Monthly Archives: May 2011's review of the 2011 Brewers PicNyc

Beer Festivals are usually a good time.  With much excitement, my girlfriend and I signed up for the annual Brewers Picnyc held on Sunday, May 29 on Governor’s Island (festival was also held for a second day on Monday, May 30).  The description told of numerous food trucks and breweries represented.  Four levels of tickets existed, with the VIP level costing $85 (or $55 through a special offer), which is what we purchased.  In addition to unlimited food/beer sampling, the VIP ticket allowed entrants an extra hour of fun, starting at 11am (the entire festival ran until 5pm).  The day started with a short ferry ride from Manhattan to Governor’s Island and a short walk from the Ferry terminal to Colonel’s Row, where the festival took place.

The setup was a fence-in rectangular area with the food trucks and beer stands set up along the perimeter along with some picnic tables in the middle of the space.  It had all the makings of a great day of warm weather, fun, craft beer and good food.  However, it soon became clear that this event was not going to live up to its billing.  The first problem was the 11am start time.  On Sundays, thanks to New York State Blue laws, no establishment can serve alcohol before noon.  So, that one hour for which many VIP ticket holders arrived early, did not include beer, just the food.

Once clock struck noon, it did not take much time for the lines at the three beer stands to grow very long.  In many cases, people were waiting in line for over 20 minutes for one beer.  The breweries represented were Brooklyn Brewery, Six Point and Goose Island; not the nearly ten we were told in some of the advertising.  In fact, later in the festival, the Six Point stand started pouring beers from the Greenport, Long Island and Two Brothers breweries.  So, even though the number of breweries was more than three, there were still only three beer stands.  That was disgraceful.  You cannot advertise an event as a beer festival and have only three stands serving beer to hundreds of participants.  Furthermore, one beer stand didn’t even have enough cups to serve the draft beer.  Other lowlights of the day:

1. Some of the food trucks ran out of food less than halfway through the festival

2. Lines were long for food as well.

3. Only part way through did we VIP ticket holders learn that we did not have to wait in the long lines for beer.

4. Overheard one event staffer say not too long after noon: “This is insane… not going well… We need to do something now”

    In conclusion, this was a disappointing festival and I will not attend to next year’s event.  I hope the organizers can correct the errors, particularly by doing the following:

    1. Adding more beer stands;

    2. Increasing the number of breweries to at least ten;

    3. Advising the food trucks to bring more food so that they do not run out of food mid-way through the event;

    4. Not making the Sunday no-alcohol-served-before-noon mistake again by allowing the festival to run from 1pm until 6pm and let the extra hour for VIP ticket holders start at noon.

    If they cannot take these necessary steps, I urge all potential participants to stay away from this event next year and beyond.

    Did you attend the event?  Either way, please share your thoughts on my commentary and suggestions.’s foray into Home brewing (part 3) – Tasting


    Ah, the sound I’ve been waiting on for over two weeks.  Scott and I opened the 1 gallon jug to taste our first homebrew!  We had made about ¾ of a gallon of Brown Ale (shown below).  Because it was a homebrew, the aging yeast had settled to the bottom of the jug, so we had to be cognizant of that when pouring the beer into pint glasses.  Along with our girlfriends, Scott and I embarked on our tasting.

    The look, the smell and the taste

    During the pour, the first thing we noticed was that there was hardly any foam forming at the top of the pint glass.  Clearly, our beer did not possess the same level of carbonation that a commercially-brewed beer would.  The color exhibited a somewhat cloudy (because it was unfiltered), dark sepia or russet shade of brown.  The nose was solid.  We could definitely smell the dark malts.  We put the glass to our lips and let the beer roll from the front part of our tongues to the back.  Malty, with very little hop flavor.  Unfortunately, as we noticed during the pour, the beer was significantly flatter than we would have liked.  We also had a problem keeping the yeast out of the pour.  During subsequent sips, partially due to the yeast, the beer had slight undertones of a Belgian brown, perhaps along the lines of a Leffe Brun.  During the second pour, we attempted using a cheese cloth to filter out the yeast, but we were not very successful.

