Archive for the alcohol Category

The Richardson

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Tom with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by criticalreviews

The Richardson

451 Graham Avenue (the corner of Richardson and Graham) Williamsburg, Brooklyn
After last Sunday I was surprised to find myself walking around in Williamsburg again, and possibly headed to one of the same locations. We were on our way to check out Spuytin Duyvil’s No Joke Oktoberfest Celebration, but when we got there is was a little too crowded for our likings…and luckily had a back-up plan. This back-up plan involved heading back north. We walked down Havemeyer from Metropolitan to where it turns into Whithers, and then zig zagged a bit over to Graham Ave. I didn’t realize that there were so many Italian restaurants and delis in the area that is so close to my house…one of which we procured some delicious fresh cavatelli for dinner. The point is we ended up making our way to The Richardson. After the various write ups on Greenpointers (this is the most recent of the bunch), and the reviews on Yelp! (almost all 5 stars) how could we not try it out.

The Richardson is a big place with lots of tables, a huge bar, beautiful wallpaper, and a cozy feel (although it was a little cold with the doors open, it was still a really pleasant vibe). The first thing I noticed was the wallpaper, chandelier, and pumpkins (nice way to set the fall mood). We sat at the bar, and were the only people in the bar for a while but more patrons trickled in slowly. While at the bar klk tried one of their signature cocktails (and a couple fabulous drinks made with Hendricks Gin), while I was in the mood for beer (hence the Oktoberfest as the original plan) ordered a couple Troegs Hopback Ambers, and a Southern Tier IPA. The cocktails were made the old fashioned way, and I was really impressed by the well thought out beer list…this is sometimes a rarity at a cocktail bar (the only other thing I ask for is a stout or porter other than Guinness).

While the bar was pretty quiet we had the wonderful company of the barkeep. He was extremely friendly, and good for conversation…as well as makes excellent cocktails. Sometimes you go to a new hip bar, and kinda get the cold shoulder, but he was genuinely friendly…and this was more or less the icing on the cake. Leah stopped in to meet us for a drink, and had a Manhattan which was also delicious (I can’t pass up trying a whiskey drink when offered a sip).

We ordered some roasted nuts (part of their new menu), but were slightly underwhelmed. This might be because we are more or less experienced nut roasters ourselves. Some of their other food did sound quite tasty.

On top of the wonderful staff, and nice decor the bar keeps a consistent theme. The bartenders all have a loose rocker/greaser theme going on, and the music is all pre-1970 (if not older) rock n’ roll and r & b. A really nice touch that really ties the place together.

This place is perfect for a date or if you have a large group , and they have something to accommodate everyone. I’m adding this place to my regular rotation of drinking spots (and it doesn’t hurt that it is pretty close to my house).

Photos by Marcus in NY (via flickr)

(Tom)

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Buying Beer in the ‘burg and the ‘point

Posted in alcohol, beer, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2008 by criticalreviews

Since I moved to Greenpoint I have struggled to find that decent priced case of beer. I tend to buy American craft beers, and I found myself in the land of $10-$12 sixpacks.

I sold beer for Whole Foods for quite a long time, and while I was there I always tried to have a good sixpack for $7.99 or cheaper ($6.99 was my ideal price point)…I did good stuff too like Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and Victory. But Lately it has been hard to find good deals on good beer. This is my guide to finding the deals on good beer in in Williamsburg and Greenpoint…if you have any favorite spots that I missed please let me know!

Buying a Case:

The $10-$12 sixpack was no shock, being that I had hung out in the neighborhood quite a bit before I moved here, but it was hard coming from upper Manhattan where I could go to my local beverage warehouse and pick up a case of Magic Hat or Brooklyn for around $28 (and some weird loop hole that let the Magic Hat 12 packs go for $11.99… I like Magic Hat when it’s cheap).

I started my quest for a decent priced case at Beverage World (408 Meeker Ave), and was honestly disappointed. They had your Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn, Dogfish Head, Lagunitas, Oskar Blues, and Smuttynose, but the six packs of most of these things were as expensive or more expensive than bodegas. When I asked for a price on a case the only one the guy knew off hand was Brooklyn. He said that the others would be between $40-$50 a case (in other words I could get these just as cheap, or cheaper, at a bodega). Brooklyn came to about $35 (tax and deposit included). Which wasn’t bad?…I saved $5 off bodega prices, but still not great. They did let me mix my six packs though (1 brown, 2 IPA, and a pilsner). Although not the deal I was hoping for. These guys get extra credit for being friendly.

