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Beer Bars (NYC Chapter)


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What Qualifies as a Beer Bar?   I realize that while we have a wine bar thread and a thread on classic old saloons we don’t yet have a thread dedicated to celebrating bars whose prime reason for ex

Hellmann's*. H&M. A&F projected onto Euro eyes - very good (used to be Levi's in the 80s/early 90s)!   * Is Wilfrid secretly working for Stella too. :duck:

well Bud is also from the same maker...

Have you been to Draft Barn, 3rd Ave. btw 12th & 13th Sts.?

Not yet, although it's on my list. That's one of the reasons I started this thread. I've gotten into a comfortable rut of drinking the same beers in the same places. I wanted to open things up a bit and see what's out there.

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I just went to The Ginger Man for the first time a couple of weeks ago (36th Street between 5th and Madison). Very extensive list, with dozens of beers and ciders on tap and even more in bottles. They may print their beer menu up every day. Lots of really obscure offerings too; it's the only place I've seen draft pear cider. They also have many scotches, as well as port, 2 kinds of mead, etc. They do serve food, with a mix of British/Irish favorites and upscale offerings (but no burger :huh: ). It's a big space, with a nook all the way in the back that's very clubby (leather chairs, fireplace). I'm sure it gets really crowded; at 5 PM on a Saturday it was full but not packed.

 

If you're into sports along with your beer, Stout on 33rd between 5th and 6th has big TVs showing all the major sporting events, plus lots of rugby and soccer. It gets very crowded and loud, as it seems to be a favorite with guys seeing games at MSG, but they have a very good beer selection (more bottles than draft, I think) and above-average bar food.

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I just went to The Ginger Man for the first time a couple of weeks ago (36th Street between 5th and Madison). Very extensive list, with dozens of beers and ciders on tap and even more in bottles. They may print their beer menu up every day. Lots of really obscure offerings too; it's the only place I've seen draft pear cider. They also have many scotches, as well as port, 2 kinds of mead, etc. They do serve food, with a mix of British/Irish favorites and upscale offerings (but no burger :huh: ). It's a big space, with a nook all the way in the back that's very clubby (leather chairs, fireplace). I'm sure it gets really crowded; at 5 PM on a Saturday it was full but not packed.

 

If you're into sports along with your beer, Stout on 33rd between 5th and 6th has big TVs showing all the major sporting events, plus lots of rugby and soccer. It gets very crowded and loud, as it seems to be a favorite with guys seeing games at MSG, but they have a very good beer selection (more bottles than draft, I think) and above-average bar food.

 

Ginger man certainly qualifies as a classic Beer Bar. Stout seems to fall into the standard pub category.

To those who don’t follow this sort of thing closely there might be some confusion between a bar with a nice beer selection and a dedicated beer bar. A quick way to distinguish between the two is to look at the number of draft beers on offer. A good bar will have 6 or 7 - a beer bar will have around 20.

 

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Which ones in Williamsburg? Have you been to Spuyten Duyvil?

 

I've got a list somewhere. I'll dig it out. The only WB beer bar I've been to is Mugs Ale House. I like it a lot.

Well, it's a pretty rough list but here it is. I compiled this last July so it may be a bit stale. Openings and closings since then won't be covered.

 

 

Spuyten Duyvil

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/7050/?view=beerfly

359 Metropolitan Avenue

 

 

Barcade

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/10289/?view=beerfly

388 Union Avenue

 

 

Mugs Ale House

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/1117/?view=beerfly

125 Bedford Ave

 

 

The Diamond

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/16311/?view=beerfly

43 Franklin Street

 

 

Brooklyn Ale House (this one might not be a classic beer bar but if I'm in the neighborhood i want to check it out)

http://www.freewilliamsburg.com/bars/archi...lyn_ale_ho.html

103 Berry St. Brooklyn, NY

(Near Muggs)

 

 

Radegast Ale House

(see Brooklyn Ale House)

 

 

There's a nice on line guide to Williamsburg bars here -

http://www.freewilliamsburg.com/bars/

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  • 3 months later...

A few months back I started writing beer reviews and managed to get three of them done. I envisioned this to be the start of a Grand Tour of the beer bars of New York accompanied by regular postings. Perhaps I'd even start a blog. There were pleasant hazy dreams of somehow being able to deduct my bar bills from my taxes. Good times. But deep inside me is a lazy man trying to get out. While I actually visited a couple of other bars and took notes I never got around to writing them up. Since I feel energetic today it’s time to set that right.

 

Brazen Head

228 Atlantic Avenue between Court St and Boerum Place

Brooklyn, NY

 

 

The bar is conveniently located near the Brooklyn House of Detention. This provides a handy landmark when you’re telling people where to meet you.

 

Ambiance

The room itself is asymmetrical, and narrows as you go further back. At the rear is a back garden but since it was a Friday night in mid March I didn’t venture out. I was so intrigued by the shape of the room that I drew the outline in my notes and then looked it up – it’s a trapezoid. Wow. Who says high school geometry doesn’t come in handy?

