6% ABV
In my opinion, this is one of the best breweries in America. They never lose sight of being an approachable, drinkable beer. For me, that’s what the Super Bowl is all about. It’s about repeatable beers. You’re not going to sit there dissecting a beer. You’re watching the game, you’re with friends, you’re at a party.
This is a really interesting beer. It lives up to its name. It is right in between a traditional Belgian farmhouse style and an American pale ale. Again, you’re going to find that cereal grain quality to it. But then you’re seeing these hops added on top of that complexity and that spice. It’s a nod to the Old World and then a kiss of the New World with those hops.
Having that addition of the American hops gives it a different dimension, where you’re getting a little bit more citrus pine upfront and then you’re getting that toasty, yeasty finish. It’s just complex. Every sip just makes you want another sip.
I would do this with loaded potato skins, something like that is really kind of fun.
Must Kuld, Pohjala (Tallinn, Estonia), Porter, 7.8% ABV
Being that it’s a cold time of year, I tend to gravitate toward darker beers. One of my favorite breweries that brews stouts and porters and darker styles is actually a brand from Estonia called Pohjala. These guys are right on the Baltic Sea.
To me, this is like liquid fudge. It is so good. I think a lot of people who may not be into craft beers are intimidated when they see a dark beer because they assume it’s going to be more than they can handle. But this beer is an eye-opener. People don’t understand that beer can be like this and can have these kinds of dessert qualities.
This also has a unique kind of honey quality to it. Because it has higher alcohol by volume, it almost has a slightly higher viscosity. With that and the honey quality and it’s really just a pleasing thing to warm you up when it’s cold out.
I’m a huge fan of cooking with dark beers. Something like this would be exceptional, not only in a mole sauce, but like a three-bean chili. I would really like the dimension that something like this adds. For a lot of people, chocolate is like their secret ingredient in beef chili. This is going to add that same component.
Willie’s Superbrew, Sparkling Mango and Passionfruit (Charlestown, Mass.), 4.5% ABV
We kind of felt that with this growing trend of hard seltzers, it was our mission to find seltzers that we can really get behind, seltzers that we were proud to feature. None have resonated with our consumers or staff like Willie’s Superbrew.
What puts this in a league of its own is all of their products only have four ingredients. So, it’s always going to be fermented sugar as your alcohol base, and then three other fruits, herbs or spices that are all real.
This is the mango/passionfruit one, which is our biggest seller. It’s just mango, passionfruit and lime. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. These, in my opinion, offer much more dimension than a lot of the mass market seltzers that are out there that tend to drink truer to a non-alcoholic seltzer, where they’re clear and they have artificial flavor added to it. Whereas you drink this, it reminds me if you had a fruit puree that you hit with sparkling water. It actually looks like a hazy New England IPA. I think because of that, people love this. In a glass, this looks like the haziest, juiciest IPA you’ve ever seen.
It’s not only a gluten-free option, but it is a health-conscious option. Each can is 110 calories. It is one of the biggest trends we’re seeing, not just with seltzers, but with beer and everything, consumers now want something that is lower alcohol, lower calorie, but still offers them a wealth of flavors.
This is something that every single person at your party will take out of the cooler, crack it, take a sip and go, “Oh, wow.” It has just such mass appeal.
This has mango in it, which makes me want to play off heat. Something like habanero or teriyaki wings.