What a year 2012 has been! It was a great year for craft beer, as more breweries have opened up, making 2751 breweries operating in the United States according to data released by the Beer Institute (an industry research group) last month. This means there are more craft breweries in existence now than there has ever been in American history (since before Prohibition). There seems to be a new American craft brewery opening up every day!
This data is not absolutely shocking to me judging by the new breweries that spring up at every beer festival I’ve attended in the past year and new taps popping up in my favorite craft beer bars in the city. This is truly an exciting time for craft beer!
And along with this trend, there also seems to be more craft beer bars opening up in this great city of ours. While I wish I had time to visit every one, this year one of my “resolutions,” is to visit as many as I can and share my experiences with you so you can check them out and judge for yourself. Here are just two craft beer bars that I want to highlight that have opened up in the past year or so and are worth checking out if happen to be anywhere in the downtown area. While they aren’t necessarily brand new, both are unique and offer up some great beers in an alternative environment to just the typical beer bar.
The Growler Bites & Brews —15 South William Street/55 Stone Street, New York, NY 10004
While almost every neighborhood in NYC across the five boroughs seems to have some kind of craft beer bar (and some ‘hoods, like Park Slope, have one on every block), whether it be a bar that existed before and has began offering more craft taps or it’s a brand new establishment built around the burgeoning craft beer scene, the Financial District (FiDi for you real estate people) seems to have quite a lack.
The Growler amended this problem when it opened early last year. Offering growlers to either take home or enjoy at the bar, this is just one aspect of this tavern that makes it unique.
Another highlight is the house brews, the “Brrright” and the “Darrrk,” which are brewed specifically for this establishment respectively by Stoudt’s (of Pennsylvania) and Sixpoint. Both are meant to be solid, session-able beers: The Brrright is a blonde colored, German style lager, while the Darrrk is a chocolate-y colored, but surprisingly light-bodied English mild. While saying their names may make one feel like “Tony the Tiger”(both are grrreat), the availability of these beers reminds me of going to McSorley’s and having to pick between their light or dark beer (I like both) and offer a nice option for those guests who may want to hang out and throw back a couple of brews.
Although drinking a few beers here can get quite expensive as all their beers are $7 or $8, and no happy hour option. I guess it’s what one can expect for the neighborhood but it still seems a bit on the pricey side to me.
In addition to the house brews, the bar offers about twelve other taps and on my frequent visits to this place, the selection is always pretty good. Try the Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza, a sour, funky beer from Michigan that is considered to be a Biere de Garde and is brewed in the Franco-Belgian tradition with wild yeasts.
If Belgians aren’t your thing, they usually have a few decent IPA’s on tap including on a recent visit, Ballast Point’s Sculpin and Green Flash’s Imperial IPA.
Growler also offers some great cocktails, including batched options, as well as food, the most enticing of which is their hot dogs, imported from across the bridge from Brooklyn’s Mile End. These gourmet dogs come in a Hawaiian style (with pineapple relish and papaya mustard), Chicago-style, or a style you come up with on your own from a list of their gourmet toppings like apple slaw. All dogs can be made vegetarian for those of you who would rather be petting dogs than eating them.
Speaking of dogs, it’s obvious the place has a canine theme, with portraits of different breeds covering the dining room walls. Despite this, your pooch is not allowed inside thanks to NYC health codes, so Fido will have to wait outside while you drink your beer! Still, this pub offers up some solid grub and great craft beers, so it’s worth checking out if you happen to work or live near the area.
Idle Hands –25 Avenue B (between 2nd and 3rd street) New York, NY 10009
I’ve been dying to check this place out since it opened (about a year and a half now) and made me think of the late ‘90’s Devon Sawa movie (I had such a bad grade school crush), and this week, it finally happened.
Idle Hands has already established itself as a mecca of cool encompassing everything I could possibly want in one place: Beer, bourbon, and rock ‘n’ roll. Oh how I wish I lived in the East Village! I’d probably be here everyday.
Or at least every Wednesday night, where they host tastings and for $10 you can get yourself a sample of the night’s featured whiskey, 3 tastes of the featured brewery of the night along with 2 full pours of the beer. Oh, and tater tots. How can you beat that? The tasting session runs from 7-9 p.m. and reservations are encouraged.
I plan to visit this bar much more in the future, especially nights where they have DJ’s playing alternative tracks from the’90’s or maybe the first Thursday of every month when they have a an Emo/Post-Hardcore party.
And this is a perfect spot to try pairing some good ‘ole American whiskey with your beer. On my visit I sipped a Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon while chasing it with a Founder’s Porter. Mmmmmmm a perfect winter night treat.
They open at 5 p.m. everyday except for Sundays when they open at noon and also have a sweet happy hour (M-Sat.) that lasts from 5-8 p.m., when all their draft beers are $5.
January is a good month to stay indoors and try some great new beers. This month, “Two Girls One Pint,” plans on visiting even more beer bars and maybe a brewery or two. Oh 2013, I love you already!