 

There is a well used dart board in the back and a few tables and chairs arranged haphazardly around the room. The effect was pleasant and relaxed, like a pub in a small country village.

 

As bars go this one was relatively brightly lighted – the level was about the same as the Waterfront Ale House. If you were by yourself you could easily read a book or a newspaper. Three normal sized TVs were positioned behind the bar. On the night in March when I visited they were showing the NCAA tournament with the sound off.

 

The overall noise level in the room was mild for a bar. Conversation was easy.

 

Staff

There was a single young bartender. Given the moderate size of the place this worked well. Orders were filled promptly and he was very friendly. He often was engaged in conversations with patrons but always kept an eye on the bar so glasses didn’t go unfilled for very long. He was a real pro.

 

I got a buyback on my 3rd or 4th beer and he announced it with the traditional double rap of his knuckles on the bar and a pleasant “Good luck!” I have never gotten tired of hearing those words.

 

The Crowd

The age mix was also about the same as the Waterfront Ale House, ranging from early 20s to mid 60s. I suspect that a number of them were beer geeks judging by the detailed discussions I heard between the bartender and a number of the patrons. I noticed a few groups of women sitting together as well. It’s that type of place – very relaxed. The room was about 60% full on a Friday night.

 

While there was the usual collection of groups and singles I noticed a number of young couples where it seemed like the guy was introducing his girlfriend to different types of beer. The bartender was very cooperative in pouring various samples until the girl found something she liked. Brazen Head fills a hitherto unknown niche as a Beer Date Bar.

 

Soundtrack

Damned if I know. It was mostly instrumental stuff – new agey rock meets Mike Oldfield meets Phillip Glass. I liked it. Again, the volume was low enough so the music didn’t interfere with conversation.

 

The Beers

There are 17 beers on tap including 2 cask ales. They were listed on a chalk board behind the bar. While this is standard practice at beer bars I’ve been spoiled by the beer menu at Pacific Standard that gives a one sentence description of each beer. It helps guide your choices. Brazen Head should borrow this idea.

 

In addition to the beers they have a number of single malt scotches available as well as wines by the glass. I only sampled two beers but I liked them well enough to stick with them for the whole evening.

 

Sly Fox IPA – It’s a cask ale, hand pumped. The beer is creamy, nice and full. I noticed with every third or fourth sip I got a slight taste of salt. This sounds unpleasant but it wasn’t – just unusual. Maybe I imagined it.

 

Southampton Secret Ale – this had a pleasant well balanced bitterness that grew on me. The carbonation seemed lower than similar beers but I didn’t find it flat at all. It was awhile back - my notes say “bright tasting” so I’ll just have to trust myself.

 

Extra Points

They do Events. Mondays they have a dart competition and complimentary chicken wings. On Tuesday nights all pints are $5.00. There’s more stuff but I didn’t bother to write it down.

 

Behind the bar was a picture of Barack Obama. In Brooklyn we love our President.

 

Brazen Head has wi-fi access. From their website:

 

“For all Those workaholics who like to come to a bar & work on their laptops the Brazen Head is now Wifi accessible however, we suggest after 2 or 3 beers or cocktails, you close your computer, relax and have a few more.”

 

You’ve got to admire their style.

 

Because of the basketball tournament the TV ads were largely aimed at men. I saw plenty of them for Viagra and Cialis. Happy couples, in their 40s and 50s but still good looking. In one of them a couple is out dancing, really twirling around a hotel ballroom. Then they exchange knowing looks and slink away to their hotel room for a night of Cialis fueled passion. Hammer and tongs. After a number of beers it occurred to me that I’ve always assumed that the couples in these ads are married. What if it’s 2 people having an affair?

 

 

Anyway, I liked Brazen Head very much. They’ve been open for more than 9 years and do a great job. I'll be back.

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Yes I'm loving this thread. Does Brazen Head have a fireplace? I think this is a bar that I used to go to every now and then a few years ago.

I'm pretty sure they don't. Nearby on Smith St. Angry Wade's has a fireplace and so does Zombie Hut. There's also an upscale cocktail lounge on Smith that also has a fireplace. Sneakeater has been there.

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Yes I'm loving this thread. Does Brazen Head have a fireplace? I think this is a bar that I used to go to every now and then a few years ago.

I'm pretty sure they don't. Nearby on Smith St. Angry Wade's has a fireplace and so does Zombie Hut. There's also an upscale cocktail lounge on Smith that also has a fireplace. Sneakeater has been there.

Ah yes it was Angry Wade's.

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There is a well used dart board in the back

 

* * *

 

Mondays they have a dart competition

 

I never understood why it's thought to be a good idea to have drunk people hurl sharp pointed objects across a room.

 

(That's the genius of skittles. The ball is on a chain.)

