New York…the city that never sleeps. Also the city filled with poor cellphone reception, pretentious yuppy bars, and crappy macro imports.
I’m in town for work, and after a brief happy hour with a handful of colleagues, decided to wander down the street on my way to my hotel to see what I could see. It’s very busy in Midtown where I’m staying, in part thanks to the United Nation’s General Assembly that has been convening this week. In fact, a head of state walked by me in my hotel lobby, accompanied by an entourage including about six gun-toting security guards. I’m assuming since he’s staying at my hotel, he must be from a ridiculously poor third world country, as I could probably get better accomodations finding a refrigerator box and placing it over a steam grate near the subway station.
My first stop down 3rd Ave. after my happy hour was some tiny Irish pub, what I assumed would be a welcome reprieve compared to the other options in my immediate vicinity that included several ultra-trendy, $10 beer night kind of places…not really my style. I walked into the dimly lit bar and immediately looked to the draught selection, the true litmus test for a decent bar. What I found would have made any Irishman cry. The only thing Irish about the place was the leprechaun picture on the wall, next to the NY Mets banners posted all about the place. This was like some kind of weird sports bar trying to pass itself off as a real purveyor of decent alcohols. The only thing on tap that I’d even consider drinking was Guinness…everything else was macro BS like Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, and Stella Artois (gag me). I quickly exited.
Passing a couple other suspect drinking establishments as I walked a few more blocks south, I thought to myself “why don’t you just stop in a liquor store and get something you know is going to be decent.” My buddy the Vice Blogger recommended trying Captain Lawrence if I saw it, so I looked up and down the street for any liquor store I could find. Luckily a couple blocks down, I happened upon one on the other side of the road, and jaywalked my way across the street to give it my patronage (as an aside, is there really such a thing as jaywalking in NYC?).
I walked into the tiny shop, finding a morbidly obese gentleman sleeping behind the register. Yes, actually sleeping. Since I hate to get woken up when I’m taking a nap, especially at work, I quietly slipped by the front and went to the back of the store where I thought the beer coolers would be. But within a few seconds, I realized I was completely surrounded by nothing but wine and liquor bottles. What the hell kind of place was this that doesn’t sell beer? Just then, the fat guy came to his senses, asking if he could help me find something.
ME: “Uh, yeah, do you guys sell beer in this place?”
FAT GUY: “No man, beer is only sold in grocery stores here in New York. You’re not from here, huh?”
ME: “No, not really.”
FAT GUY: “You ever see that movie Fargo? You sound kinda like that one guy…”
I took off again down the road, in search of any kind of grocery store I could find. I passed a shitty little delicatessen, and out of the corner of my eye saw what looked like a beer cooler in the back. Score. With a hopeful stride, I made my way in, greeted by nothing but crappy macros one after the other. My search for decent beer was becoming infuriating.
A few more blocks down the street (after nearly being killed in the crosswalk by a speeding cabby), I passed another deli, and went inside to see what they had. This one proved a little different, but not by much. The only “good” beer they had was from Brooklyn Brewery, which I understand is like the upper Midwest’s version of Leinenkugel’s (not undrinkable, but not great)*. I did enjoy Brooklyn’s East India Pale Ale recently, and saw a number of other offerings from them that looked interesting, including their Pennant Ale ’55. At that moment, my prior reading of the Vice Blog, a fantastic educational tool in alcohol culture and enjoyment, kicked in as I remembered that in NYC one is allowed to buy single bottles from a six pack. This is a fantastic innovation in alcohol purchasing that should be adopted by every state in the union. So I grabbed a couple bottles of the Pennant Ale ’55 and made my way back to the hotel.
As a Minnesota Twins fan, I naturally expected this beer to smell and taste relatively shitty, just like the Yankees squad this year. On top of that, any kind of beer with an obviously gimmicky name like Pennant Ale ’55 typically just reeks of mediocrity. But, I was pleasantly surprised. It poured into a chintzy plastic hotel cup with a nicely carbonated head and fruity aroma. Tastes like a slightly sweeter version of Goose Island Honker’s Ale, an English bitter style beer that is pretty malty with strong biscuit notes. I’m not a big fan of that one, but this beer from Brooklyn is a little more enjoyable. It went down nicely as I watched an old rerun of Cops in Minneapolis. How ironic.
* I ammend my comparison. Leinie’s is pure garbage (especially Honeyweiss and Berryweiss). But Brooklyn at least takes brewing to the artisan level with some of its harder to find offerings. I’d say they’re more like Sam Adams in that way.