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.
Soph when you make it back to NY let me know. Our mate Alex looks after the cellar @ the DBA Brooklyn & they have cask ales on hand pull. Also in Brooklyn is Barcade with a great selection of beers including 1 hand pull along with vintage arcade games along the walls my fave Brooklyn bar!!
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