Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category
So, I’m home. My epic journey to Europe and back concluded last weekend, but it took me another week to catch up at my day job. Yes, I have a day job. Until you lot pay me enough to quit and swill craft beer full time, I’ll have to occasionally take time out to punch my dot com salt mine timecard.
Where did I go? A lot of places, but let’s keep this beer-themed, shall we? In order to do that, our story begins not in the fabled beer mecca of Belgium, but an awful lot closer to home: New York City. Famed for both its salsa and neurotic filmmakers, the Big Apple is something of a market draw for the regions’ craft beer producers, on account of its being New York Fucking City.
New York itself features relatively few breweries, but the 8ish million residents ensure that there are hundreds of establishments with respectable tap lists. I didn’t have time to visit them all during my two days there, but I did manage poke my head into six, and that’s enough to make broad, sweeping generalizations about the city’s beer scene as a whole.
I generally stuck around Manhattan, on account of my staying there. My buddy Jer (@blprnt) was kind enough to come over the bridge from Brooklyn and lead Sharon and me on a guided tour of decent brew spots, so they’re not exactly a random selection. Therefore, I guess this article beats Googling “bar” for finding spots to drink good beer. Read on for my thoughts.
Tucked into an unassuming snug near Chinatown are some of the best sandwiches you’ll ever have, paired with five tightly curated taps and a respectable east-coast bottle list. I had the Six Point Nelson Sauvin IPA paired with an outstanding pork belly handheld (itself braised with the Six Point). There were no fries served with this sandwich and honestly, I liked it that way. Fries are empty filler and a distraction. Without them, I could give the pig the attention it so richly deserved.
Verdict: Come here and eat the food. Have a pint. Move on.
Yes, you read that address correctly. Just across the street (Delancey St, for those crafting a NYC beerourism map at home) lay my next destination. If the theme of Black Tree is delicious, locally sourced food and a welcome environment, the theme at Top Hops is beer: plain, simple and good.
Top Hops both is and isn’t a bar. You see, outside of BC the liquor laws are relaxed enough to allow businesses to blur the lines between different types of establishments a bit. Want to run both a bottle shop AND a bar? Go for it. Sell bottles in the back and pints in the front like Top Hops.
Buy a pint. Buy a bottle and open it to drink there. Or take home. Heck, buy a growler and be similarly flexible with your consumption options. The atmosphere is a bit down scale (it is a beer store, after all), but the beer most certainly is not.
Bottles are organized in fridges based on region of production, with the expected heavy focus on the east coast. Kegs are meticulously maintained and curated, posted on a chalkboard showing all the key beer stats, including when the keg was tapped and when that line was last cleaned.
Verdict: You could easily blow a whole night here, given the vast selection. However, the atmosphere is that of a beer store, and there are very few seats.
Another block, another bar. How about a traditional pub to close out my first night in NYC? No? How about something that looks like a traditional pub but pours 30 taps of outstanding craft beer? Okay, that’s more like it.
The selection was less impressive than Top Hops, but the presence of actual seats capable of supporting your ass off the floor was a huge plus. It’s hard to describe One Mile in a current Vancouver-analogue, but maybe I’ll risk showing my age by saying it reminds me of the old Rose and Thorn (now the Kingston). Nooks and crannies with old, worn seats, and a lively, crowded atmosphere.
One Mile also taught me an important distinction between the beer scenes on either side of the coast. Whereas a bar in Vancouver with this sort of tap list would play up the beer above all else (think Alibi Room or Portland Craft and how you perceive those places), One Mile is a pub that just happens to serve great beer. It’s subtle but interesting.
Verdict: Cosy with comfortable seating. This place does get a bit slammed but, honestly, so does everywhere good in this city. If you can find a seat, hold on to it and stay a while. End your night here like I did, even.
Stuck out by the park and want some good beer? The Jeffrey is a short 15m walk away and you’ll be glad you made the trek (or the 3m cab ride). A tiny bar opens to a small room, which opens to a medium sized, private patio. 20 taps showcase local brews but also a few less exotic more mainstream brews (De Ranke, Ommegang, Dogfish Head all are on the current list). Even some Firestone Walker found its way across the US to be poured here.