My next stab at getting a case was at Big Blue Beer Distribution (223 Greenpoint Avenue). The selection at Big Blue was a little larger than Beverage World. They had price stickers for sixpacks and cases next to almost every beer (which was helpful). Most cases were around $30.99-$32.99 (plus tax and deposit)…Brooklyn might have been $28.99 (again plus tax and deposit). Their six packs were in general about 50 cents to a $1.50 cheaper than your grocery store or bodega (but at the bodega the tax and deposit is included so it pretty much evens out). This might be a good stop for some single bottles, but then again there are better places in the neighborhood for that too. At Big Blue there was no customer service at all, and I fear that the beer might be kept in questionable conditions…it was as hot or hotter than it was outside in the room where they kept the beer (definitely not ideal).

Unless you need it delivered the savings, around $4 to $7 depending on the case (compared to bodega prices), from Big Blue and Beverage World are just too minimal to justify the trip.

Ok now who can be my reasonably priced beer savior? You guessed it…The Brooklyn Brewery! While I’ve known about their Friday Happpy Hour and weekend tours for quite a while, the brewery also sells cases! Although only open three days a week the Brooklyn Brewery is the most direct, and best priced location to buy a case of good beer in the area! While all of the cases are slightly different prices they always have a case on sale for $15! Right now the sale is the Brooklyn Weisse. I’m not such a fan of wheat beers so I didn’t get one, but I did buy a case of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale for $26 (which is a great deal considering this monster is at 6.9% abv! It’s super fresh too, good thru February 2009). These prices at the brewery include tax and deposit, so it is $26 flat. Definitely the best deal in the area. Thank you Steve Hindy and Garrett Oliver! I really love having the brewery so close to me, but I do hope that Hindy and Oliver can find a larger space…I’m with Greenpointers on this one…if you move Come to Greenpoint! The Brewery is currently located at 79 N 11th St (between Berry and Wythe). Cutting out the middle man is a good thing. Read my review of the Happy Hour here!

Sixpacks and Singles:

Spuyten Duyvil Grocery
218 Bedford Ave Brooklyn 11211 (btwn N 4rd and N 5th in the Mini Mall)

While the Spuyten Duyvil Grocery does not have the largest selection, but they definitely have the most obscure and highest quality selection in town. They cater to the beer geek very well, specializing in single bottles. I can’t say that I shop in this store all that often, but when ever I do I am always happy…this is my go to for Jolly Pumpkin, Regenboog, and De Dolle. While I do admit they are a little on the pricey side, I can guarantee that the beer has been properly taken care of and is of the highest quality. And if you want to talk beer the clerk is always up for it. I picked up a bottle of La Roja this week! Oh and they also have fancy pickles, mustards, spreads, glassware, shirts, and snacks too.

Forest Natural
120 Norman Ave. (between Leonard and Eckford)

Forest Natural really isn’t a “beer destination”, but it is close to my house. For a place that doesn’t carry a ton of beer they always have an obscure selection…six packs vary from about $9-$11, and you can mix and match (I have never had one come to more than $10.50…and my six pack of Avery IPA was only $9…great deal!). They always have a couple flavors of Weyerbacher, Avery (and these two are enough to make me happy), Goose Island, and Lake Front. It is pretty much my go to spot…whether I need some beer, or yummy kettle chips, a bagel, or a sandwich (oh the sandwiches are sooo good). I know that the beer can be about a dollar more expensive than the bodegas, but the guys that work there are really nice and I think it is important to support these people…this run a nice shop. And they deliver (even Beer) if you have an order over $10 (which is pretty easy to do).

**Revisited several times over the past couple months, and Forest Natural’s selection has gone down hill. While they still have great sandwiches…when I stop on for Beer I usually end up not buying beer, and head over to the Natural Garden to pick some up.

