I loved the latest episode of Beer Geeks in no small part because it focused on my hometown, New York City, and its thriving craft beer scene. Not too long ago, only a handful of bars featured the wonderful array of brews now available. Now, if you're in the right neighborhood, for instance, the Williamsburg/Greenpoint and Park Slope in Brooklyn or the East Village in Manhattan, you'll need multiple days—or a very early start—just to hit all of the amazing beer bars. Here's a look at three bars that belong on every beer fanatic's travel agenda.
Torst in Greenpoint has won multiple awards as NYC's best beer bar since opening in March 2013. The bar is dedicated to two things, beer and food and it does both wonderfully. As it's name, which is Danish for “thirst” implies, there is a major Scandinavian theme here from the décor to the food menu and of course to the beer. No, we're not talking Carlsberg here, not by a longshot. Jeppe Barnit Bjergso, the mastermind behind the gypsy beer line called Evil Twin (and yes, his brother Mikkel is also a brewer and the guy behind Mikkeller) is one of the principals, so you can expect to find several varieties of his beer on draft, often ones that are not in routine circulation. In addition the list features a wealth of hard to find and utterly delicious beers.
One of the top spots in the East Village is Proletariat, a small narrow space that is almost always crowded and for very good reason. The bar routinely sports one of the best beer lists in the city. I was there around midnight on Wednesday and a couple, beer fanatics from out of town, kept telling the bar manager, Cory Bonfiglio (he also manages Beer Street, an excellent beer bar in Williamsburg), “That was great!” “I've had a lot of great beer but I've never heard of most of these.” Cory would smile and recommend their next brew and they'd pipe down. The bartenders never just pour a brew and hand it to you, they introduce it as if trying to start discussion about the beer's nuances.
Park Slope was one of the first Brooklyn neighborhoods to gentrify and one of the first to truly embrace craft beer. Owl Farm, located on 9th St., a bustling thoroughfare offers not only an amazing selection of craft beers, they also have craft beer distillates, in other words, whiskeys made from the core of beers. Rogue brewery does this with their flagship brew, Dead Guy Ale, but at Owl Farm you can find distillates or Hitachino White and Acht Schlenkerla. In keeping with the spirit of being a neighborhood bar, there's also a TV. I have fond memories of watching overtime Stanley Cup playoff games while sipping on a Gueuze or something else that I'd never find in a sports bar.
These bars are starting points for a great evening of craft beer investigation. The best way to figure out where to head next is to ask a bar stool neighbor. New Yorkers are always ready to tell people where to go in general, and we do cheerfully if the subject is great beer.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.