Beer Tasting at New York City's Microbreweries
>> Drinking boutique and imported beers is always a great pleasure, but finding ways to sample several of those beers at a single sitting without getting sloppy drunk or blowing your budget can be problematic. Fortunately, Heartland Brewery, a New York microbrewery, pours small samples day and night at all of its five locations, as do the Chelsea Brewing Company, the Times Square Brewery, and the West End Brewery (a Columbia University student hangout).
Of course, what is beer without food? Nachos, potato skins, hot wings, BBQ, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and, quite frankly, everything fried all complement a good brew. Because New York's microbreweries compete with a multitude of restaurants, they produce high-quality bar food in addition to just serving rounds. For a small investment (let's say $20 for a tasting panel, plus finger food), you can have enough delivered to your table to keep you and a friend quite content.
Heartland Brewery started out as a brew pub, with working tanks on their premises. As they acquired more locations, beverage consistency became an issue. Each place brewed great beer, but same-named beers were not standardized. They solved this problem by outsourcing all their brewing to the Greenpoint Beer Works in Brooklyn which, in turn, makes daily deliveries. Even so, in many locations you can still see their old copper tanks, although no longer tended by brewmasters.
The above photo shows the patio of Heartland Brewery's South Street Seaport location. I learned after this article was published that the poster is a portrait of the owner, Farmer Jon, A.K.A., Jon Bloostein.
All Heartland Brewery restaurants look vintage 1930s, via the lavish use of dark, polished wood, brass, and funky-but-beautiful posters and paintings. Their Union Square location, for example, is a bi-level, Germanic, college-centered beer bar, very close in looks to those in my beloved Madison, Wisconsin (home of the University of Wisconsin, a top-rated party school, and birthplace of the satiric newspaper, The Onion).
If you want a more family-centered atmosphere, especially on weekend afternoons, their 43rd Street location (directly above) is the place to go. Check out Heartland Brewery's more edgy BBQ headquarters, Spanky's, which is next door, before making a choice. Evenings finds both of these places packed.
If you love sitting outdoors, head to their delightful South Street Seaport location (second photo above), which is conveniently near a branch of TKTS as well as area attractions, such as the magnificent tall ships. On warm weekends, you can also watch roving minstrels, balloon sculptors, magicians, puppet shows, and more.
Tourists tend to cluster at Heartland Brewery's West 43rd Street location, while noisy business folk rule on West 51st Street. The Empire State Building location is the most elegant, reflecting the ambiance of 1930s cigar-chomping financial tycoons, but it's simply a fun place to drink and dine, with the widest selection of beers on tap.
Midtown also houses the famed 42nd Street Times Square Brewery, with its bright red sign that shadows that of the long-running The Lion King play next door.
Prior to writing this article, I never visited this place, put off by what I thought was strictly a bar atmosphere. Boy, was I wrong! This sparkling establishment is more a restaurant and lounge than it is a bar. Decorated in what looks like 1950s modern, you'll be surprised at its fresh, sweeping appearance. Although its marquee suggests a 1920s, silent-film era vibe, inside it's polished and comfortable.
Make a point of dropping in when business is slow (say, mid-afternoon on weekdays) to see its dramatic, white floating staircase. Climb to their second-floor lounge area (photo above) with additional dining areas, then continue to the third floor, which houses its huge brewery (complete with brewmaster, as seen below), plus more dinner tables. Sore knees? Fortunately, they also have an elevator.
Should you choose to imbibe on the third floor, the brewery is in back, showcased behind a massive plate glass wall. According to their website, the restaurant seats up to 600 people at one time, with thousands stopping in nightly. It's obvious that their giant-sized tanks keep up with the demand.
Where to Go
In future articles, I'll describe the Chelsea Brewing Company (which also hosts brewery tours), The West End Brewery, and bars that specialize in hundreds of boutique and imported brews.
I would love to include the popular Brooklyn Brewery, but it does not run a bar or restaurant. It does, however, host a variety of beer-tasting events, such as Octoberfest, which for $50 includes pub food and nine beers. They also hold three free brewery tours every Saturday afternoon.
For a list of beer tasting events that include New York and surrounding states, pick up a copy of The Ale Street News, or visit their site, www.AleStreetNews.com. Also consider attending classes at The Learning Annex
Heartland Brewery and Chophouse
Times Square near Broadway
127 W. 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
127 W. 43rd Street near Broadway
New York, NY 10036
Heartland Brewery at Radio City
1285 6th Avenue at 51st Street
New York, NY 10019
Heartland Brewery at Union Square
35 Union Square
New York, NY 10003
Heartland Brewery and Beer Hall
of South Street Seaport
93 South Street at Fulton
New York, NY 10038
Heartland Brewery and Rotisserie
Empire State Building
350 5th Avenue at 34th Street
New York, NY 10118
Times Square Brewery and Restaurant
210 W. 42nd Street
Between 7th and 8th Avenues
New York, NY 10036
The West End
New York, NY 10025
Chelsea Brewing Company
Chelsea Pier, Pier 59
New York, NY 10011
79 North 11th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Questions or comments?
Out and About Reporter
Littleviews' Editor and Chief
CREDITS: Article by Alison O'Brien and Karen Little. Photos by Karen Little. First published on 9/24/2005. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.