One thing the Jeffrey is not, though, is cheap. Beers are typically 14oz or 16oz and range from $8 to $10. Throw the unfriendly exchange on the table and you might do a double take at your VISA statement. However, it is absolutely a worthwhile destination for spending a sunny afternoon consuming some great beer.
Verdict: ORDER THE ANCHOVIES. SCREW EVERYTHING ELSE. OH MY FUCKING GOD THOSE ARE GOOD.
We’ve all been there. You’re at some sort of depressing event out in the boondocks, staring in a cooler brimming with ice water and Molson, wondering to yourself: “What did I do wrong in my life to end up here?” Now imagine the opposite. What did I do right in my life to deserve a table at Luksus? Yes, it’s that good. In short, if the entire NYC leg of this vacation was nothing but skinny jeans and slamming PBRs at stoner art shows, Luksus would single-handedly make the whole thing a win.
Where to start? Out front is probably best, at Tørst. Tørst (pronounced “tirst”–it’s Danish for “thirst”) is the brainchild of Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. Some of you know immediately who that is. Some of you recognize the name but can’t quite place it. Some of you just said it out loud in the style of the Swedish Chef. Jeppe is the guy behind Evil Twin Brewing. His twin brother is the Mikkel in Mikkeller Brewing.
Those are some serious craft beer credentials, and if you’re now expecting Tørst to be epic, you’d be right. The Evil Twin-heavy menu offsets a beautiful, wood clad room seating 45 thirsty beer fans (and no less than 20 beards). Tørst is worth the trip alone, but it’s not why I’m here.
Nope, the reason I’m here is the unmarked white door at the end of the bar. Soon, we will tapped on the shoulder and whisked through that magic door into Luksus, and it will be as if we’re in a different country. Tørst is everything a beer bar should be: busy, well laid out, and bustling with the noisy energy of dozens of conversations. Luksus, is a secluded quiet realm of a dozen seats and a kitchen.
In that kitchen is Chef Daniel Burns. If you thought Jeppe’s beer cred was impressive, Daniel’s food cred trumps it ten fold. His resume includes stints at The Fat Duck, as head of Momofuku’s food lab, and most importantly time at the widely-reknowned-as-the-best-restaurant-on-the-freaking-planet Noma. And we’re not talking about Noma in the “hey, I might once have been in the kitchen at the same time as “René Redzepi” way that many chefs do. Nope, Daniel built then ran the pastry section there for three years.
The experience that followed was the best meal I’d ever had in my life. The $90 menu and $60 beer pairing price tags can’t possibly prepare you for how extraordinary–how perfect–this meal was. That the flavours paired exceptionally with the dish and the beer was a given, as was the fact that every dish was prepared and delivered with meticulous detail to attention. The aspect that set this meal aside was the character of the dishes. Each course was presented in a way that invited you to explore the dish and combine flavours in a way that, as cheesy as it is, can only be described as fun.
Crack a wafer to uncover the course lying underneath, compare and recombine the elements of your dish a dozen ways, try first one thing and then another with the beer and discover how it changes everything. Above all, talk about the food, the beer and enjoy yourself immensely.
Verdict: The highlight of my NYC trip. Make a reservation today for three months out and do whatever horrible, unspeakably twisted thing you need to do in order to afford it. Although, to be honest, that price for a meal of this quality is basically free.
Blind Tiger 281 Bleecker St
w: blindtigeralehouse.com — t: @blindtigernyc
I’ve written extensively about the Blind Tiger before (BC Craft Beer News, Vol 1 No 4 Pg 10), so go read that article instead of requiring me to just blather on again.
Verdict: A can’t-miss for any trip to the east coast. Unfortunately, the menu was at a low ebb when I was there (in that it was merely great). Two days later it was mostly Maine Brewing Company. Fuck. Guess I have to go back.
