Last weekend I spent some time in NYC. My lovely wife had a conference in Manhattan, so I met up with her and we spent the rest of the weekend getting caught up with friends and family who live in the area. I’ve done a few trips down to NYC, and with help from Google I found some solid beer bars that were worth a visit. This weekend we let our friends make the majority of the plans, and just followed along. We visited six different establishments to eat and/or drink over the weekend, all of the places had 10-20 taps but none would be classified as a “beer bar”. All in all I was completely underwhelmed by the way these bars used their tap lines. There was not a single local microbrew on tap at any of the bars, in most the closest thing to a craft beer was Sam Adams Boston Lager and Seasonal (the Summer Ale in March, which is a discussion for another day).
When I first moved to Boston (over ten years ago, damn that makes me feel a little old) this city had a similar issue. There were a few craft beer bars, and majority of other bars had a pretty standard selection. You would get some macro-lagers (Bud, Miller), some big beer imports (Guinness, Bass, Harp), some crafty beers (like Blue Moon) along with Sam Adams and Harpoon, which were the major craft beers on the market. A good bar might have Long Trail or Smuttynose, along with Sierra Nevada in bottles. In fairness, there weren’t that many local breweries at the time, so there was only so much that bars could do to provide beer lovers with a good selection. Now it is rare to walk into a bar in Boston and not find at least a couple local craft selections, such as Jack’s Abby, Pretty Things or even beers from other parts of New England.
All of the bars I visited in Manhattan had the type of selection you would find in Boston a decade ago (macro lagers, crafty beers and big beer imports). One place had Dogfishhead 60 Minute on draft and I was pleasantly surprised. We didn’t find a single local beer on draft or in bottles at any of the places we went. New York (city and state) has some great breweries including Brooklyn, Sixpoint, Ommegang, Ithaca and Southern Tier. I am sure there are dozens of others that have more limited distribution. I really wonder why the bars in the city haven’t embraced the craft beer revolution. Are people in Manhattan less interested in craft beer? Are the bars unwilling to step outside the box? Did I just get unlucky and hit a bunch of places with a crappy beer selection? I would be happy to hear any comments from others who have spent time in NYC. Needless to say, next time I take a trip to New York I’ll be doing some research beforehand and steering the group towards some bars and restaurants that take pride in their craft beer selection.