[A month after I got home, and I’m finally getting the last part of my trip report posted. Ah well, better late than never…]
NYC – Night 6 – Friday, September 29th:
For my last night in the Big Apple, I decided to stick fairly close to my hotel and hit a few Midtown locations that I hadn’t visited yet (and ultimately, one that I already had).
First up was the renowned beer emporium The Ginger Man (11 E. 36th St. between 5th Ave. & Madison). I’d first tried to visit on Monday night and found it packed from wall-to-wall, but this time I made it down early enough to beat the crowds. With high ceilings and lots of well-polished wood, this place gives off an elegant but comfortable vibe, and the combination of an astounding tap line-up of 60+ beers and a small but well-selected menu of sandwiches, salads and cheeses seemed to make it a popular place with the after-work crowd. I enjoyed a pint of Erdinger Festweiße and considered following it up with something else, but the Friday night rush was starting in earnest, so I decided to try and find some place a little quieter.
I’d hoped that place might be Stout NYC (133 W. 33rd St. near 7th), but thanks to Eric Clapton, it wasn’t to be. It seemed that his concert at the nearby Madison Square Garden was being celebrated with a pre-show party at Stout being thrown by a local classic rock radio station, and as a result the place was jammed beyond belief. However, I did get a look at the tap list, and based on what I saw, I had no problem leaving without a drink: aside from Guinness and Murphy’s, there wasn’t a stout to be had, and the remaining taps were a couple of Brooklyn Brewing beers, a bunch of mainstream lagers, and and assortment of the usual overrated imports that are available pretty much everywhere. Apparently their bottle list does a better job of living up to the promising name of the place, but I wasn’t ready to fight my way through the crowds to find out.
So I hit the road again and headed north to The House of Brews (363 W. 46th St. between 8th & 9th Ave.), a cozy lower level pub along the touristy Restaurant Row strip. I really liked the atmosphere in this place – very comfortable and laid-back, with friendly staff and a nice selection of over a dozen beers on tap and 80 or so in bottles. Based on the bartender’s recommendation, I started with a pint of their cask ale selection, Chelsea Catskill Hop Harvest Ale, which was a very nice & hoppy little number that was in fantastic condition. I followed it with Harpoon Octoberfest which isn’t the most exciting beer around, but still a pleasant one with a good maltiness. My only real complaint about this place was the food, as my dinner was a lacklustre order of fish & chips that featured limp french fries and soggy, over-battered fish filets. I also shared some nachos with my neighbour at the bar, and we both agreed that they were far from the best we’d ever had. Still, the vibe and the beer selection made this a great place to hang out and watch some of the ball game (I don’t even like baseball, but the Jays were playing the Yankees, so I felt some obligation to my hometown team to cheer them on while sitting on enemy turf).
To cap my evening & my week in the city, I decided to head around the corner and revisit the place where I had started back on Sunday night, The Collins Bar (735 8th Ave. at 46th St.). It was a bit busier than my first visit, but I managed to find a spot at the back near the jukebox, which I proceeded to feed most of my remaining US currency in order to annoy the rest of the patrons with my eclectic musical tastes. I got excited when I saw the rare Sierra Nevada 20th Street Green Hop Ale on a list of special beers they had on tap from a Union Beer tasting event a couple of nights before, but was disappointed to find out that the keg had kicked just minutes before I walked into the bar. Combined with Sunday’s Schlenkerla situation, I was definitely having some bad luck with the place, but that didn’t change my opinion of The Collins as being a quintessential NYC watering hole – tons of history, a classic look that hasn’t changed in decades, and needless to say, a brilliant selection of libations to choose from. Their feature beer for the night was Magic Hat #9, an interesting apricot pale ale that I’d enjoyed in the past, so I went for a pint of that before moving on to the Southampton Imperial Porter, a dark & luscious brew that was much better on tap than the bottled version I’d tried a few months previous.
With that, I woozily toddled back to my hotel, and flew home the next morning. All in all, it was a fantastic trip that proved to me that New York is an essential city for beer travellers to visit. It’s only big deficiency would seem to be a lack of quality bottle shops, but since I wasn’t doing much shopping on this trip, that was a minor quibble for me. Otherwise, it was remarkably easy to fill my free time with beer-related pursuits, and I hope to make it back there sooner than later to revisit a few places, as well as pay first visits to a few places I managed to miss.