Remember that Craft Beer Market taplist that was leaked last week on reddit? (Hat tip to a few folks for email me about that one, including Rob Ardies) I re-posted it here and generated a bit of comment about whether or not it was legit. Well, it’s legit. CBM has now soft-opened, so feel free to head on down to check things out. If you’re too far away, too busy to make it, or (like me) are just holding out for the official launch, here are some spy shots of the final menu.
[Page 1] – [Page 2] – [Page 3]
(Spy photo credit: Thomas Milne)
There’s not a lot of new information there, though, because the leaked list was basically 100% accurate, right down to which beers go in which categories, and where those appear on the menu. And yes, for those that are interested in such things, this means that Alexander Keith’s was indeed slotted into the IPA category. They did, though, at least put down an IBU rating for each list IPA, and Keith’s is curiously lower than any of the other entrants at 28 (12 lower than the English IPA’s minimum of 40 by style).
The sole change to the early menu is a cider swap-out that saw Foundry get left behind and Sommersby get the nod for game time.
One detail that was missing from the leaked list was the composition of the 13 rotating taps. Wonder no more, my friends (pic):
- GIB Collaboration Brew*
- Wolf Red Brick IPA
- Ninkasi Total Domination IPA
- GIB Pumpkining
- Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout
- American Brewing Breakaway IPA
- Steamworks Pale
- Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
- New Belgium Pumpkick
- Stiegl Radler Zitrone
- Elysian Oddland Spiced Pear
- Big Rock Life of Chai
- Lighthouse Tasman
* This isn’t my beer as it hasn’t been brewed–or even conceived–yet
Lastly, here are some tidbits for you:
- 0.4l of Fat Tug is priced at $6.25, or ~$0.46 per US oz. This is fairly pricey according to the famous Fat Tug Index. Aside: why US ounces, Paddy?
- For those wondering what that would be for a proper pint (and let’s be honest, at least one of us seems to wonder about very little else), that’s about $8.88
- The rotating taps aren’t pouring yet (UPDATE: Some are; see comments), and won’t be in time for next week’s official opening.
- Tuesday is cask day. While I applaud having a cask at all, I am very disappointed that one of the rotating taps simply isn’t a cask all the time.
- Tuesday is also discount beer day. All beers are $2 off. That change modifies Fat Tug above to be ~$0.31 per US oz, or about the same as the Charlatan every day.
- Ratebeer.com gives this list an average of 60.2 overall, 66.67 by style. That’s a marked improvement from their Calgary location (53).
- Worst Beer (according to ratebeer.com): Bud Light, which gets an “n/a” for overall, and 1 for style
- Best Beers (according to ratebeer.com): Ayinger Celebrator, St Ambroise Oatmeal (100/100)
As excitement continues to build for the impending opening of Craft Beer Market in the Olympic Village, an early draft of their fixed tap list appears to have been leaked on reddit.
Sure, I find it odd that anyone who works at a craft beer focused restaurant (and therefore should be experts on beer/food pairings) would be asking a public forum for advice, but this list does appear to be legit (eg no one else considers Saisons, White IPAs or California Common beers to be “Anomalies”).
Remember folks, this is quite obviously an early draft (full of typos/not formatted all purty-like) so don’t be too harsh on them for listing “Strom Brewing Black Plaque Stout” on there.
Here is the list for easy access.
Some quick take-aways:
- The rotating taps (13 in total) are not listed here
- This list represents 43 beers from 27 BC Breweries (and 1 cider from BC’s Merridale, and two undoubtedly locally brewed house beers)
- Ignoring the 13 rotating taps, that gives us a tap list that is 37% BC
- Or, looking at it another way, a tap list that has 11 more BC products than St Augustine’s
- Big winners in terms of scoring taps are: Parallel 49, OK Spring, Driftwood, Phillips and Howe Sound, each with three
- The brewery with the most taps? Deschutes, with 4
UPDATE: After careful analysis I’d say this list is legit, but likely an early version of the tap list. I won’t say exactly why I suspect this (although Rogue Dead Guy is awful hard to get on tap regularly). Expect the final version to be slightly different.