Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chawbacon Drowns in Brooklyn but Survives

The 2nd Annual Holiday Pub Crawl, trashing Brooklyn this year, took place Friday under a blue sky enlivened by a sun streaming yellow photons like a drunk taking a piss.

We started at Penn Station and the first transit of the day was via the C train to the first stop in Brooklyn, High Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge, in a neighborhood called Brooklyn Heights. Brooklyn Heights is a residential area that extends along and overlooks the East River. Heights is a bit of a misnomer as the elevation may in fact be less than 100 feet above the river level, but high it is relative to the nearby topography. A short walk through the upscale neighborhood brought us to near the river's edge with the vista of Manhattan opening before us to the west beyond the sparkling, calm, East River, actively being plied by pleasure and business watercraft. From that point, it was a 20 minute stroll south along the Brooklyn Promenade above the deserted waterfront wielding piers jutting out into the river in the direction of Manhattan. Along the walkway, there are bas-relief brass plaques inlaid into the paverstone field, and other objects d'art including metallic wall-hangings, showing the history of the waterfront area and Manhattan in the distance. Sadly, one showed the skyline to the West, oriented from the viewers perspective, with the twin towers of the World Trade Center visible, yet in reality sorely missing.

From there, it was a short walk to Atlantic Avenue which is one of the main arteries into downtown Brooklyn, to the first stop of the day for a Anchor Liberty Ale at The Waterfront Ale House visible in the photo to the right. Disregard Pete's Ale House on the awning as Pete was a former owner who reportedly had to give the place up under extreme beer duress--this truly is the Waterfront Ale House--and from the perspective of the photo if you turned around 120 degrees--but not too quickly if you've had a few--you would indeed see the waterfront to the west. The Liberty Ale went down mighty fine and was fitting for the Liberty we enjoy, able to crawl from bar to bar, and drown in a sea of beer if we care to. My first choice had been a local--Chelsea Hop Angel from the cask, but alas the casketh had runneth under and dry.

This was a crawl after all, so after downing our brews we left and ambled further southeast on Atlantic to our second stop at a delightful little establishment called The Brazen Head where I had Heartland Summer Vice , from the cask. So this was my local brew of the day! Yippee! If you've done the tourist thing around Manhattan you probably know the Heartland Brewery chain of restaurants around the city--Empire State Building, South Street Seaport being two locations. Well, they, along with a bunch of NYC restaurants and pubs, in fact have their beers contract brewed by the Greenpoint Beer Works of Brooklyn. The Summer Vice was a light summer-time wheat beer that went down easier than the first beer--there is nothing like a good beer to provide lubrication for the second!

Next stop was the Brooklyn Brewery, north of Brooklyn Heights in the Williamsburg section. However to get there not knowing the surface bus routes, we opted to backtrack into the city on the C, then switch trains to the L. After getting off in Williamsburg at the Bedford Ave. station, I was immediately struck by the vibe of this section of the city--young, artistic, and fun-loving. Evidently earlier this century many young artists fled here from Manhattan after they were priced out of housing. In any case, the streets were teeming as we walked over to Brewers Row, but alas the brewery was closed until later in the evening. Bummer!

After the disappointment of the Brooklyn Brewery not being open we decided--on the fly--to stumble into Mugs Ale House which we had passed on the way to the brewery along Bedford Avenue. Now I'm here to tell you that this was easily the best beer bar of the ones we had visited so far. There were at least 24 very high quality import and domestic craft ales on tap and it was very hard to decided on a beer. Bing! IPA Time! Bing! Do you have a double IPA? Well, no not right now...but we do have an Imperial IPA...Lagunitas Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid. Ummmm. What was that again? Hop Stoopid! Ok. I'll have one of them. No make it two! Hey Stupid! What??? Hop Stoopid is a excellent IPA with a great bitter and fruity balance. The hops are fantastic if you're into that sort of thing as no doubt you realize I am. FYI: This place has an excellent jukebox, and Friday it was pounding out all sorts of hard-rock, metal, and punk and I contributed to the mayhem with some Dio--Rainbow in the Dark and the Stooges Search and Destroy. Just to make things interesting... While there we met C who's setting up an interesting conceptual rendering of a bowling alley/rock club called Brooklyn Bowl. It's close to opening up next to the Brooklyn Brewery and will pair that tasty combination of rock music and bowling. Edgy yet unpretentious. Good Luck C! We wish you well.

Extra Credit: Red Hook ESB, nightcap at the Grassroots Tavern, St. Mark's Place, East Village. Good selection of drafts--good jukebox with local favorites (New York Dolls, Richard Hell et al)--efficient barkeeps. Bartop looks like an old piece of driftwood.

Hits: Mugs Ale House

Close calls: Barcade (80s style arcade with beer bar), Williamsburg; Brooklyn Brewery, Williamsburg. Next time.

Another fantastic day in the city exploring new places, enjoying beer, and making new and reconnecting with old friends.

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