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A Beer Lovers Guide to Manhattan (NYC Blog)

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Best New York City Breweries and Beer Gardens

The Pony BarBefore the common era, man had found a way to make the satisfying and sometimes intoxicating beverage that we have come to know as beer. One of the first drinks our kind decided to make remains one of the most popular. Although, beer in itself is one of the most simple creations with few ingredients – yeast, water, hops and starch (usually malted barley). After adapting European methods of brewing, America grew up to be one of the world’s largest consumers of beer. The country’s first commercial brewery was in fact located in lower Manhattan (at the Dutch West India Company in 1632, to be exact). Today, NYC continues to churn out great breweries and fantastic places to enjoy beer.

Like other favorite beverages such as coffee, tea and wine, beer is yet another to fall prey to NYC’s need to make everything specialized and exclusive. Our beer-drinking trends seem to be reflected in the kinds of bars that are popping up or that remain popular. Pay a visit to Pony Bar (45th Street, Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan) a great cozy spot, which is usually one of the lesser packed bars on this avenue. Don’t let that put you off as it offers a rotating selection of premium beer, none of which are imported. For example, if you like Belgian beer, the brewing styles are replicated and almost exacted. The fact that the beer is brewed at home means it’s a little cheaper too, as each of their little wonders costs just $5. Also, if you plan on dropping in frequently they allow you to keep a beer journal, as they have one of the largest selections in the city.

HospodaOn the Upper East Side, Hospoda (321 E. 73rd Street, Manhattan) is a Central European spot that is almost too cool for school (and perhaps this neighborhood). Patrons can see how the beer is stored through glass on their side of the bar. Gimmicks aside, what we have here is a really cool restaurant with a great emphasis on craft ale. Lukas Svoboda, a master of ale, allows drinkers to decide which style they want their beer pulled in. For example, you can choose it neat, which is the usual way we see draught beer—sharp with no head. My advice is to get a slice pour, which is how I grew up seeing beer, slightly bitter with a four finger foam head. You will be surprised what a difference this all makes. Although, people do realize that there is more than cheap bottles of lager. Sales in the last decade have leaped in the microbrewing industry. Microbreweries have existed just as long as beer has been sold, but like most things we consume nowadays, the microbrewery consistently refines beer and constantly tries to do innovative things with our brews.

Bitter and EstersA microbrewery is a modern craft brewery which creates a limited amount of beer—focusing on the immediate region, its resources, craft and technique. Legions of New Yorkers are even taking to brewing in their own homes as though the Prohibiton Era never ended. Now the knock-on effect is the appearance of homebrewing classes all over the city and serious beer worshiping is taking place. Visit the first brew shop in the city, Bitter and Esters, (700 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn), it is the novice brewers 101 on everything beer. This establishment allows you to brew your own beer on-site under the watchful eyes of walking and living beer handbook guides. Offering weekly classes on brewing, they even sell starter kits so you can practice at home. People here are passionate about beer, even the name itself highlights the subtle harmony of the common beverage. Co-owner Douglas Amport says the name comes from “the two flavors and aromas in a beer. If one is out of whack, it makes the beer taste weird.” Further, “it represents the balance and craftsmanship of beer.”

For $150-175, eager brewers, with or without the help of their friends, can have private brewing sessions at the store. “These people just want to make beer. And we are here to help.” Each brewing session results in six cases of their own special brew. The interior is nice and light, set in the heart of an evolving foodie hotspot. Instead of a dark and dingy cave with alpha males filling buckets with ale, the place is filled with some snazzy new school touches, such as electric brew pots, dozens of grain choices, organic hops in stock. In the future they aim to grow their own in the backyard. Speaking of which, there is a drinking area, so after you brew your own you can sit back and enjoy it. Seeing as though it’s still summer people in the city also need to indulge in the multitudes of beer gardens. In what I can only define as very intense research, here are some of the best beer gardens in the city:

Bohemian HallSpuyten Duyvil (359 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn), has at least a hundred brews in stock in one of Brooklyn’s ‘it’ neighborhoods. They serve meat and cheese plates commonly known as the best accompaniment to beer. La Bierreria (200 5th Avenue, Flatiron, Manhattan), is located on the roof of Eataly. What does the gourmet Italian company know about beer? Enough to serve some great pints on a roof with amazing views of the city alongside its trademark fine cuisine—just don’t look around the store downstairs after you have a drink or two. The Standard Biergarten (848 Washington St, Meatpacking District, Manhattan), is on the radar because of its price points. One of the city’s more authentic beer gardens does not appear to have anything on the menu costing above $10. My secret favorite though, is the Bohemian Hall (29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria, Queens) a Czech beer hall. It’s lovely and one of the oldest in the city and it’s not a “European-style” beer garden but rather a Czech beer garden in Queens. I have visited one other “beer garden” in the Astoria neighborhood, they even hold concert events, but the reason why it doesn’t feature here is because it fails to recapture the spirit of a beer garden, which is a place to drink great quality ale and make memories with friends, even strangers, not because it’s cool but because it’s fun. And, it’s only summer for another five minutes—so hurry.

Nikkita Flavius-Gottschalk is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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1 Comment for “A Beer Lovers Guide to Manhattan (NYC Blog)”

  1. I’m sorry — are there not enough good beer spots in Manhattan?

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