Tops on the Waterfront
89 N 6th St (between Berry & Wythe)

Tops on the Waterfront used to be my go to spot before I moved to the neighborhood. They used to have a great selection, as good as any Whole Foods Market, and comparable prices…but as of recently the selection has gone down hill and the prices have gone up. It sounds ridiculous, but I used to get excited to go beer shopping at this place…now I only go when I need groceries, when I am not going all the way to Whole Foods, and the beer is just an after thought (where it used to be the other way around). I wish I knew what happened…they still have a decent selection but not as good as it used to be. You can find some Troegs though…and they seem to be under represented in the neighborhood.

I know that these are just six places in two large neighborhoods that I chose to highlight. To sum it up…if you need a case, and you like Brooklyn, your decision is made…head straight to the Brewery. The beverage warehouses aren’t worth the time unless you live with within a block of them. The couple stores that I highlighted are the best that I have found, but if you know a place that isn’t totally ridiculously priced (or has a ridiculously good selection) let me know…I’ll check it out!

Photo Credits:

Brooklyn Cases by Jon Cronin (via flickr)

Brooklyn Brewery by Wally G (via flickr)

Spuyten Duyvil Grocery by Roboppy (via flickr)

Forest Natural by Neighborhood Threat

(Tom)

Dogfish Head “Red & White”

Posted in alcohol, beer, Tom with tags , , on July 11, 2008 by criticalreviews

After hearing quite a bit of craft beer bashing on Fourth of July, I decided it was time to drink some great beer, and on July 6th, after my bloody mary and a Avery Maharajah at Mark Bar,  KLK and I drank our bottle of Dogfish Head‘s “Red & White” (Bottled on 2/9/07).

This is one of those really obscure limited release 750ml bottles that DFH does…in their words it is:

A big, belgian-style Wit brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with Pinot Noir juice. After fermentation a fraction of the batch is aged in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, and another fraction is aged on oak staves. The beer is blended together before packaging.

This ends up being quite possibly the strongest Wit beer I have ever tasted at 10% alcohol by volume. 11% of the beer is aged in Pinot Noir barrels, and the other 89% is aged in Oak barrels.

This beer looked pretty intimidating, especially because I am not really a fan of the Wit style. It was my first wine aged beer, and I was a little bit afraid of the term “pinot noir juice.” But I guess they were just using juice as a slang term for wine (not the first time I have heard this). But DFH proved to me again without a doubt that they can do no wrong.

It was wonderful and unique, and it makes me sad I only had one bottle.

My thoughts:

The beer poured a redish brown color with a 1″off white slightly redish colored head that resulted from a slightly harsh pour. As I drank the glass a bubbly lace remained around the sides. The smell was wheaty, hints of corriander, citrus/orange/lemon, strong grape or wine scent, with hints oak and vanilla. It was a really crazy bouquet. The taste was what you would expect from a belgian wit, but slightly heavier and with a ton of berry and wine flavors. The fruitiness and the alcohol really cut the light overly wheaty favor that wit beers normally have, and let some nice vanilla essence come out. Dogfish Head uses wine when the normal person would use a lemon. Strong, but not overly sweet with the alcohol hidden very well. This full bodied version of what people typically consider a light beer was easy to drink, flavorful, and unique.

I highly recommend tying this one out if you see a bottle of it at the store or in the bar. I was really satisfied, and I hope to find another bottle for a special occasion.

I would give this a 90 out of 100 (if I review beers from now on I am going to try to do this rating system).

See what other people think of it here.

Photos borrowed from Dogfish Head’s website.

(Tom)

D.B.A. in the East Village (Williamsburg location to open maybe by 2009!)

Posted in alcohol, bars, News, Tom with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2008 by criticalreviews

First off some news: DBA is going to open in Brooklyn this Month! That is right, DBA will open a second New York City location on North 7th Street between Berry and Whythe in Williamsburg**. This was confirmed by the several signs for the new location that we saw in the already well established East Village location last night (and Brownstoner).

Now for a review of the Manhattan location:

41 First Avenue, New York City, NY
(between 2nd and 3rd Street)

DBA is one of those bars that I have been going to since I moved to New York two years ago. The bar is on the largish size, with a long bar on the left when you walk in, and tables down the right. There is one of those PacMan/Space Invaders tables towards the back, and a really large outdoor patio that always seems to have a seat for you no matter how large your group is.

