Archive for craft beer

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


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.


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


**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.