This is a new feature I am trying out here at TMR. Suds With Securb “ Beer Destinations. When we are traveling there are many places that are listed on websites as beer destinations. When we get there we are sometimes disappointed to find a sub-par establishment with a questionable beer selection. This is my attempt to save you a little bit of shoe leather the next time you land at one of these said destinations. Our first Beer Destination is the city that never sleeps¦ New York City.
I havent been in the city since just before 9-11… Back in the days when I sold financial software on Wall Street. I enjoyed frequent trips to NYC. Drinks at The Boathouse, dinner at The Four Seasons. Even then, the sanitized version of New York Rudy Guiliani still offered up a ton of charm. But even then I could see the New York of my youth slipping away.
Prior to those days, my trips to The Big Apple would be drunken road trips with my bandmates. These are the pre-Rudy days “ when Times Square was Sodom and Gomorra, not the Disney North it has now become. Long gone are the peep booths whose floors make your average movie theater floor seem sanitary. The seedy bars that once dotted Broadway are now long gone, replaced by corporate gin mills with flashy names and no personalities. A bar should never have a board of directors, especially in New York. A bar in The City should be owned by a guy named Mac, Joe or Gus. He should be seated next to you at the bar with a cold glass of beer unless he is behind the bar serving one to you.So I quickly got off the beaten path of Broadway and 42nd street and headed off to Hells Kitchen to find an old school bar. I needed to see if Mac, Joe or Gus still existed in the city.When looking for an old-school bar one thing to look out for is wood. Wood paneling, wooden chairs and a sturdy oak bar lets you know you have arrived at a preferred drinking hole. As I was standing on 9th Avenue in the mid 50s, I found myself between two bars. The first was named Vinyl. In looking through the window I can tell you it was glitzy and shiny with a ton of bright silver and mirrored dÃ©cor.With its huge windows and obnoxiously bright lighting I could tell this was the place to be seen. I could see the beautiful people of Manhattan milling around inside having insignificant conversations. I wasnt there to bee seen, I was there to be served¦ so I pushed on. Across the street from this den of self-importance. I found the polar opposite.Vintage – 753 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019 – This nicely-lit classic bar has a reputation as a Martini Bar, but dont let that fool you. Vintage is also a great beer bar. The beer menu offered up many classic Belgium and German offerings. Many regional and national usual suspects are also available. I would not go into Vintage expecting to find any beer off the beaten path. But their diverse menu gave many options. My one critique is that there were no extreme beers. A barleywine, imperial stout or imperial ipa would have been very welcome on the rainy night of my visit. What we did find to warm us was Vintages quesadillas.Vintages quesadillas came with several options, as did most of the food on their accommodating menu. They were also spicy enough to stand up to the Harpoon IPA I paired them with.Vintage also sports a great scotch selection. When I got to the point of beer saturation of course I switched to scotch. I ordered a Johnnie Walker Blue for my drinking buddy Mark and myself, unfortunately there was only enough left for one drink. The bartender poured us each a half shot of Johnnie Walker Blue, on her, and handed us back the drink menu. Old school treatment in an old school bar¦ three scotches later, the bartender received a very nice tip.In a totally different, but just as classic NYC neighborhood, I found Blind Tiger. Blind Tiger is one of Manhattans best-known beer bars nestled in Greenwich Village.Blind Tiger 281 – Bleecker Street, New York City 10014 “ Let me start by saying that this place is a beer drinkers dream. The only downside was the service. The beer menu is amazing, one of the best I have seen in the country. Not only do they have a great selection of 30 or so beers on tap, they also have gems on-tap like Aventinus, which I have never seen on tap, and wonderful cask ales available. The big draw for me is the aged beers. There is a list of fifteen or so aged beers in varying degrees of maturity, spanning from a few year old Ommegang to my selection, a 98 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.The 98 Bigfoot was $17 on the menu¦ a reasonable price for such a beer. When ordering this beer that cost as much a steak in most cities, and more than most of the food on the menu, I requested some bread or crackers to cleanse my palette. I have been hitting the town pretty hard and had just finished an incredibly hoppy barleywine. The bartender informed me that they didnt have crackers or bread and served me my Bigfoot.Ok, there was no bread. I figured seeing I had this great beer I would order Blind Tigers $9 cheese sampler to accompany my beer. What do you think was delivered with my cheese sampler? You guessed it! Bread. Not only bread, but dry almost-stale bread that was definitely pre-cut earlier.Blind Tiger is a must-visit for any beer fan visiting NYC, but be forewarned, bring your own crackers or be ready to spend 9 dollars on stale bread and cheese.My trip through the city brings me to Brooklyn via the now also sanitized NYC subway. I took the L train to Lorimer Street and walk a couple of blocks to the best beer bar New York has to offer.Barcade – 388 Union Ave Brooklyn, NY 11211 “ If you blink, you will miss this gem nestled in one of Brooklyns coolest blue collar neighborhoods. This big beer bar with a small neighborhood atmosphere has a phenomenal menu of hand-picked beers. Unlike other beer bars I have seen, you will not find any offering from the top three brewers. True to their microbrew roots, you will not only find hard to find draft offerings but also wood aged and cask beers.I became comfortable in this ultra-hip beer den very quickly. The list of Imperial IPAs, and big beers were much too deep for me to even attempt to get through in one night. The bar is lined with classic console video games in mint condition. If you are in the mood for a game of Asteroids while you drink your Victory Hop Devil, this is your place. I opted for a quick game of Ataris Berzerk while I sipped on my draft Weyerbacher Insanity.The selection of Sega, Midway and Atari games mixed with the assortment of Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewing and other beers could keep you busy in this place for months, if not years. Still we all need to mix it up every once in a while when that time comes at Barcade what do you do? You have a Dogfish Head Martini! Barcade also has a nice selection of Dogfish Heads Vodka and Rums I was lucky enough to sample the Honey Rum. Once again, a home run by Dogfish Head. This was easily the best rum I have ever tried in my life.So maybe Dogfish Head martinis, great beer and awesome video games are not enough reason to visit Barcade. Well then how about Barcades underwear-only video game tournament?There is always something cool going on at this place whether it is pantless Pacman or Captain Lawrence Beer night.So my pick for New York City is, without a doubt, Barcade¦ if not for the entire Northeast. If I lived any closer to Brooklyn I know I would spend countless hours there. Alas we still have many other places to see and many more beers to drink.