DBA’s slogan “Drink Good Stuff,” and they pretty much keep with that slogan. They have a great selection of pretty much everything that will get you drunk, but I have taken particular notice to the excellent bourbon and tequila (they have a much more extensive selection than most bars), as well as, of course, the beer. Beerwise they have an extensive bottle list, 16 taps, and two casks.

DBA really isn’t the place for people who want to swill Bud, Miller, or PBR. I remember hearing this conversation on one visit:

Woman: I’ll have a Miller Lite.
Bartender: I’m sorry we don’t have Miller.
Woman: How about a Bud Lite?
Bartender: I’m sorry we don’t have that either, try this Pilsner…it’s made by Lagunitas.

They always have a really quality selection (but if required you can find your Corona and Stella in bottles). Last night we were drinking the Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Avery Brewing’s Maharaja Imperial IPA. All of the normal strength beers(7% abv and below) are typically $6 and served in pints (great deal on the Torpedo), and the stronger ones/obscure imports are between $6-$8 and served in goblets. Happy Hour is $1 off (not sure what the Happy Hours are though…we were there at 7:35 and it was not happy), and you can upgrade a pint to an imperial pint for an extra $1(even during happy hour).

I can say that the service at the bar is not consistently great. The bartenders are always at least decent, but on occasion you do get ignored (I have had a couple bad experiences, but not so bad that I don’t return). It is also really frustrating when your order is taken, and the bartender proceeds to take many other orders and serve them first. These problems don’t happen all the time (last night was great!), but they have happened more than once. Fortunately there is a way around the bar service problem! If you sit on the back patio there is table service, and the waitress last night was really good…even remembering drinks of people on the very crowded patio.

They occasional have food events like Cheese Night (Cheesy Mondays if I am not mistaken), and free bagels with cream cheese and lox are available during brunch hours on the weekend.

Overall I guess what I am getting at is that DBA is just a good bar. Decent selection of everything (liquor/beer/wine), reasonable prices (I hope the Brooklyn one is a little cheaper than the , but we will see), mostly pleasant staff, and a clientèle that isn’t obnoxious (which at least in the East Village on the weekend can be hard to find).

DBA is a welcomed addition to Williamsburg, and it is one more place that I see myself frequenting. In the NYC beer scene DBA seems to get less attention than it should, but I think they can give Mug’s Ale House some competition and that is a good thing.

I hope the new Williamsburg location is as dog friendly as the one in the East Village…Cooper likes to hang out at the bar.

Williamsburg photo courtesy of Brownstoner
East Village photos courtesy of NY Magazine

(Tom)

**Update as of 8/18/08. Please note I keep checking to see if the new location is open, and so far it has not. I’ll update this post as soon as I see DBA Brooklyn’s doors open.

***UDATE as of 11/13/08.  I heard from a friend looking for a bartending gig that they are supposedly going to start hiring staff soon.  This might be a good sign.  I was kinda convinced that it was never going to open.

Butternuts Beer and Ale Mixed 12 Pack

Posted in alcohol, beer, Tom with tags , , , , on July 2, 2008 by criticalreviews

Since moving from upper Manhattan I have been struggling to find reasonably priced beer for around the house (so I now realize that Inwood really does have the cheapest alcohol in the city). I’m not super picky as long as it is craft beer, and when I was at Whole Foods at Union Square and the Butternuts Mixed 12 Pack scanned at $12.99 it was a no brainer. Honestly I’m pretty sure that this was a mistake…I had seen it for as high as $17.99 or $18.99 at Whole Foods on the Bowery, and I was happy to take up the miss pricing.

Butternuts Brewery is a craft brewery in Garrattsville, New York. Butternuts beers are farmhouse ales, and their slogan is “Common Men brew Approachable Beers.” Which is a really respectable thing to do in this day and age of Imperial/High Alcohol brews that are coming from most American brewers. Butternuts stays pretty true to their word producing four really sessionable beers, at, at least what I paid, affordable prices.

