Brief Brooklyn Beer Bonanza

19 Apr

Even a short weekend in New York can provide a flurry of beerventures. Aided by lovely weather all weekend long, my lady friend travel companion and I were able to fit a lot of activity into about 50 hours in the Big Apple. As any traveling vacation should begin, we commenced our weekend with free double fisted drinks in the airport lounge (thanks Chase Sapphire Reserve!).

It should also be obvious that one’s drinking should continue aboard the plane.

Several drinks in by the time we arrived at LaGuardia, an Uber ride from a motorcycle stuntman and former collaborator with Rough Ryders took us to our friend’s place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The New York beer binge was officially underway as I downed a Bodega American Pale Ale from the local Third Rail Beer. It was time to head into the city for dinner, so we took the 2/3 and F trains to East Village where we met up with a 15 deep group of my lady friend’s old New York and MBA friends. The venue was Lil’ Frankie’s, and it proved to be quite the spot to carb load on delicious bread, pasta, and pizza. Not to forget my lush tendencies, there was also plenty of wine flowing and also a forgettable Monty Python Holy Grail Ale. After a lengthy and lively dinner, we headed around the corner to d.b.a (the New York outpost of a popular New Orleans bar) where I could begin to satisfy my beer thirst. I chose a Wave Chaser IPA by Montauk Brewing Company, and as evidenced by my Untappd check-in, it was quite good. The next Manhattan stop was Alphabet City Beer Company, a short walk away in Alphabet City. To start things off, I had a Visceral Emotion by LIC Beer Project. Having visited the brewery the last time I was in New York, I was expecting good things, and this fairly traditional saison delivered. As the hour passed 1 in the morning, it was time to dial up the hops. Even though I would be visiting Finback tomorrow (or rather later the same day), I had to tease myself with one of their IPAs. The Echelon was incredible: pouring a hazy tropical orange color, it was rife with juicy hop character. I rounded out my hop exploration with an Imperial IPA from Green Flash and a First Cut from Troegs. The Troegs proved to be super fresh and full of mango citrus flavors. After a long day of traveling and drinking, it was time to head back to Brooklyn and call it a night.

To start off our Saturday proper, we had to make sure to brunch, and what better brunch to have than a pizza brunch?! The spot we chose was Ogliastro, located conveniently nearby our friend’s spot. I split a pizza and the Italian Benedict with my lady friend, and I was pleased to see the slammable Forever Ever session IPA from Other Half on their small beer menu. Coupled with a tasty Bloody Mary, I had a proper set of food and booze in me to begin what would become a long day of drinking. Seeing as our group had some time to kill before making the trek to Finback, we stopped by the excellent Covenhoven to try some more brews. I was impressed by their tap and bottle list. A brief scan of their beer cooler revealed an Other Half Double Dry Hopped Southernhopalistic calling my name.

Not one to shy away from a limited release NE style IPA, I was overjoyed to experience the hazy juicy goodness poured forth from the wonderfully designed psychedelic can. A SAMO by LIC Beer Project was next on my list, and this brewery once again delivered with a tropical juice hazy IPA. Tastes of my friends’ Adult World by Hudson Valley Brewery (a funky smoked sour farmhouse ale) and the always great HopHands from Tired Hands were followed by the Nothing Is Forever by Threes Brewing. Threes was another brewery I visited last time I was in NY, and I was impressed by this rye and bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. It packed a boozy punch full of vanilla and dark fruit sweetness.

