In planning our New York City trip, the list of beer targets started at a cozy dozen. However, it quickly swelled to over thirty. Certainly an ambitious plan for our three days in the Big Apple, but we wanted to give it a go. Ten plus beer places each day didn’t seem too unrealistic.
What we didn’t take into account was the weather. We used to think rain was the biggest enemy of beer travel. We were wrong. It’s East Coast August humidity.
We arrived in the Big Apple on Thursday morning via a red-eye from San Francisco. After a quick shower to help revive us from only four hours of sleep, we left our hotel and headed to the west side of Manhattan. Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel, we realized that our chosen modes of transportation, the subway and walking, were going to work against us in our quest. While the subway cars were air conditioned, the subway platforms were like saunas and being out on the street felt like walking on the surface of the sun, only more humid.
Our first destination was Chelsea Brewing, one of only two breweries we added to The List on the trip. We looked forward to the visit and not just for the air conditioning. First, Chelsea was our very first New York brewery. We also had mutual friends in common with the head brewer, Chris Sheehan, who years ago brewed at 20 Tank in San Francisco.
Chris was behind the bar as we sat down. After introducing ourselves and playing the “We’re friends with Motor” card, Chris proceeded to walk us through the selection of seven Chelsea beers.
I particularly enjoyed the Hop Angel IPA and Gotham Stout, two beers that showcased Chris’ West Coast brewing roots. Merideth, of course, gravitated to Checker Cab Blonde Ale, a Kölsch-style brew.
We were eventually joined by the second brewer Mark who chatted with us about the New York beer scene. It was a nice introduction to New York craft beer. But we needed to move on if we were going to reach our goal.
The Ear Inn, a manageable walk from CBC, was not on our list of places to visit for their beer selection, which was pretty standard pub choices. The Ear Inn, which touts itself as Manhattan’s oldest bar, is in a building that dates from 1817. Over the years, the building has been a house, brewery, saloon, and brothel, to name just a few incarnations. While each of us drank a pint of Brooklyn lager we soaked in the history of the place.
After our quick pints, we were off to Greenwich Village and one of the biggies in the New York beer scene, Blind Tiger. I don’t want to use the word disappointed, but 23 of the 28 taps were taken up by Sly Fox beers. Apparently there was a brewery event the night before. I like Sly Fox, but didn’t come to New York for the world’s largest selection of their beers.
I recovered from the initial shock and saw Dogfish Squall IPA on the bottle list. I’m not the biggest fan of DFH, but I took the opportunity to try some beer that I hadn’t seen on the West Coast. And I liked it. Admittedly, I shared the bottle with a group at the next table as the lack of sleep, the humidity and the beer were starting to drain the life out of me.
We headed back uptown to Hell’s Kitchen. After a quick pint at House of Brews, we walked towards the Pony Bar. We came across Ninth Avenue Vintner, a place I don’t think was ever mentioned to us. There are actually two shops that are next door to each other, same owners, but not connected. On the left is a wine shop. On the good side, there is a deli with cheese, olives and most importantly, beer. A nice bottle selection backed up 5 draft beers. In hindsight, I wish we took the time to stop for the beer, cheese and olives, but we wanted to miss the post-work crowd at the Pony Bar.
Ooops. Too late. Pony Bar was packed and loud by the time we arrived. We found ourselves a little space in a corner and ordered a few brews.
I started off with Southampton’s Triple. Pony Bar has an interesting take on beer. Of the 22 selections, there are no imports and all beers cost $5. Most are 14oz. pours with specialty and high ABV brews coming in an 8 oz glass.
The din got to us, however, and we quickly faded. We cut our Pony bar visit short and headed back to our hotel.
Mid-route we decided that resting wasn’t the best idea. We needed to plug on. The new plan was to head to Rattle and Hum, then the Ginger Man. If we were still alive after that, there was one more place we could check out.
Initially, we thought Rattle and Hum was the perfect name for the place. It was very crowded and really noisy [“Thursday is the new Friday”] and we were really tired. One and done looked like a big possibility.
But then Peter said ‘Hi’. A former brewer at Sacramento Brewing’s Oasis location, Peter relocated to New York City after its closure. We had chatted on Facebook and he saw that we planned to be at Rattle and Hum. We asked Peter to join us at our table.
We went from almost leaving to spending the rest of our night at Rattle and Hum. Peter introduced us to Patrick, the General Manager, who also joined us. Over time, our group grew. Mary, who writes for Alestreet News, joined us. Then a beer rep, whose name I forget sat down. At differing times, both Patrick and the beer rep would disappear for a few minutes and return with bottles for the group to try. Brooklyn’s Black Ops, Cigar City’s Bolita and Russian River Damnation were a few beers that I remember sampling.
Finally the day caught up to us. Four hours of sleep, the heat, the humidity, and six beer stops took their toll. Around half past eleven, we bid our little group adieu and headed back to our hotel. It was a great first day.