Saturday, June 07, 2008

24 Hours in New York City

Hang with me here guys and gals, this is gonna be long, but wonderful, trip. If you're the late night, clubbing type...grab yourself some coffee and settle in. If your day's half over, grab a beer, sit back and let yourself go....here's the scenario. A quick spin again this week through Manhattan. Unfortunately, with a medical convention and internet gathering taking up most hotel rooms (esp. those affordable ones), I stayed over in Long Island City. Though, that didn't deter my fighting spirit to find a few good beers on the island. It's been a little while since I've been to The Ginger Man on 36th Street, instead spending most available time on Manhattan lately at Blind Tiger's new home. A nice table to spread out with some work preparation for the next day, a bite to eat (bratwurst, grainy mustard, potato salad, and crusty bread), and a few beers later reminded me why The Ginger Man is still one of the top 5 beer joints on Manhattan. Some draft highlights included La Rulles Tripel, Harviestoun Ginger & Lime, Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse, St. Bernardus Dubbel, Saison Dupont, Rogue Old Crustacean, Glazen Toren Cuvee Angelique, La Chouffe, and Ommegang Chocolate Stout. Bottles included at least half of the trappists, a couple of handfuls of Italian beers, and Canadian Unibruoue and Dieu du Ciel. Others available from the region included Stoudt's, Captain Lawrence, Sly Fox, and Tröegs. Normally a fan of cask-conditioned beer, I shied away from the samples that I received each of the Blue Point Imperial Stout and Chelsea Summer Solstice. Heading back in the direction of Penn Station, I found Heartland Brewery along the way at the base of the Empire State Building. (Heartland has 5 locations around Manhattan and their beer is brewed, not sure how much or if all of it, over in Brooklyn at Greenpoint Beer Works who also makes the Kelso brand). I had around 30 minutes to kill, and once again figured 'why not?' Here also it had been a couple of years since I stopped in. Though here, it was more so because I've found Heartland's beers to be satisfactory but rarely wow-ing and the atmosphere usually packed with the tourist-type crowd. The Oatmeal Stout would probably be the one exception (okay, one of two exceptions, the other being the Red Rooster) for which I would go out of my way. This was my first visit where I showed up when the downstairs was open. I slipped down there, was even able to make a phone call from this large subterranean space, and found a nice spot at the bar where the bartender was pleasant enough to slide a handful of samples at me. So much for predisposed notions. I figured out of the non-usuals on the menu, I may most enjoy the Indiana PA, the Indy 500 IPA, or even the Apricot. Nope, it was the Berry Champagne Ale that stole the show for me. Apparently, it's been an occasional release for the past couple of years and is mighty refreshing with its wheat texture and cool effervescence layered by strong raspberry and pomegranate fruit. On not such a warm and humid day, I may not have enjoyed it as much. A fruit beer for sure (though don't be mistaken, it's not in the lambic area, nor the French/Belgian champagne style either....more like American Fruit beer). Lunch the following day took me to Bar Americain on 52nd between 6th & 7th Avenues. It's part of the Bobby Flay empire (Mesa Grill is probably best known to many) and is has a polished and trendy look to the atmosphere inside. While there was no dress code, per se, it is the kind of place that you'll want to go looking "smartly" stylish. Jams, flip-flops, and an I-Heart-NY t-shirt with a fanny pack won't work ;-) So here's little ol' innocent me thinking Bobby Flay/trendy/lunch; beer was only an after thought for me at that point. (There you go, you caught me with my guard down!) But, I overlooked the one key word: trendy. If you haven't picked up on it yet, folks, beer is indeed experience a trendy pickup. I've been having more conversations lately than ever before about what's being perceived as more of the business world (publications and investors) paying attention to and wanting to ride this perceived trend. In any case, a quick perusal of the wine list (very impressive) took me to the beer list, which prominently displayed around 10-12 draft beers. I was with a colleague and didn't take out a note pad or get overly geeky about it. Just simply ordered a Six Point Righteous Rye to go with my killer burger (3 nicely sliced goat's cheese coins sitting atop a beautiful mound of beef....it's what's for lunch). If I would have another, it would have been the Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter. I still haven't had a bad beer from these guys, and I'm confident this one would not disappointed either. Oh, and by the way, speaking of not disappointing, if you should happen upon Bar Americain, don't pass up the 'Hot Potato Chips w/Blue Cheese Sauce'. Simply, wow! Of course, no trip to Manhattan is complete without a stop at Blind Tiger. Have I said that before? Now, with a little more time to kill off before the train ride home, it was a quick subway trip down to 4th Street and a two block walk to my very own table at Blind Tiger. The featured brewery for this particular Wednesday was Ramstein, the predominantly wheat-based brewery of whom I'm only really familiar with its Winter Wheat. Let's see...it was a Double Blond from Ramstein to get things started. Then, next was supposed to be WheaDoppelBock (though I can't seem to find any information on this beer anywhere) also from Ramstein. But, marbles in my mouth must have made it sound like Double Blond, so I wound up with a second one of these. But, that's far from a problem. Very nice drinker and reminded me of how much I've enjoyed (the "new") River Horse's Double White. Finished off my stay at BT with a Southampton Biere de Mars. Once again, a very easy and comfortable place to hang out for way too long. Looks from their current tap list that they still have a handful of Ramsteins on tap, along with oh wow look at that, 30 year Ola Dubh...oh well. Just another day in the city. Now, it's off to see if there's any of that delicious Black Bavarian still dripping from the cask over at Memphis Taproom.

3 comments:

kevin said...

1) No stop at the Beer Room @ Whole Foods on Houston? Place is ridiculous (Got some Goose Island Bourbon County Stout a couple weeks ago!)

2) I'm curious as to how you think places like the Ginger Man, Blind Tiger, and Hop Devil Grille compare against what we have in Philly..

Bryan said...

Kevin,
Excellent question. For all that I get to NYC (mainly Manhattan), I find it difficult to compare. Primarily (I think) because I don't get the strong sense of neighborhood and community in these NYC bars that I see in Philly bars.

But, that could be a function of the day, time, and duration of my visits. Don't get me wrong, if I was forced to live in NYC and make these my regular bars, you'd hear no complaint from me whatsoever.

While they are very decent bars, Philadelphia certainly has them in greater number. NYC, from best I can tell, has a couple of handfuls of them across Manhattan and a couple of clusters in Brooklyn. The other boroughs, certainly seem to be lacking.

Bryan said...

Maybe one more comment to my "neighborhood and community" point. My reasoning is that with many, many millions of tourists and business travellers coming through NYC (uh, such as myself), I've typically found that the guy (or gal) next to me at the bar probably stands a better chance of not being from the NYC-metro area.

One primary factor I believe in the strength of the Philly bar scene is the neighborhood concept. Turn left or right on your barseat in Philly and you're much more likely to find that the person has walked from down the street or driven from the next town over.

Doesn't make tourism-driven business a bad thing, just a different element.