Four beers come in the 12 pack: Pork Slap Pale Ale, Snapperhead IPA, Moo Thunder Milk Stout, and Heinnieweisse. Two common threads run through all of these beers, and that is light for the style and low in carbonation. Neither of these things is are bad, but I have a few more notes:

Pork Slap is a standard pale ale a bit on the English side of the style with the hops more subtle than most American Pales. Amber in color with grassy plant like hops. Quite sessionable, and easy drinking.

Snapper Head is an IPA, or almost more like an American Pale Ale…also amber in color. The hops are more aggressive than Pork Slap, and actually quite fruity (both in smell and taste getting big citrus and hints of tropical fruits). And I think my personal favorite of the bunch.

The Heinnieweisse is a light easy drinking wheat. To me not quite as sweet as other wheat beers, and 1000 times more drinkable than Hoegaarden. I have to say that this is only the second wheat beer that I have enjoyed this summer (and I have tried quite a few), and highly recommend it. The most carbonated of the bunch.

Moo Thunder, only my second canned stout ever, is smooth and black. As far as stouts go it is a milk stout, and true to style. Sweet with milk sugars, and easy to drink. Fans of sweeter stouts, such as Guinness or other Lacto Stouts, will probably enjoy this one. Light bitter chocolate finish.

As far as Butternuts goes their beers are not quite to the quality of Stone or Dogfish Head, but they are not trying to be (but way better than the pseudo import InBev products like Stella, Hoegaarden, and even the pseudo craft beers like Blue Moon). They state on their website “No Pretentious Eight Dollar Bottles,” and once again true to their word. I don’t know if I would pay the $18.99 price tag for the 12 pack, but for anything under $15 this is a great deal and very good too. Props to Butternuts for making affordable, tasty, quality beer that can be drank in quantity. If you find it try it! And if nothing else check out their website…it is super cute.

(Tom)

The Diamond

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by criticalreviews
43 Franklin St
(between Calyer St & Quay St)
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 383-5030

The Diamond is located in a slightly less commercial section of Greenpoint, a little off the beaten path as far as bars go in the area (in between Williamsburg and Greenpoint proper), but it is well worth the walk. The bar itself is pretty average in size: with a long bar to the right when you walk in, a shuffle board table to the left, a two tables by the front windows, a couple more tables towards the back, and a small basement that opens up as a dancefloor on the weekends. There is also a largish garden area too with a quoits court.

I have been to the bar three times since I moved to the neighborhood, twice on Thursdays and a late night visit on a Friday. The scene was a little different each time but I think that was due to the time of day. My first visit was two weeks ago, and we got there around 8pm. The bar itself had very few people in it, but the patio was packed. We took a couple seats at the bar, and ordered some food and a couple beers. The second visit was this past Thursday with a little little bigger crowd, and quite a bit louder. And the third was late this past Friday, where the bar was kicking, but we had no problem rolling deep and finding a spot for our largish group.

The food is pretty limited, but that isn’t to say that it is not amazing. They savory pies and rolls from Tuck Shop, a cheese plate (the cheese change regularly: sm $7/lg $12), and a pickle and olive plate ($4). We ordered a Tuck Shop pie($7) and roll ($5), but they were out of the pies so we got two rolls. These were served with hot sauce, and were actually pretty substantial. I was really impressed. Not what you would expect. The Tuck Shop roll was a delicate pastry with delicious veggies inside. I will definitely eat this again as well as try the pie!

As far as beer goes they are pretty esoteric, and that is a complement coming from me. I have worked in the beer industry for three or so years now, and I know most breweries (or at least ones that show up on the East Coast), and their beer list really is wonderful. The first time I went they had a beer from Two Brother’s on called Cain and Able: a hoppy red brewed with rye and palm sugar. This was an excellent beer from a really obscure brewery. And the tap list has always been consistently great. They divide their beers in to Session Beers (low alcohol) and High Alcohol; with two menus. I’m pretty sure even the experienced beer drinker is going to find something that they haven’t tried at this place, and even if they have tried it they might have an older vintage! The taps change regularly (I know this because two kegs kicked late on Friday, and two new wonderful beers were put on). And it appears that they always have Reissdorf Koelsch on tap, and even serve it in a Kranz!

For a complete beer list check out the website.

