I recently went to New York to see my favourite band, New Model Army, do two gigs in Brooklyn. I have to confess beer wasn’t as high on my agenda as it might have been – but then again there is a hell of a lot going on in New York.
I did manage to find some decent beer though and based on what I found plan to spend more time hunting it down and drinking next time I go!
The Bell House at 149 7th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) in Brooklyn is where NMA were playing. It had a great bar at the front and there were a number of beers on offer. A friend let me taste the Smuttynose IPA he was drinking but, to be frank, it reminded me of cat’s piss so I gave it a miss (not that I’ve drunk cat’s piss, but it honestly brought to mind the distinctive smell a cat leaves behind after doing that quivery, dance with its tail held high). To be fair I will point out that not everyone shared my negative opinion of it. More than a few of my real ale drinking pals were happily knocking it back as their drink of choice at both gigs.
I decided to give the Sierra Nevada ‘Summerfest’ a go instead though. It is actually a pilsner style lager rather than an ale but the brewers are apparently considered the premier craft brewery in the United States and from their website, http://www.sierranevada.com/index2.html it seems that they do indeed take their beer seriously.
It reminded me of a golden beer and had a lingering sweet aftertaste, which to me meant it lived up to its name. The stuff that I was drinking appear to be a draught beer but it seems it is also available in bottles – and, I think, is bottled conditioned so it’s worth checking out if you spot some on sale in the UK.
The only other real ale establishment I managed to visit while I was in the States was also in Brooklyn and I highly recommend this place. If you go to New York and stay in Manhattan this bar alone makes a trip to Brooklyn a must. Called The Draft Barn, it’s on 3rd Avenue at 12th Street and boasts a huge beer menu with brews from all over, not just the US. It is run by a friendly Ukrainian chap who knows his beer – and his food too. His Hungarian mother-in-law makes some of the dishes on the menu. Try the Goulash soup. It’s delicious and at just $6 cheap too. And don’t worry, small portions are a rarity in New York.
The beer though. I went for a pint of Green Flash ‘West Coast IPA’. It stuck it all over Smuttynose’s efforts. Maybe I’ve got a thing about sweet aftertastes – as this IPA had that in common with the Summerfest lager – except the IPA was quite bitter on the tongue. I also blagged a taste of what a friend was drinking, Brooklyn Pennant Ale which was a treacly-sweet affair – almost reminiscent of a French, or Belgian, Christmas beer. I was glad I’d opted for the IPA as I don’t like anything that makes that season arrive sooner than it does in reality. I’d like to have stayed to try a few more pints but I had a band to see – so it was back to The Bell House and the Summerfest.
When I mentioned to a real ale drinking friend that I had plans to seek out decent beer when I was in New York he laughed and suggested Americans have very different ideas about ale than the British. That may well be, but I saw little evidence that those ideas have a negative effect on the taste or standard of US beer and I’m looking forward to my next trip across the pond.