    Going forward

    Despite the two small setbacks, Scott and I were very happy with this first attempt.  To fix the carbonation issue, we plan to age our other beers at least one week longer than we did the Brown Ale.  In addition, we plan to find a better way to filter out the yeast when we pour into serving glasses. All in all, it was a great start!

    I’d like to hear from you.  Do you have any ideas on how to fix the lack of carbonation and filtering out the yeast?  Please share your thoughts on that or any other comments you have.’s foray into Home brewing (part 2)

    I am happy to report that since our first attempt at brewing beer, my friend Scott and I have had two more Sunday afternoons brewing beer.  During these subsequent tries, we have made a Porter and an India Pale Ale (IPA).  However, because aging takes at least two weeks with these ales, we have not been able to taste any of our beers yet.

    Until this week.

    Because our first batch (the Brown Ale) was brewed on May 8, Scott and I will be hosting a small tasting party for it later this week.  I am so excited about this.  I have all these questions I can’t wait to get answered.

    What is our concoction going to taste like?  What does the beer smell like?  Did the liquid properly ferment?  Did all the yeast go to the bottom of the container?  Did air get into the aging vessel?  Did natural light have any adverse impact on the fermenting liquid?  Were there any effects from possible improper sanitization of equipment?  In the end, did Scott and I successfully make beer?

    I will have all these questions answered very soon.  Check back on Friday morning for a detailed description of the tasting.

    Another outing in Williamsburg to visit some recently-opened bars

    Not long after my visit to Spritzenhaus, I decided it was time to return to Williamsburg.  On this occasion, I wanted to sample several recently-opened establishments.  Starting near the Bedford Avenue L-train stop and working my way south, I achieved my goal by visiting five such venues.  Here’s what transpired:

    Brooklyn Winery at 213 N. 8th Street – It’s a wine bar that also offers the opportunity for customers to make their own wine for private consumption.  I believe it is due to state or local laws that the establishment is not allowed to serve the wine made on sight to its bar customers.  The bar itself is a medium-sized area with four communal tables in addition to a 10 seat bar.  There is also an outdoor courtyard that looks out onto N. 8th street.  The winemaking occurs in the back.  Visitors can see dozens of aging casks in the backrooms.  Serving a dozen wines by the glass and another 16 out of the bottle, the Brooklyn Winery also serves 16 bottled beers; For food, chacuterie, bar snacks and small plates.  This place also offers tours of the winery on Saturdasy.

    4th Down at 170 N. 4th Street – A solid Williamburg sports bar.  The neighborhood does not have much to offer of this genre, so 4th Down fills a fairly large void.  4th Down has seven flat screen TVs, affordable drink specials, six arcade games and one pool table in the back.  There is also a giant jenga set that all patrons must see in action (or play it!).  Add to all of this a friendly staff and this place is a must visit.  Two minor drawbacks: there is no kitchen (but they have take-out menus) and the beer selection is nothing special.  Nevertheless, 4th Down is very fun and I certainly hope it survives much longer than its short-lived predecessors of 170 N. 4th Street.

    Maison Premiere at 298 Bedford Avenue – Located on the (migrating southward) border between North Side and South Side, this place is essentially a cocktail bar (including absinthe) that serves oysters.  The address is not readily visible and there is no sign in front reading “Maison Premiere”.  Rather, just a sign reading “Bar Oysters” (I must admit, I walked right by the establishment at first).  A U-shaped bar area takes up the front 2/3 of the space, with a small dining area in the back.  Wooden screwdriver tops serve as handles for the six beer taps.  The beers are served in Mason jars.  There is a solid wine list as well.

    Black Sheep at 245 South 1st Street – Located on an unassuming block between Roebling and Havermeyer (next door to the restaurant, Rye), Black Sheep has a pool table near the entrance a small bar area in the middle and a tiny outdoor patio in back.  The wall opposite the bar is covered in photographs of NYC and various celebrities.  The staff is very friendly.  The bar has six taps, including one Kelso and one Brooklyn.

