[Sorry for falling behind on these, folks. Work has been busy since I got back, and the new hockey season started this week…]
NYC – Night 4 – Wednesday, September 27th:
If you only have one night to spend in New York and want to hit a few beer-friendly establishments, the East Village is the perfect neighbourhood to do so. There are about a half-dozen great bars within staggering distance of each other, not to mention plenty of restaurants to fortify yourself before, during or after your pub crawling.
My original plan for Wednesday night was to start with dinner somewhere and then hit several bars, but class let out early, so I had more time to myself than expected. I decided to start with a late afternoon snack at a non-beer location: Teany (90 Rivington St.), an aptly named (i.e. it’s really teeny!) vegetarian cafe and tea house owned by Moby. (I’m semi-vegetarian, by the way – pescetarian, to be exact – so I spent as much time researching veggie restaurants before my trip as I did cataloguing beer destinations.) The tea menu in this place is as intimidating as the beer menus in some of my favourite bars – 98 different teas sorted by style, all with detailed tasting notes. I ended up with a white tea flavoured with chrysanthemum and a slice of very tasty vegan pumpkin “cheese”cake.
Sweet tooth satiated, I made the short walk to d.b.a. (41 1st Ave. between 2nd & 3rd St.). Located on the lower edge of the East Village, d.b.a. was one of the first beer specialty bars to open in Manhattan, and it still has a pretty solid reputation – it was voted 34th in RateBeer‘s list of Best U.S. Beer Bars for 2006 – although a couple of locals I spoke to later in the week have said that the selection and service have taken a downturn in the past year or two. Personally, the only complaint I had about the place was the horrendous state of the tiny washroom, although I guess it was no worse than the ones in the divey bars I used to frequent in my wayward youth. Still, I expected something a little more sanitary from this otherwise clean and comfortable place.
No complaints about the beer, though. They had a good selection of micros and imports on tap, including a couple of handpumps, and a chalkboard which not only listed their draught and cask selections, but included the dates that they’d all been tapped – a really nice touch that I’d like to see in more places. The bottle selection was also quite impressive, with lots of US micros and imports from Belgium, Germany, the UK, and even several Unibroue beers. And for those who like the hard stuff, they stock plenty of premium bourbon, tequila, whisky and other spirits. I stuck with the beer myself, and since I couldn’t decide between malty or hoppy, I went both ways and had a very nice pint of Blue Point Hoptical Illusion on dry-hopped cask, and a glass of Brooklyn Oktoberfest on draught.
At my next stop, I was also offered a choice – not between malty or hoppy, but between “light or dark”. Yes, I stopped in at McSorley’s Old Ale House (15 E. 7th St. near 3rd Ave.), a NYC institution where they’ve been slinging suds for over 150 years. There’s sawdust on the well-trod floor, white-aproned servers behind the weathered bar, and two types of beer, the aforementioned light and dark, served at a minimum of two mugs at a time. Brewed for the bar by Pabst/Miller, these are not hoity-toity craft beers, just simple brews that are easy to pound back. If you’d like to have a quick visit and try them both, ask the bartender for a “one & one” to get a single mug of each.
After the old-timey diversion of McSorley’s, I wanted to get back to the fancy stuff, so I headed a block east and found myself faced with yet another choice: should I visit Burp Castle (41 E. 7th St. near 2nd Ave.) or Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 E. 7th St. near 2nd Ave.)? OK, to be honest, I already knew that I was going to choose Jimmy’s as I’d read about their Wednesday night beer & cheese tastings, as well as their menu of local and organic food. Located below street level, it looks like a tiny hole-in-the-wall on arrival, but it’s actually a rather spacious place with several interconnected rooms and a very monastic decor. I stayed in the front room and grabbed a spot at the bar near the friendly rep from Merchant du Vin who was pouring small samples of Orval, Westmalle Tripel and Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager to be enjoyed along with a complimentary cheese plate. Those served as a nice appetizer for a main course of their excellent mac & cheese and a pint of Six Point Bengali Tiger IPA, a wonderfully hoppy beer from a fairly new brewery in Brooklyn. I enjoyed it so much that I had their Smoked Baltic Porter for dessert – and yes, it was just as good as the name suggests. And I had a chance to meet the namesake owner of the place, Jimmy Carbone, who not only remembered me from an email I’d sent him a couple of weeks beforehand to ask about the beer & cheese night, but who also emailed me a couple of days after my visit to say thanks for stopping by. Who says New Yorkers aren’t friendly?
My final stop of the night was the Hop Devil Grill (129 St. Marks Place at Ave. A), a funky hang-out with around 30 taps (mostly US micros, with a few well-selected imports) and a slew of bottles to choose from. I felt like something light to finish off my evening, so I had a pint of Brooklyner Weisse while watching the tail end of a Rangers pre-season game on the big screen. I was tempted to have another when I noticed a poster advertising their $3 Wednesday night “Kill The Keg” special, but I also noticed the time on my watch, which made me think better of it. No need to push things too far, as there would be more beer to enjoy tomorrow night. Oh yes, indeed…