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Big city, small beer: New York

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508 Gastrobrewery

The Big Apple doesn’t feel half as huge at these friendly, beer-smart drinking hubs.

by Joshua M. Bernstein

Earl’s Beer & Cheese

Manhattan’s Upper East Side has long been a Bud Light-dominated neighborhood where IPAs die a bitter, lonely death. For their fermented fix, better-beer fans ventured downtown or perhaps across the East River to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. But those journeys diminished with last year’s arrival of Earl’s, the city’s coolest, quirkiest little bar—in the Upper East Side or anywhere else in New York. Earl’s is ludicrously Lilliputian, little more than half a railroad car decorated like a backwoods hunter’s rec room. Though the deer wallpaper would merit eye-rolling elsewhere, any irony is tempered by a high-minded dedication to beer, with a quartet of taps pouring all-star regional beers such as Bronx Pale Ale and canned brews from Oskar Blues and Sixpoint. They’re partnered by chef Corey Cova’s gonzo-delicious drunk food, such as a mozzarella grilled cheese finished with miso mayo, sliced pickles and potato chips, or another gooey version made with cheddar, a fried egg, spicy kimchi and crisp and decadent pork belly. The showstopper is an Eggo waffle anointed with cheddar, coffee-cured bacon and foie gras, a high-low indulgence worth the uptown train ride—and the inevitable wait for a seat.


After paving a foamy path as NYC’s first retail store to fill growlers, Brooklyn’s decade-old Bierkraft is again set to revolutionize Big Apple craft beer. Co-owner Ben Granger cleared out coolers and crammed in a single-barrel brewing system that, once the licensing is secured, will pump out 62 gallons of beer a week to be sold on tap. Granger is brewmaster, but area breweries such as Kelso and Barrier will be invited to concoct exclusive batches.

61 Local

Lights made from retrofitted carboys are your first clues to 61 Local’s die-hard beer dedication. The sprawling, soaring public house—brick walls, communal tables—dispenses locally sourced eats and brews, with a revolving lineup listed on a Brooklyn-shaped chalkboard. Given founder David Liatti’s background as a brewing engineer at Brooklyn’s Sixpoint, expect plenty of that local favorite, but the menu is rounded out by regional offerings from New York’s excellent Captain Lawrence and Brewery Ommegang.

508 GastroBrewery

A homebrewing obsession led chef Anderson Sant’anna de Lima and his wife, Jennifer Lynn Hill, to convert their Mediterranean-focused SoHo restaurant into a self-proclaimed “gastrobrewery.” In the cramped basement stuffed with grain, the tattooed cook takes to a 2.5-barrel system to craft the citrusy 508 IPA, chocolaty Montezuma imperial stout, orange-y Belgian Wit, and bottle-conditioned sour ales. The beer-friendly food is equally inventive, counting sweet and sour crispy tongues and goat “sloppy Joe” sliders.

The Cannibal

Pleasures of the flesh and the pint glass commingle at Cannibal, a dim clubhouse for carnivores and hop heads alike. Maximizing its confined quarters, The Cannibal—named after legendary Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx—is equal parts butcher shop, beer store and convivial spot to gnaw lamb-neck terrines, plump kielbasa and steak tartare. They’re joined by offbeat drafts like Germany’s smoky Spezial Rauchbier and Nectar Ales’ hemp-infused Humboldt Brown, plus hundreds of beers by the bottle.

Bitter & Esters

Brewing in New York defies common sense, as homebrewers must hoof grain home and fight their apartments’ beer-wrecking temperature swings. Bitter & Esters solves those dilemmas with a brew-on-premises setup featuring a temperature-controlled fermentation chamber. Cooler yet is the Brew Like a Pro series in which breweries provide recipes (Victory Prima Pils, Fying Dog Raging Bitch IPA), and the homebrewed version is tested alongside the original beer at an area bar.

Beer Table Pantry

After the workday, countless Grand Central Terminal commuters crave a beer to drink aboard a homebound train—one of the legal perks of riding the rails with Metro North. To slake travelers’ thirst, Brooklyn’s cultish Beer Table opened this nook stocked with floor-to-ceiling beer (and plenty more in a back-room cooler) and a growler-fill station rotating beers from the likes of Greenpoint Harbor, Pretty Things and Brooklyn Brewery.


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