NYC Beer Week is now officially over and I hope that you enjoyed the events (and of course, the amazing beer) as much as I did. While I do have a full-time job (which I should take vacation from next year during this week), I still managed to attend a few events and best of all, complete the Empire Brewing Company’s 12 Pack Challenge.
The task was to visit 12 (and a bonus 13) bars listed and order an Empire beer at each location. After ordering the beer, one received a stamp on a postcard indicating your purchase. Completed entries will have the chance to win a slew of prizes including being “Brewer for a Day,” up at Empire’s Syracuse location or a Grand Prize of “Beer for a Year,” a growler full of an Empire beer for each month of the year plus other fun stuff.
If you know me, you know I like a challenge. I also really like beer. And Empire is one of my favorite breweries. So, naturally, I had to do this, no matter how intimidating the task seemed.
The first day of Beer Week I was browsing through the events: I had my handy “Voice” guide in hand and a desire to not miss anything this year’s beer week had to offer.
While it may be the 5th year this city has held a beer week, it’s the first year that it was organized by the New York City Brewer’s Guild (NYCBG)—basically a conglomerate of our city’s brewers, who joined forces to become even more awesome and share their craft with the city and beyond. It’s like “The Fellowship of the Ring,” but even better because it involves drinking great beer, not trying to rid ourselves of some evil force (unless of course, that evil force is bad beer, which if that’s the case then it’s a very honorable mission).
Anyway, after reading about this challenge (thanks to Brew York, New York for the head’s up), I decided it was on, and no matter what happened this week, I would collect all 13 stamps!
First, I had to figure out where to start. This was fairly simple, because I live on the North Shore of Staten Island, lower Manhattan is a cinch to get to. Taking the 6 train to Spring Lounge was easy enough. It was here we picked up our postcards and had our first Empire beer: the awesome Nitro-fueled Cream Ale (Yes I said “we” because I dragged my bf through the whole thing with me—two entries is better than one! And if he wins, I hope he takes me up to Syracuse with him).
Spring Lounge has always had a solid craft beer selection—I attribute it as one of the first places I ever had craft beer back in college. Unfortunately, on this particular Saturday afternoon, the bar was packed full of bachelorette parties and bros hugging each other. Needless to say after we collected our first stamp, the challenge was on and it was also time to move on.
To Puck Fair, another great NoLita bar with a decent craft selection (Brooklyn Blast!, anyone?) and Irish bartenders. Empire Cream Ale again—and also confused bartenders with no stamp in sight. Ok, well, a signature validates our visit and its on to the next—no time to linger with 11 more bars to go.
After a pizza pit stop (one can’t forget to eat in drinking challenges like this) we visited Randolph Beer, a bar I had never been to. Their prices were a bit steeper than the other places we visited (this place is FANCY) but our bartender, Surendra, was gracious and excited to help us complete our journey. Here, we had both the Deep Purple (one if not my favorite from Empire) and Empire’s newest brew, Local Grind: A Scotch Ale brewed with coffee beans. So good! We had a great time here and will definitely be back. But it was time to travel on.
While we could’ve (should’ve) walked to our next stop, it would have been a long stroll through the East Village and we were desperate to get to our next stop, Upstate. This is a destination I’ve been dying to get to and I thank this challenge in forcing me to visit for that elusive 13th stamp, which would enter us into the “Baker’s Dozen” portion of the contest: a chance to be “Brewer for a Day” at Empire’s home brewery in Syracuse. Sure, we’ve been up there before, but the winner also gets a farm-to-table-dinner with Brewwmaster Tim Butler and Founder David Katleski. I want that!
Upstate is more of a restaurant than a bar with a focus on local seafood and local (New York State) beer. I don’t eat really seafood (deathly allergic to shellfish—could be worse—I could be allergic to beer) so we asked the guy at the door (who happened to be one of the owners) if we could just grab a beer. Problem with a place like this on a Saturday is that it’s tiny and it was PACKED. The small bar is more of a place to hang out while waiting to be seated at a table, but they were able to and kind enough to seat us at a table even though we didn’t plan to eat. Awesome.
Well, one beer turned into an order of ceviche (beautiful) and a nice little dessert of their famous whiskey cake (so tasty!). Our server was a sweetheart and we were able to drink the There Will be Bock, a delicious bock beer that one doesn’t see often in the Empire line up. We were happy—happy enough to trek to our next spot: Taproom 307.
Another place I was excited to visit—Beer Sommelier Hayley Jensen and chef (and husband) Stephen Durley have created a “Beer Emporium,” at this Gramercy tavern, and again, being Saturday night, the place was packed. We ordered up our Empire brews and received our stamps but didn’t linger too long. We’ll have to go back to this place soon and when it’s a little easier to move around. Their beer list is impressive and they hold numerous beer events weekly. A more ideal time to visit would’ve been this past Saturday, March 2nd, when they held an Empire Brewery brunch and New York State beer tap takeover!
Our next and last stop on February 23rd was The Pony Bar, again one of Manhattan’s premier craft destinations (with a tap list that sticks to American craft beers). After an Empire here it was time to throw in the towel for the night and figure out how (and when) we’d finish this adventure.