    Banter at South 1st and Havermeyer – This is a great beer bar with 24 taps, mostly imports or New York State beers.  The bar is on the left soon after the entrance.  With lots of wood around the room, this establishment does not feel as though it’s on the southern edge of gentrified Williamsburg.  High-top tables in the bar area and small communal tables in back provide two different seating options for those not sitting at the bar.  Good happy hour beer specials.  This is a place I would definitely like to return to.  Banter will be part of the South Side beer bar crawl.

    Let me hear from you.  What do you think of these places and my comments?  Please share your thoughts.'s review of Spritzenhaus

    Spritzenhaus, the latest addition to Brooklyn’s beer bar scene, opened in late April.  It’s located at 33 Nassau Avenue (at the corner of Guernsey Street), which is close to the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

    Layout: Two bars, one L-shaped at the back, left of the room and one U-shaped bar at the back, right of the room.  An open kitchen at the back in between the two bars currently serves a limited menu of snacks and oysters. Full menu coming in a few weeks.  Spacious seating areas allow for communal tables in front of the L-shaped bar and tables for parties of 2 to 6 in front and around the U-shaped bar.  Floor to ceiling windows, facing both Nassau and Guernsey, can open in nice weather.  Bathrooms to the left of the L-shaped bar have neat showerhead faucets.  Outdoor seating is available along Nassau Avenue.

    Beer Selection: There are 100 taps, but the bar serves only 25 different beers and repeats each beer four times.  While there nearly 10 German beers available, there are more American craft beers than German imports with a good focus on locally brewed New York State beers.  Two of the three Brooklyn beers (Kelso and Six Point) were available.  Even though Spritzenhaus is located five blocks north of the Brooklyn Brewery, not one product of the Brooklyn Brewery was available on tap!  Beer prices range from $6 to $7.

    My take: Spritzenhaus has more of a hybrid beer bar-biergarten feel to it.   The patrons were mostly in their 20s and 30s.  I’d definitely like to return here with a group of friends.  I’ve seen some negative reviews of this spot in cyberspace.  Some of these reviews came from people expecting a place like the nearby Radegast Hall & Biergarten or the two biergartens in Astoria.  Spritzenhaus is not a classic New York biergarten.  And I don’t think it’s trying to be like that.  Spritzenhaus is more of a beer bar with some biergarten elements (a few long, communal tables; several German beers available).  My one disappointment was to learn that the 100 taps were in fact 25 beers repeated four times.  Nevertheless, I hope to return soon.  It’s a nice place to sit down with friends, share some laughs and enjoy good beers.

    What are your thoughts?  Have you visited this place yet?  Please share your comments on my review or on the establishment itself.'s recent evening exploring new bars on the East Side of Manhattan

    From time to time, I like to head out for an evening of exploring recently-opened bars.  Sometimes, I will visit multiple neighborhoods (and boroughs) in one evening.  It’s not quite a traditional NYC pub crawl, but is fun nonetheless.  One recent outing had me focused on the East Side of Manhattan.  Starting on the Upper East Side and working my way down to the Lower East Side.

    7:30pm – Caledonia Scottish Pub at 1609 2nd Avenue near 84th St.  A Scottish Pub in Manhattan!  There are not too many of these in NYC.  The only other one that comes to mind is St. Andrew’s near Times Square.  Open since January, 2011 (the 1609 Second Avenue address has been a bar for over two years, under different owners), Caledonia is a small, narrow, sort of dark place.  Medium length bar on the right and a small seating area in the back.  Crowd is mostly locals.  The bar has eight tap beers, including two taps for Bellhaven (a fine line of Scottish beers).  A long sword hangs lengthwise over the top center of the bar.

    8:15pm – Copia on E. 53rd Street, near 2nd Avenue.  For those who remember Metro 53, Copia’s layout and feel is fairly similar.  Catering to the after work crowd with a couple of private areas in the back of the main room and downstairs, Copia has an L-shaped bar to the right and a small dining area in between the bar and the slightly elevated private areas in the back.  The bar has a total of 16 tap beers, but has some repeats and nothing too hard-to-find.

