Friday, September 25, 2009

NYC Craft Beer Week

Props go to Pubcrawlin for sowing the idea in her enticing post, so S and I decided to try to make it to the Big Barrel last weekend for the very tail end of NYC Craft Beer Week.

Who'd a thunk that just a short walk from Broadway are a plethora of places to savor a great beer?

Great beer enough to take the edge off the maddening melody of the Music of the Night floating through your head?

And I'm not talking about the faux Irish pubs or the cookie-cutter chains around Times Square proffering a token Guinness or micro brew.

I'm talk'n bout places like the House of Brews, Valhalla, The Pony Bar, and the Delta Grill. All less than a 10 minute stroll from Times Square and all offering up wonderful beer in all styles from the bottle or tap.

House of Brews: What can I say? 2nd trip here--the one on 46th. Picked up a beer week passport (for me, not S--she'd be an illegal alien on this trip), a quick plate of nachos with pulled port, sorry I mean pork, I have beer on the brain, Chelsea's Hop Angel [NY], a Magic Hat's Lucky Kat [VT], and Harpoon's [MA] Munich Dunkel to lubricate the `ol nacho libre passage. This stop was sort of a prep workout to get through the next 2 and a half hours if you know what I mean? Our `keep Noel was helpful and knowledgeable about the beers.

After being ravished or appalled, you decide, by a Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber over-the-top spectacle, we descended, passport in had, into Hell's Kitchen to find the Pony Bar.

The Pony Bar serves American craft beers exclusively (nice) and is someplace that appeared up on our beer radars sometime earlier this year. And since we were in the area we thought this was a perfect opportunity to drop in and see what was up, so we did. This is a smallish western-themed place with a bar seating perhaps 20 and with tables for perhaps another 20.
This being a Saturday afternoon, in late-summer, the place was packed when we rode in, but we were able to wedge ourselves at the far end of the bar to try out a couple of treats from Empire [NY]: Black Magic Stout and Fresh Hops. I like the slate beer menus for their at-a-glance beauty announcing what's on. Northwest corner of 10th Ave and 45th.

Heading north to 9th Ave and 54th, we found Valhalla. You know the place where all beer drinkers go before they die? 48 or was it 49 tap handles, my vision was blurring. Beer week selections for us were Tire Bite Golden Ale from Flying Dog [MD] in the Kolsch style. I'm not too big a fan of Kolsch--it's a bit too sweet for my taste, and this one seemed to be just like all the rest I've tried. The next was a Lagunitas [CA] IPA. Plain. Simple. Refreshing. Perfect. This place claims to be only four years old but by the looks of things it will be around when all of us get to Valhalla.

We were getting hungry for some solid food about this time and departed for our last stop of the evening at the Delta Grill at 9th Ave. and 48th St. This grill specializes in creole and cajun. It's notable for a nice atmosphere evocative of someplace you might visit down in crawdad country. What better beer than Abita's [LA] Purple Haze Raspberry Wheat to wash down a half Muffuletta (shared it was SO big)? Actually, so big that it cried out to be followed up by a Blue Point [NY] toasted lager which was not too exceptional but different and tasty enough to stand out in a very crowded field. The atmosphere was fun and the service was great. I would go back for an encore.

Sunday found us driving into Brooklyn Heights to search out Grimaldi's in DUMBO on Old Fulton Street. J had told me about this being one of the top pizza places in New York and after a 45 minute wait we got in for the 1st seating when it opened at 11:30. Not before, however, a pizza tour bus dropped a load of pizza aficionados who whisked themselves in, before the waiting queue of 100s of like-minded but less fortunate and just as hungry souls. I was surprised that there wasn't any rumbling. Inside is perhaps a 30 by 20 foot square dining room in the front with family-style seating offering great opportunities to strike up conversations with neighboring diners. To the back is the visible prep area and oven. We opted for a large 18" pie (no slices) with mushrooms, pepperoni, and sausage. The crust: Supremely thin and the underside baked to a slightly mottled black perfection. The mozzarella: White, fresh and thinly applied. The sauce: Home made tomato sauce just as it oughta be without any taste of anything but ripe tomato. The fuel: Coal of course. This is the real deal folks. This pizza was awesome. I put it up there with John's and Lombardi's.

Afterwards we headed to Atlantic Ave for a quick one before the long trip home. Passport in hand we revisited the Brazen Head on Atlantic Avenue near Court Street and the Downtown Bar and Grill just off Atlantic Avenue on Court Street. At the Brazen Head, The Summer Solstice Wheat and Gotham Cream Stout from Chelsea were mighty fine and quenching on a quickly turning warm late summer day. At Downtown Bar and Grill, the Manhattan Project from Brooklyn [NY] exploded in my mouth for the first time. Frankly, these rye ales are becoming some of my favorite beers. After that, the Festbier from Victory [PA] (yeah) served as a nice finish. Inside was mobbed and so we sat outside at a table, to enjoy the day and watch the world go by. This is a family-oriented section of Brooklyn and there were plenty of babies in strollers and shoppers carrying their groceries home! As a matter of fact, people here seem to think nothing of bringing their children to these beer havens. I fully support this.

This seems to me to have been a well thought out beer week. It was my first, I have to admit, never having been to any others including the local one in Philly. I liked that you could look in the passport and find directions to any of the participating venues of which there were 80 some-odd all over the five boros. I liked that you could index venues by the neighborhood you were in or by beer style. Or for that favorite brewery of yours, sorted by state, you could find the beers being served, the style, and all the places serving the beer. I wish Mr. Mybeerbuzz would do something like this for our own local beer venues! There is becoming enough of them to make it useful.

Now. All we need is a digital passport linked to a database, interfacing to a map application like the beer mapping project, subway maps, venue's web site, web cam to check out how busy they are in real time etc. Then we'd really be cooking with gas.


John P. said...

Wow! That sounded like a great time. I gotta agree with you on the Tire Bite. It was far too sweet for my taste, but hey, that's what's great about today's thriving beer industry, there's something for every taste!

Great reading Tazio.

tazio said...

I agree John. We should try to do Philly Beer Week next year.