“Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough.” – Mark Twain
To which I’d add “Friends don’t let friends drink light beer”. When it comes to today’s American craft beer, Twain is most certainly correct. Ridiculed for generations for its childish, pissy, flavorless pointlessness; American beer has undergone a stunning renaissance over the last 20 years to the point where Yankee suds are now leading the world. Yes, you read that right – American beer is the best in the world. Yes, even better than Belgian, or at the least, more innovative. I know, a big call, feel free to correct me in the comments.
Many American brewers are certainly heavily influenced by the Belgians, I’ll give you that. And London may have a stronger pub culture, and more overall brewpubs – but I’d put money on Manhattan still coming out ahead in terms of gastropubs per square foot. (Manhattan is small). The following list is not meant to be exhaustive, but every one serves some of the best beer in the world.
Top ten brew pubs
I’m pretty lucky to have as my local a bar a place that reinforces my love for American craft beer with every visit. The Pony Bar only serves American beer through its 20 taps, and the menu changes daily due to every keg being replaced by a different beer when emptied. The staff all know their brews and the food is quality too; I recommend the green bean tempura with spicy mustard. 637 10th Ave (Between 45th & 46th). 212 586 2707
There are two locations only about 5 blocks apart for the House of Brews, which boasts around 100 different beers in bottles, cans, and on tap from America and around the world. They also have some pretty rare beers if you ask for ‘em, to the tune of $500… 363 West 46th St (Between 8th & 9th). 212 245 0551 / House of Brews – 302 West 51st St (Between 8th & 9th). 212 541 7080
Just up past the American Museum of Natural History is George Keeley’s, which serves free popcorn alongside a fine range of brews from the US and the globe – and more importantly, leaves the Buds, Coors, & Miller at the door. 485 Amsterdam Ave Frnt (Between West 83rd & West 84th). 212 873 0251
The term ‘Blind Tiger’ originated in the 1800’s, when blue laws restricted the sale of alcohol in the US. Bar owners would charge a cover to see a blind tiger, or some other imaginary attraction, and provide “complimentary” alcohol. The Blind Tiger Ale House charges the other way around, and serves infinitely better beer. 281 Bleecker St (Between Commerce St & Jones St). 212 462 4682
One trend I’m definitely in favor of is when bar menus give you the standard ABV, but at Rattle & Hum they go a step further, listing Beer Advocate’s average scores for each brew. 15 East 33rd St (Between 5th & Madison). 212 481 1586
Three blocks up is Ginger Man, with a pedigree claimed to involve the first multi-tap bar in America. Having a proven seventy taps and 160 bottles on offer should impress even the most jaded beer critic. 11 East 36th St (Between 5th & Madison). 212 532 3740
While not exactly famous for its happening nightlife, the upper east side does have David Copperfields, a restaurant and brewery with too many beers to count. 1394 York Ave (Between 74th & 75th). 212 734 6152
In a much more happening area – just down from Please Don’t Tell in fact, is the Hop Devil Grill, which also has fine bourbon and a good food selection. 129 St Marks Place (Between 1st Ave & Avenue A). 212 533 4467
Valhalla is a warm, wooden neighborhood bar with wooden trestle tables and dedicated glassware for many of their brews. 815 9th Ave (Between 53rd St & 54th St). 212 757 2747
By accident I chanced upon The Stag’s Head amidst a wasteland of Irish pubs in mid-town and was pleasantly surprised to find a great selection of all-American craft beers – and a happy hour that lasts from 11am-7pm. 252 East 51st St (Between 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave). 212 888 2453