    8:45pm – La Cava on 2nd Avenue near 50th Street.  A solid wine bar amongst a strip of Irish Pubs and Sports Bars, La Cava serves nearly 20 wines by the glass and another three dozen by the bottle.  The bar is on the right side of the room with high-top tables around the front and left side of the room.  The small, open kitchen in the back puts out a variety of chacuterie, cheese plates and other small plates.  Two floor-to-ceiling windows by the front entrance that open up in warm weather add a nice touch to this establishment.  La Cava has Happy Hour from 4 – 7pm and the kitchen is open typically until 1am.

    10pm – Little Town NYC on 15th Street, near Irving Place.  In the spot formerly known as Vintage Irving, Little Town NYC has changed the place into a more beer-focused bar than its predecessor (Vintage Irving was a wine bar with a decent beer selection; Little Town NYC has reversed that).  What makes this place remarkable is that it only serves beer brewed in New York State.  From Greenport Harbor in Eastern Long Island to Southern Tier in Jamestown at the far western edge of New York and many in between, Little Town NYC has covered the entire state with 20 taps and dozens of bottled beers.  The three Brooklyn breweries (Brooklyn, Six Point and Kelso) are well represented.  This spot is a must on the Union Square beer bar crawl.

    11pm – Lower East Side, Orchard and Rivington.  I had hoped to visit the new spot named APL (pronounced “Apple”), but the spot will not be open until later this month.  Given the small bar in the middle of the room and seating areas with place settings in the front and back of the bar area, it looked a bit more to be a restaurant than a bar, but I need to return to see the place in action.

    It was a fun filled evening exploring much of the East Side of Manhattan.  I hope you enjoyed this post.  I will have more of these types of experiences to share.  Please leave a comment!’s foray into Home brewing (part 1)

    For years, numerous friends and acquaintances of mine urged me to try home brewing.  I’ve been a craft beer drinker (and a NYC pub crawler) for a long time, but have never tried home brewing.  Until, that is, Sunday, May 8, 2011.  Scott (a good friend of mine and fellow craft beer fan) and I started the day at Whole Foods in Lower Manhattan and bought the necessary appliances and ingredients for a one gallon batch of brown ale.

    We returned to his apartment and, using the instructions at Brooklyn Brew shop’s website (, we began.  Not to get too technical, but there are six main steps at brewing beer.  I’ll describe each step in two or three sentences.

    1)      “Making oatmeal” – this step involves warming the barley malt in hot water to release the sugars of the malt (the barley malt tastes like the cereal grape nuts).  After one hour, we obtained an oatmeal-like substance.

    2)      “Brewing coffee” – After filling a strainer with the oatmeal-like substance and placing the full strainer on top of a large pot, we slowly poured near boiling water over the oatmeal-like substance.  The water filters through the oatmeal-like substance and grabs the sugars of the barley malt and fills the pot below with a dark brown liquid called “wort” (pronounced “wert”).

    3)      “The Boil” – We added hops (often referred to as the “flower” of the beer; i.e., what gives the beer its aroma) and then boil the wort for about one hour.  The wort is sweet-tasting, but is not yet beer.  In order to become beer, the wort must have yeast added and then must age for at least two weeks.

    4)      Cooling –  After the one-hour boil is complete, the wort must be cooled down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once cooled, we poured the wort into a gallon jug.  By this point in the process, Scott’s kitchen was smelling like a brewery!

    5)      Yeasting – The fourth (and arguably most important) ingredient, the yeast is added to the jug after the cooling is complete.  It is very important that the wort has cooled sufficiently, or else, if the wort is still too hot, the yeast will die and there will be no beer:-(.

    6)      Aging – After sufficiently shaking the gallon of wort with the added yeast, we set the full jug aside in a dark place that is slightly cooler than room temperature.  It will be at least two weeks before we can taste the fruits of our labor.

    My thoughts after this first attempt: I can’t imagine doing this alone.  There was too much mixing, temperature checking, poring and straining for one person, and we were only making a one gallon batch!  From start to finish, the process took about 3.5 hours.  If you’ve ever thought about home brewing, but haven’t tried it yet, find a friend (or two) to partner with and give it a shot.  Today was a lot of fun.  I can’t wait until our next attempt!  Check back later this month for the results of this first attempt.

