Since I’ve been drinking a fair amount of beer lately, I decided to put together this guide to my favorite craft beer stores in New York City. Allow me start by stating my ‘credentials’ on the subject. I grew up on Coors Light paired with Led Zeppelin and tried so-called craft beer for the first time during college in the late 1990’s. Most of what the hippie kids brought to parties back then was too sweet (Magic Hat No. 9, Honey Brown) and really not appealing to me. In 1998 I went to Nantucket for the first time and visited the Cisco Brewery when they were still operating out of a garage. It wasn’t the best beer I had ever tried in my life, but it gave me a first-hand look into the process and became my beverage of choice and favorite place to visit during many subsequent visits to the island. As I’ve continued to travel throughout New England over the years I’ve been able to sample some of the best beer in the world at breweries like Maine Beer Company, Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist in Vermont. I don’t know if any of this makes me an expert on anything other than drinking good IPA, but I’m still going to give you some suggestions based on my personal taste. The best way to learn about beer is to drink it so I will keep my words to a minimum and just try to guide you in the right direction.
We’ll start the tour at Good Beer on 9th Street between 1st Ave and Avenue A. The setup of the shop is conducive to trying new things since everything is presented by the bottle. I go here to mix and match an assortment of different beer and since most bottles (or cans) are in the $2.00 – $3.00 price range, you don’t have much to lose trying something new. For example I learned that I don’t like Saison thanks to this place. It’s nothing against them because the two bottles I tried both received 90+ ratings from Beer Advocate, but I couldn’t stand the ‘spiciness’ of this popular style. There is plenty of great beer to choose from here and the staff is always helpful if you have questions. Good Beer focuses on American breweries (categorized by geography) and carries a small selection of imports. Everything they sell individually is refrigerated with additional six-packs usually available on the shelves. This is obviously important if you can’t wait two hours for your beer to get cold before you drink it. Nobody should bring warm beer to a barbecue. These guys also partner with craft brewers from around the country to sponsor events featuring specialty brews, classes and tastings. The next event is with Founder’s Brewing Company on July 8th. Follow @goodbeernyc for the most current news and information.
Beer I’ve Enjoyed Here: Maine Beer Co. – MO, Long Trail – Limbo IPA, Victory – Summer Love, Dogfish 90 Minute IPA, Heavy Seas – Loose Cannon
Whole Foods Bowery
The next stop is the Whole Foods on Bowery which features its own separate craft beer store. The selection here is substantial and similar to Good Beer with the addition of more imports (which aren’t really my specialty). I haven’t noticed anything too rare but they do stock more Maine Beer Company and Victory than most other places and you can also regularly find the staples from Founders, Sixpoint, Firestone and Ommegang at this location. There’s something here for everyone and the staff is pretty mellow and always available to guide you along. I went by the other day and noticed they replaced a whole wall of shelves with refrigerators, making this location almost completely chilled. The setup here may lead you to believe that the beer is mostly sold in six-packs but they don’t mind when people break them up. Before this recent renovation they had a designated section for individual bottles and cans, but now that everything is refrigerated you can pick from anywhere in the store. The prices are generally the same amongst the specialty shops which means they’re slightly elevated because it’s Manhattan, but on the other hand you can just grab one or two beers if that’s all you want. This Whole Foods also keeps six freshies on tap for growler fills. Check with their website for updates and tasting schedule.
Beer I’ve Enjoyed Here: Cigar City – Jai Alai IPA, Founders – All Day IPA, Victory – Hop Ranch, Sixpoint – Hi-Res, Bellast Point – Sculpin IPA, Firestone – Double Jack
New Beer Distributors
New Beer Distributors on Christie Street has been downtown longer than all of us and I just recently went inside to discover an absolutely insane amount of craft beers from all over the world. From the outside this place just looks like your average wholesale distributor but upon further inspection you’ll realize they probably have the best beer selection in all of New York. This location is a garage that happens to be absolutely stocked with shelves upon shelves of beer from the United States, Belgium, Germany, England and Denmark. This place will probably blow the minds of those of you who have been doing it longer than I have because I’ve honestly never even seen around eighty percent of their beers before. Every style imaginable is here. Just yesterday my friend Ross Evans suggested I try Allagash’s Interlude and Victoria and both were there at $18 for 750ml bottles. This place is huge and can be overwhelming so I recommend going in with an idea of what you’re looking for. You can buy beer by the case or bottle here but keep in mind that nothing is refrigerated. That makes me wonder a little bit about quality and freshness, but I haven’t been disappointed in the few times I’ve bought beer here. Check the dates on the bottles if you’re concerned. You’re also on your own here so give yourself some time to sort through the extensive selection.
Beer I’ve Enjoyed Here: Firestone – Easy Jack, Bell’s – Two Hearted Ale, Allagash – Interlude
Top Hops on Orchard Street is one more craft beer specialty store worth checking out when you’re near Delancey and Orchard Street. I typically visit them when I’m downtown riding my bike and want a quick beer before I make my way home. They carry a nice assortment of refrigerated individual cans and bottles although I usually drink my beer at the bar there. What I like about this place is their selection of local beer on tap which regularly coincides with awesome events and classes suitable for all levels of beer enthusiasts. They also seem to stock more rare items than anywhere else but you have to be quick on the draw. Follow @tophopsnyc to get in on it.
Beer I’ve Recently Seen On Their Twitter Feed: Hill Farmstead – Everett, Cantillon – Classic Gueuze, Westbrook – Mexican Cake