Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Return to Brooklyn: NYC Day 3

New York, NY

The third and final day of our New York City UBH rampage was much kinder to me than the previous day. It was actually hotter and more humid than Day Two, but at least I wasn't hungover and hating myself. This was a decidedly shorter hike, with fewer stops because we suspected we might be drinking more later in the evening.

View from the Williamsburg Bridge

Our plan was to grab a solid, fortifying lunch, have a beer in the West Village, then walk to Brooklyn for the second straight day. We had hit some of the best spots over there yesterday, but there was still a long list of places to visit and not a lot of time. We also received an invite to visit the monthly meeting of a local homebrew club, The Malted Barley Appreciation Society (MBAS), where an old friend-of-a-friend was planning on introducing some new beers to the New York market. In my mind, this was a major wild card -- there's always the possibility of some heavy-duty, off the rails beer drinking at homebrew club meetings.

Below is a map of the route we took (as best as I can remember). We could have walked the entire way -- it would only have added an additional 1.5 miles or so -- but decided to save a little time by taking the F train for a short section:

Return to Brooklyn;
Blind Tiger--Williamsburg Bridge--Torst--Barcade--Spuyten Duyvil--Mugs Alehouse;
Almost 6 miles

View NYC Day 3: Return to Brooklyn in a larger map

Chris and I began by walking from our Alphabet City headquarters to Midtown for lunch. We arrived at Eataly (our second visit in three days) and walked past the line at the panini counter, straight to the pasta restaurant in the back. The list of fresh-made pastas was dizzying, so I just went with a giant slab of lasagne. It was way too good for my feeble sensibilities -- easily rivaling my favorite of all-time, at Cuoco in Seattle. It served as a perfect base for the rest of the day's exploits.

After lunch at Eataly, we walked down to the West Village and began the "beer" part of our hike at Blind Tiger, another New York City institution that was on just about everyone I talked to's list of beer places to visit. They had just finished tapping about 15 kegs of Stone Brewing beer for an event later in the day, but Chris and I went with more local offerings as we have no trouble finding Stone beers in Seattle whenever we want.

By the time we left Blind Tiger, hopped in the subway and arrived at Delancey Street, the heat and humidity were at full, brutal, oppressive power. When we stepped out of the subway station, we barely caught our breath, before pointing our sorry asses east and beginning the march over to Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge was a lot less crowded than the Brooklyn Bridge was on our hike the previous day. It also has an entirely different feel, with a lot more steel and street graffiti as opposed to the stone, wood, and cable of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's much grittier and I liked it. Here's a great shot Chris managed to grab along the way while I was probably wiping sweat out of my ass crack:

By the time we reached Brooklyn, I was completely soaked through. That kind of humidity was not something new to me -- I'd spent the previous months working in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Houston -- but you never get used to it. It sucks beyond description. To add insult, the weather report said that today was supposed to be last of it. Tomorrow, when I would be on a plane back to Seattle, the forecast called for a perfect day of sunny and 70 degrees. Fuck you, too, East Coast!

We had trekked to Brooklyn for the second straight day, but we still had a ways to go for our next beer. On the way to our first stop, we poked our heads into Rosamunde Sausage Grill -- sister restaurant to one of our favorites right next door to Toronado in San Francisco. As I type this, I'm still not sure why we didn't stop in for a beer. The tap list looked worthy, but perhaps we didn't want to be tempted by a sausage after such a big meal at Eataly. I can't remember. We were also about a block and a half away from Brooklyn Brewery, but our timing did not jive with their open hours and we regrettably had to skip it.

So we continued up Bedford Ave., through McCarren Park, and around the corner to the shiny, new craft beer bar with the funny name: Tørst. When we entered the immaculate space, completely drenched in our own sweat, we might have worried for a second about whether we would be served. The beertender took no time making us feel comfortable, however, and presented us with a very eclectic tap list and before long, we had several fine beers -- in fine stemware -- in front of us, poured with the aid of a flux capacitor. It's a real thing and it's pretty neat. Check it out.

(The "Back to the Future" Overture just came on as I am typing this. No joke. I think Pandora is alive.)

After trying just about everything on the list at Tørst, we took another long, hot walk south to Barcade. The selection of old, retro stand-up arcade games matched their tap list: plentiful and good. I don't remember what beer I chose, but I do remember sucking ass at Tetris. What has happened to me? I used to be good at this shit.

From Barcade, it's a short jog over to another good craft beer bar with a name I have to cut and paste: Spuyten Duyvil. I don't really know what to say about this place. I'd certainly visit here again next time I come to Williamsburg, but I don't remember anything fun or stupid happening while we were there -- maybe because it was right in that dead time between the time they opened and the evening rush. Even Chris' steel trap of a memory can't recall anything worth telling you about.

When we left Spuyten Duyvil and headed for the next stop, we felt it wise to get a little more food in us. We were headed to a homebrew club meeting and weren't quite sure what to expect in terms of drunken insanity. There's no point in trying to remember exactly where we stopped for a slice, but I think it was Joe's, John's, or Jo's or Jon's... There's a million of them in Brooklyn and they're all good after you've had several beers.

By the time we arrived at Mugs Alehouse, our final Brooklyn stop of this trip, the MBAS homebrew club had begun their meeting and the beer was flowing. We finally met our contact, Ron, with whom we'd been corresponding via e-mail and he brought us to the back room where the party was. We were warmly greeted and given a couple tasting glasses. From that point on, we were treated as part of the group, getting tastes of everything that was being presented and being included in the ensuing madness. Thank you to everyone at the Society for being so welcoming -- it was a nice treat and we had a really fun time.

With about eight beers and close to six miles under our belts, it was time to head back to Manhattan and wrap up this beer hike. Of the probably close to 60 places in New York City that we wanted to visit, we had thus far managed to rack up 18. Chris enjoys round numbers more than anyone I've ever met, so we dug deep and found it in ourselves to hit two more before calling it a night and making it an even 20 for the trip.

We got off the L train at 3rd Ave and headed south for #19, Burp Castle. This place had been on my list from the start of planning. I love the name and I wanted to see if its reputation held up: I'd read that if it gets too loud, the bartender and other patrons join in on a calming, "shhhh...." to bring the atmosphere back down to a more peaceful and soothing lull. Sure enough, while we were there, the crowd noise got to be a bit shrill and everyone joined in pulling it back. It was followed by chuckles all around, signifying the tongue-in-cheek nature of the whole ritual, but it worked nonetheless. At one point a cell phone ringer went off and the crowd gave an audible gasp. Pretty funny.

About eight blocks away, at Bar #20, Drop Off Service served us our last pints of the trip. This cool, laid back beer bar in a former laundromat was maybe my favorite place of all. I don't know. Maybe it just felt that way because it was the last one and I was getting drunk and nostalgic. I've spent a fair amount of time in New York City over the years and it's always hard to say good bye -- especially not knowing when I'll return. Last time I left, I didn't visit again for almost 10 years.

With so much going on in the beer scene and even more on the horizon, I hope it won't be too long before I visit again. New York is arguably the best urban hiking city in the world and as a beer city, it can hold it's own with the best.

"He would never see another city, of that much he was almost positive. And perhaps that was just as well. He had an idea that after New York, all others would be a step down." -- Stephen King, The Dark Tower 

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