With a healthy early afternoon buzz, it was off to Finback Brewery in Queens. A quick comical note about my New York ignorance: I thought it was a quick and casual ride from Crown Heights, Brooklyn to Glendale, Queens. After all, Google said it was only 7-8 miles. In a city with highways everywhere such as Houston, that’s maybe a 10-15 minute drive barring horrible traffic. I didn’t realize that there were literally no highways between our current location and destination. My dreamed of 15 minute breeze of a ride was in actuality a 45 minute tour of every avenue and side street in SE Brooklyn and western Queens. We eventually arrived, and I had managed to not pee my pants in the process. As far away as Finback was, we managed to get a group of 10 people to join us for our brewery visit. Overall, I was extremely impressed by everything Finback was doing. The brewery was tucked away in a fairly relaxed neighborhood, and it managed to have a welcoming feel despite being mostly a warehouse. Picnic tables welcomed our large group and gave us plenty of space to play games and mix and mingle throughout the day. I came away very impressed by all of the beers I tried. While I won’t go into an exhaustive list of everything I drank (11 check-ins to Untappd although several of those were tasters), their Visible Spectrum IPA was incredible. Brewed with mango and dry hopped with a melange of Citra, El Dorado, and Falconer’s Flight, it provided the hazy tropical hop dankness that I have grown to love so much. Also highly noteworthy was their Rye Barrel Aged Faster Than Light imperial stout. I enjoy nice but not overwhelming rye barrel on stouts, and this one had just such a beautiful presence. I even brought home a bottle of the bourbon barrel aged variant and very much look forward to giving that a try soon (who wants to join me?). Rounding out the Finback experience was the necessary ordering in of pizza. What would a NY trip be without having pizza for 3 straight meals?

At the suggestion of a friend, we headed to Left Hand Path in Bushwick after leaving Finback. I decided to switch things up and drank some excellently crafted Old Fashioneds. The backyard patio was perfect for a night time gathering of friends, and we were able to keep the party going in another fun environment. After a few drinks, it was time to head back to my buddy’s place, but we apparently were not calling it a night. A couple IPAs and an incredible black gose aged in red wine barrels from Finback later, it was definitely time for me to hit the hay. My lady friend and I were sharing a narrow couch for the weekend, and we wound up in the amazing pose below.

Brittski as a pillow

Sunday was our last day in NY, and we got things going with a Wake Up Call coffee pale ale from Peekskill Brewery. I’m a fan of the style as it creates a great excuse to drink in the morning, and this example was executed well. For brunch we went to Faun, and unsurprisingly the restaurant featured more Italian fare. Although I would have enjoyed some more ethnic variety in our food selection, I will say that everything we had in NY was very good. An appetizer of popovers served with orange marmalade and magical butter was served to the table along with my trusty Bloody Mary and beer. On this occasion I sprung for the intriguing Farm Flor from Graft Cider, and I was rewarded with a delightful funky sweet Brett fermented cider. For our entrees, my lady friend chose pasta or pizza for the fourth straight meal, and I went with the buttermilk fried chicken. Her mezza maniche and pork ragu pasta was delicious but almost comically small. My sandwich was also very tasty and received this Southern boy’s stamp of approval. Rounding out the booze selection was a very solid IPL from Threes Brewing, Categorial Error.

With brunch finished, we headed towards Manhattan to begin our trek to Newark Airport. We had one final meetup with friends at Greenwich Treehouse. It was a cozy and friendly spot but not a destination for the beer nerd. A Founders All Day IPA was the best draft offering, and I switched up to PBR and Dewar’s scotch after that. We said our goodbyes and hopped in an Uber to the airport. Needing something beyond the Italian food we’d had for every meal in NY, we had some decent dumplings and bao at Little Purse. I didn’t expect much from airport food, and that’s about what I received. It did however briefly fill an Asian food hole in my heart. The Carton Boat Beer I had with the food was a pleasant hoppy kolsch session ale.

It was finally time to board our flight back to Houston, and we sadly had to end our short vacation. Even though this trip was not as nearly beer-centric as my previous trip last November, it was still highly enjoyable. It’s always good to travel with that special someone in your life, and it’s also great to meet new friends and have new experiences. I love that the New York beer scene has drastically improved in the past couple years, and Brooklyn and Queens have become legitimate beer destinations. I’ll definitely be back in the future to revisit some old faves (Other Half, Transmitter, Threes, Torst, Proletariat) and to check out some places I haven’t made it to yet (SingleCut Beersmiths, Kings County Brewers Collective, Fools Gold, Blind Tiger). Stay tuned for the Bay Area and Tahoe adventures I’m going on…


Britt Antley

Britt is a native Texan, lived in Houston for 12 years, and loves his current life in the Mile High City (although his liver is having second thoughts). His liver is also not nearly as proud of his 14,000+ Untappd uniques as he is. Stupid liver. He loves flavorful complex beers from Hazy IPAs to Wild Ales to barrel aged Stouts, but ultimately he has vowed to some day be buried with a 4-pack of Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils.