Drinking craft beer in New York City
Ah, New York City with beer. Good times. There are many great places to get a pint in New York and it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start and where to go to next. Here’s my experience on a recent visit and a few tips on places that are well worth a visit. As I start to write this post I realize that a longer title might be necessary: Drinking Craft Beer in New York City while on a family vacation with your wife and nine-month old son. This wasn’t a beer themed trip, but with a bit of nagging and some luck I was able to sneak in some great beer drinking. So not only can I give you tips on where to get beer, but also great places for you to get a beer while pushing around your child’s stroller as well.
Beer stop one: the Blind Tiger. A short stroll from Washington Square you can find the Blind Tiger at 281 Bleecker Street. This is a highly rated beer joint with easy stroller access and if you hit it early there’s plenty of room for the stroller to park beside the table. Get there later and your stroller will just be in everyone’s way. At the bar you will find around 30 tightly stacked simple black taps with only a number marking each one.
The Blind Tiger's taps. Please, one of each.
I enjoy the simplicity of it. No fancy tap handles trying to show off. It’s just beer. A chalk board let’s you know what’s available. Plus there are a couple firkins sitting around, and if you can’t find what you want on tap there is a sizeable bottle list of great specialty beers and vintages. The atmosphere is cozy and you can feel pretty packed in as the place start to fill up with beer lovers and NYU students. Beer comes first at the Blind Tiger, and I am more than okay with that. I wouldn’t come here for a meal, but there are plenty of tasty dishes to keep your beer from getting lonely. I didn’t get to try it but the Deviled Eggs looked particularly delicious. The best beer I had here is the Rouge Brutal Bitter. The only disappointing one? The Chelsea Wheat Wine. Not good.
Arbitrary Scoring System - Beer Selection: 4/5. Foods that don’t count as dinner: 4/5. Atmosphere 4/5. Stroller access: 3/5.
Beer stop two: Spuyten Duyvil. Get out the tight jeans and your Members Only jacket when you go visit this Williamsburg beer haunt. No, don’t worry, it’s not too hipster and the flea-market/science-class decorations are actually pretty cool. If you’re interested in drinking rare and hard to get beers, this is the place for you. There’s quite an interesting list of foreign bottles.
I shared a bottle of Ale Smith’s Wee Heavy (yummy) and a most delicious bottle of Cantillon's Gueuze. While I was there, the rotating tap list was rather unremarkable and I would only return to look past the taps and explore the much more exciting bottle list. I guess they serve food, but I didn’t notice as the bottle list kept my attention the entire time we were there.
Arbitrary Scoring System - Foreign Bottled Beer Selection 5/5. Taps: 2/5. Crazy junk on the walls that doesn’t completely remind me of Benngian’s: 4/5. Stroller access: 2/5 (forget it—unless you’re going early when no one is there).
Beer stop three: Bierkraft. Where has this place been all of my life? And why isn’t there a place like this in Denver!?! Great beer selection, growler fills, taps, and sandwiches! To be clear, this isn’t a bar. This is just an awesome place to get a quick bite and quaff some brews at the same time. Plus it’s rad. Just pick a beer from the massive cooler selection, pop the cap and pour into one of the many pints sitting around. Casual. Easy. Tasty. Awesome. Plus the sandwiches are good. Seriously, this is my top stop for lunch in Brooklyn. If I lived there I would go a couple times a week until I made my way through every beer. And then I would just start over. It’s also nice to be able to toss back some East Coast brews that are unavailable to the Colorado beer drinker. I drank a Smuttynose’s Finestkind IPA while at Bierkraft and it was one of the most satisfying beers of the trip. Since Bierkraft is not a bar per se, it’s fairly child friendly. Maybe a bit too narrow for a stroller, but you can manage. Please, someone, open a copy of this joint in Denver.
Arbitrary Scoring System - Beer Selection: 4/5. Food: 4/5. Awesome Factor: 5/5. Stroller Access: 3.5/5.
Odd and ends. I always find it interesting to see what craft beers are readily available in a given market and one that surprised me was Lagunitas— their beer is everywhere in New York City. You don’t see Lagunitas IPA on tap in Denver very often, but in NYC you won’t have a problem tracking it down. Another interesting brewery that popped up in a lot of places is Kiuchi Brewery of Japan that brews Hitachino Nest beers. At Momofuku Noodle Bar I tried the Red Rice Ale. It’s an interesting and tasty beer. Not something I would have often, but a nice break from the common. One other odd and unexpected beer run-in was at Eatly, the new Italian market by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich. They have the most complete collection of Italian craft beers in the world (I just made that fact up). There are a lot of choices and unfortunately all the beers have the fatal flaw of coming from Italy. We picked up a bottle and it was rubbish. Maybe one day Italy will find a good brewer. By the way, I would love to find a good Italian beer, so please send me a note if you know of one. Oh yeah, one other thing, among these Italian beers I found one of the best names I’ve seen for a beer in a long time: Demon Hunter. Damn, we should have got a bottle of that one.
And, that’s it. No breweries to report on. No more bars to mention. But, hey, I think this is pretty good for a family vacation in New York City with a nine-month old, right?