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Yes I'm loving this thread. Does Brazen Head have a fireplace? I think this is a bar that I used to go to every now and then a few years ago.

I'm pretty sure they don't. Nearby on Smith St. Angry Wade's has a fireplace and so does Zombie Hut. There's also an upscale cocktail lounge on Smith that also has a fireplace. Sneakeater has been there.

Ah yes it was Angry Wade's.

 

apropos of absolutely nothing other than i just read the thread: "Angry Wade" is "Sweet Melissa"'s husband.

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  • 9 months later...

March Madness tends to make me think of making the rounds of beer bars. I’m not sure why that’s the case but I did it last year and this past weekend I was back at it. Over the last year 2 bars have opened up at the edges of Park Slope that seemed interesting, Double Windsor and Draft Barn.

 

I figured if I was going to hit both of these places on a single evening I needed to be well prepared, and what better way to do it than a pilsner at Smolen and a plate of goulash at Milan’s, a Czech restaurant conveniently located next door.

 

Both of these places are located in the South Slope, an area that has managed to resist the worst of the Slope’s gentrification. It doesn’t have the central Slope’s earnest glossiness.

 

4454202377_1f3eff64fc.jpg

 

Smolen is a forbidding place from the outside. It doesn’t help that the bar is closed and gated during the day. Like a vampire, it rises up to do it’s business after the sun goes down.

 

Inside, the bar is bright. Really, really bright. Which is probably a good thing. At least you know that it’s clean. It’s laid out as one big room with a pool table on the right. I ordered a Pilsner Urquell and was rewarded with a perfect fresh tasting pint served in a clean glass. When a bar looks like Smolen this is not something to be taken for granted. Even better, it was $3.50. Your drinking dollar will stretch far here.

 

4454982382_e37a667cf3.jpg

 

This is a Polish bar. You can tell this because there are 2 pictures of Pope John Paul II at both ends of the bar. There were also twin Polish plaques on either side of the cash register and a statue of the Blessed Virgin atop it. To the right of the cash register is a large statue of a black elephant. Nice tusks.

 

4454202419_962dc35f23.jpg

 

You might get the feeling that Smolen isn’t friendly but that’s not the case. There was a small but pleasant crowd there when I visited and I didn’t feel unwelcome at all. But it’s also a place that doesn’t get lots of patrons from outside the immediate neighborhood. When they see a new face they want to know who you are.

 

As I was finishing my beer the bartender asked if I was “local.” I said “Yes and no – I come from the other end of the Slope.”

 

“Oh, you must drink in O’Connor’s.” He was right; O’Connor’s is Smolen’s Irish twin, a blue collar no-nonsense shot and a beer establishment. Evidently there is a Dive Bar Circuit and he recognized me as an occasional rider.

 

Smolen

708 5th Ave

(between 22nd St & 23rd St)

 

On to Milan’s.

 

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Milan's is a small and cheerful place with green checked tablecloths. The top of the table was covered in glass and underneath there was a sign advertising the Czech Slovak American Farmers Club. I took this as a good omen. A better omen was the big glass of pilsner with a rich creamy head that I saw the waiter deliver across the room. I ordered one and it was as good as it looked.

 

4454982452_553629c6a2.jpg

 

It’s a small restaurant and 3 other tables were occupied when I was there. I was the only one there who wasn’t Czech. It’s that kind of place.

 

I had a healthy appetite by this time so I got right to work. I ordered the bean and sausage soup to start. It was fine for what it was but I’ve had better versions elsewhere.*

 

4454982528_0132b50be6_m.jpg 4454982498_7ce29ee44a_m.jpg 4454982560_d4fbc86bc5_m.jpg

 

Then things got a lot better – I ordered the pork and sauerkraut goulash with dumplings. This was just excellent, with plenty of chunks of pork surrounded by a creamy subtly spiced gravy. Mixed in were bits of sauerkraut. I thought this might not work when I saw it on the menu but the occasional shreds of cabbage added a pleasing al dente texture to the dish. The portion size was heroic; I ate only one of the 4 dumplings just so the cook wouldn’t get offended but really, they were entirely superfluous.

 

4454202653_031bd705b8.jpg

 

This dish doesn’t have lots of eye appeal and probably would benefit by having a little bit of sliced scallions sprinkled on top. Otherwise it was perfect, a crazy bargain at $10. If they served it at DBGB at half the portion and double the price Sifton would have genuflected and the hipsters would be lining up to eat this.

 

By that time I felt ready to tackle the Double Windsor.

 

Milan’s

710 5th Avenue (between 22nd St & 23rd St)

Brooklyn

 

 

* My favorite version of sausage and bean soup is the one served in the members dining room of the Rudar Soccer Club in Astoria. It’s richer and the portion of sausage is far more generous. There’s also the thrill of eating in a secret restaurant – there is no sign posted outside. Hey PDT, take that.

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