Searching for craft brews in the heart of Manhattan

The Ginger Man is an old-school bar with a modern craft beer list.

Greetings, beer fans! Normally, this blog is dedicated to all of the great beers produced in New Mexico. But, once in a while, Stoutmeister allows us to babble on about some of our trips to other lands, near and far. I had the pleasure to visit New York City (NYC) a few months ago and thought I would jot down what notes I could remember. (Um, something came up and I forgot to do this for a few months. Sorry.)

One thing that really stands out to me in my travels to NYC is that there aren’t that many breweries there. At least, not in Manhattan, which is where we visited. I know there are others off the island and within a subway stop, but the central hub of the city only has a few. As someone who’s used to every small town in the West having one, and at least three within a stone’s throw anywhere in Albuquerque, this feels strange. I guess it can be chalked up to economics; it’s just too darned expensive. Because there’s so much to see in Manhattan by foot and so little time (this was actually a work/education trip), we again didn’t venture out to the other boroughs.

The good news is that there are still many good places within 10 blocks or so of Times Square to find quality beers. The craft beer revolution certainly hasn’t skipped the Big Apple. Generally, you don’t have to go very far to find a bar of some sort. Thirty years ago, I’m sure all of them would’ve been slinging more whisky, Guinness, and Bud Light than anything else, and while it’s still somewhat true, many of them have excellent beers. A healthy handful dedicate themselves to craft beers. At most places, you will find a good representation of local and regional beers, too.

As usual, I used Google Maps and the clever search term “beer” to help clue me in on some spots. The first one we found was Valhalla. (The more Nordic, metalhead types that write for the Crew will appreciate the name.) They have dozens of interesting beers on tap, including several from a place named Einstök in Iceland. We did sample several, and the Icelandic beers were different and quite decent, but not exactly my type. The IPAs were in general, as you might imagine, more of the New England variety.

We have entered Valhalla!

Another excellent beer stop is Beer Culture. What sets this place apart is that it has several coolers stocked with all sorts of beers, and you can grab whatever you like and have them pop it open for you. In addition, they have a dozen draft beers that are all likely to be worth a try. The photo shows what was available when we stopped in.  Bartenders here seemed particularly knowledgeable, too.

The draft list from Beer Culture, on 45th Street.

The next two photos are from the family of one of our New Mexico frequent stops, Whole Foods. Yes, believe it or not, the locations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque both have a very respectable selection of drafts. We thought we’d check out how the New York version that overlooks Bryant Park compares. It was rather nice, but had a smaller beer selection. Ah, well, it was just one more reason to be proud of our local venues. (And, if you think our Whole Foods stores get crowded, visit the one in NYC and learn the true meaning of the word “crowded”!)

Pleasant ambiance at Whole Foods
Nice beer list, but modest

Another popular spot is Beer Authority, on 40th Street. This is another place with an extensive draft list (as shown in the photo). We’re talking kid in a candy store. They also have a small, intimate bar on the ground floor, a huge dining area and bar on the second floor, and a rooftop bar/patio. On the downside, we found that the prices were a bit steep, even for New York (over $70 for a few flights and tacos), and the attitude from the wait staff was approaching insufferable.

Go for Beer Authority’s many beers, but bring your fattest wallet.

Continuing the theme, another old-timey bar that seems to have converted to a primarily craft beer bar is The Ginger Man, on 36th Street. Check out the beer menu.

Yet another great beer selection, this one from The Ginger Man.

A few more places that should get equal mention, but somehow didn’t get photos (which may mean we liked ’em too much to remember to do so):

  • District Tap House, which had great happy hour draft specials ($5!) and some very friendly employees.
  • Beer Table in Grand Central Terminal, which is a hole-in-the-wall type place that caters to commuters (lots of other good food options at the Terminal, too).
  • House of Brews, also with great happy hour deals ($5 margarita with a punch), though the beer selection isn’t as enticing as some others here; the bartender did give us a free round of beers, however, so all is well.

There are likely others, especially since we didn’t leave the midtown area of Manhattan.  From the crowds at the above places, NYC residents love their craft beer as much as we do.

I mentioned earlier that there are a few breweries in Manhattan. Well, there’s one in midtown that I’ve been to on previous trips, and I can only say that it’s been a bit disappointing. (Its name rhymes with “Cartland.”) We didn’t bother stopping in, though I considered it for a moment, especially when I saw that they had a barleywine seasonal.  Things do change, so maybe next trip we’ll give them another chance.

If you get the opportunity to visit New York, you really can’t lose at any of the places we visited. Oh, and if you get beer’d out, they have little things like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, too.


— Reid

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