Besides amazing beer, and a beautiful bar they have a killer jukebox. How many bars will take the a chance and put one let alone three Ween albums on their jukebox (The Pod, The Mollusk, and 12 Golden Country Greats)! Included in the mix were two Dinosaur Jr.’s, two or three Guided By Voices, a great two disk Kinks collection, Minor Threat and Embrace, New Order, and tons of other jems.

Other highlights are that every Wednesday there is a shuffleboard tournament, quiots tournaments once a week, and every Sunday there is a reasonably priced small plate and beer pairing.

I hate to say it, but I think the Diamond just replaced Well’s Ales and Lagers as my favorite bar…and The Diamond allows my dog to come with me! I will no doubt become a regular with it being so close to my house!

Photo from Newsday.com

(Tom)

The Rusty Knot

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Leah, restaurant with tags , , , , on May 14, 2008 by criticalreviews

I read quite a few reviews about the Rusty Knot before it had even opened its doors to the public. New York Magazine was hyping the classy-dive far at least a month before its opening. The Rusty Knot was hailed by founders of both Freemans and the Spotted Pig. I haven’t been to Freeman’s, but my office threw a x-mas party at the Spotted Pig once, and it was pretty amazing…Jay-z and LeBron James actually stumbled (accidentally) into our private room. Anyway, I like the premise of the Rusty Knot: nautical decor meets cheap booze meets prog rock jukebox meets gourmet bar food. I mean really, who could ask for anything more?

Last Tuesday, a planned meeting of old friends presented the perfect occasion to scope the Rusty Knot. I work in Soho, so I decided to walk over to the (waaay) West Village location. It was a painless trek, because the weather was nice, but I nearly walked straight to 14th Street. The Rusty Knot has a blue awning that simply says, ‘West. Bar and Lounge,’ and all of the shades were drawn. It’s a good thing that I knew the address. I was about a half hour early, so I took a seat in the lacquered wood 70’s style patio furniture and took in my surroundings. I thought that Taavo Somer (notorious taste-maker and co-owner of Freemans) made some wise, yet predictable decorating decisions. There was a smattering of ship’s wheels, a nice fish tank, flourescent beer signage, and many mounted fish. I don’t know if this makes sense, but the bar gave off a New England-old-man-bar in Hawaii kind of vibe.

The reviews that I read described the drinks at Rusty Knot as being utterly affordable. I guess that if you take target demographic into account, beers were aptly priced. I paid $6 for a red stripe. I think that cans of Tecate were $5 and you could supposedly order a shot of Busch for 99 cents, although I don’t really see the point in that. I did find myself wishing that the beer selection was better, however appropriate it was. Mixed tropical drinks, like Mai Tais and Zombies were varied from $7 to $12, and served in Trader Vic’s style ceramic glasses. I’m not the biggest fan of fruity concoctions, so I steered clear. But, people seemed to be enjoying their beverages.

Once my friends arrived, and also ordered Red Stripes, we decided to sample a couple of things on the menu. The chef at the Rusty Knot is a co-owner and chef at the legendary Momofuku restaurants, Joaquin Baca. I ordered a pretzel dog, which is basically what it sounds like. For $4, you get a hot dog, that is baked into a salted pretzel, and served with a horseradish-y mustard.

I wish that I could say that I enjoyed the pretzel dog, but I didn’t have the opportuntity. Two bites in, and my hot dog slid out of the pretzel and onto the floor. My pal Ravi suggested set screws to keep unwieldy dogs in place. Nobody else at the bar seemed to have any problems. Joleen, a strict vegetarian, ordered the beer balls. We expected fried, gooey, cheesy goodness, but instead received 4 or 5 little baked rolls with some sort of preserve (possibly apricot). They were tasty, but we expected something a little more savory. Finally, Nancy ordered the much-hyped chicken liver and bacon sandwich. Most reviews that I have read focus on this sandwich as the crowning glory of Rusty Knot’s kitchen. It was quite delicious, although chicken liver and bacon together makes for one salty sammie.

I would definitely recommend a visit to the Rusty Knot, based on my experience, although I don’t believe that it lived up to its hype. The service was great, but the crowd was not my flavor – nor were the food or drinks.

-Leah

Flickr photo props to:

A Continuous Lean
Sarah Payton