    What do you think?  Did this sound like your homebrew experience?  Please share your comments.  I look forward to hearing from you.’s visit to Washington, DC (Part 2)’s visit to Washington, DC (Part 2).

    The second part of the Washington bar tour began in the Foggy Bottom section of the District, only a few blocks away from where part 1 ended.  It was another fun night and further confirmation that bar hopping in Washington is getting close to rivaling a pub crawl in NYC.

    6:55pm – Elephant & Castle – Located at the northwest corner of 19th and I streets, this is the second D.C. location of the English style pub chain.  A lively bar scene, along with a spacious eating area, it is a good happy hour spot for the K Street crowd and the nearby law firms.  With 18 beers on tap and some quality bar food, Elephant & Castle is a key starting point for bar hopping in Foggy Bottom.

    7:30PM – 19th – Across the street from Elephant & Castle, on the southwest corner of the same intersection, this bar looks good from the outside, but doesn’t quite fit the space in which it resides.  Floor to ceiling windows and the corner location appear very promising.  The place holds a crowd that is a mix of nearby GWU students and some young K Street professionals.  On the weekends, it appears that the venue changes into a clubby atmosphere by clearing out a section of tables and chairs in exchange for a dance floor and DJ.

    8:05pm – Froggy Bottom Pub – Ahh, memories of a good old-fashioned college dive bar!  A bi-level establishment, with the main bar on the basement level, this bar is known for its nightly cheap drink specials.  A pool table in the middle of the main bar area, Froggy Bottom serves a food menu of burgers, pizza and subs.

    8:45pm – McFadden’s – At the District’s location of this regional Irish pub chain, a bi-level pub, most of the action takes place on the basement level.  The bar has 12 taps, including some hard-to-find beers.  It is a known hangout for D.C. kickball.  The non-kickball crowd is mainly a mix of GW students and recent college graduates.

    9:30pm – 51st State – This is a New York hangout on the border of Foggy Bottom and Georgetown.  The establishment boasts four New York beers on tap (out of 16 total taps), including Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Brown Ale!  Yankees stickers and Yankees pennants abound, this spot can definitely make a transplant from the Tri-state area feel right at home!

    10:15pm – Marshall’s – This place is two doors west of 51st State.  According to our guide, it’s a late night spot that is a service industry hangout.  Like other spots in Foggy Bottom, Marshall’s is bi-level, with the bar on the second floor and a restaurant (of sorts) on the first floor.

    After leaving Marshall’s, our guide previewed’s bar tour of Georgetown to take place during the next visit to Washington, DC.  How did you like part 2 of the Washington tour?  Please feel free to comment.  Looking forward to hearing your feedback.’s visit to Washington, DC (Part 1)

    A visit to Washington, DC is always a good time.  Specifically for bars, there is probably not another city in the U.S. other than New York that, over the past decade, has seen more new bars (and neighborhoods) become open for bar hopping.  On a per capita basis, Washington DC is fast becoming a rival for pub crawls vs. NYC pub crawls.  What follows is part one of two nights.  This night involves some old-time Washington establishments in the downtown section of the District, centered around the White House.  Out on the town with an expert of the Washington, DC bar scene, here’s what transpired:

    7:35pm – Off the Record.  A bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams hotel across Lafayette Park from the North entrance of the White House, Off the Record is a must visit for all.  An octagonal shaped bar fills the center of a loungey area that is filled with political art (mostly cartoons and caricatures).   This place is frequented by Journalists and Staffers.

    8:10pm – Le Bar. A hotel bar on the first floor of the Sofitel at the northwest corner of H and 15th street.  The half-oval bar and a mostly loungey feel to this spot make it another must stop after touring the area around the White House.  The floor to ceiling windows provide the venue with a lot of natural light during the day.  The outdoor seating area in good weather adds a nice touch.

    8:45pm – POV (aka, Point of View).  Since this is a rooftop of the W Hotel (fka, the Washington Hotel), in a city like Washington, the name has double meaning.  During this visit, the Arkansas Congressional delegation was having a private reception, so the entire bar was not accessible.  However, the view is arguably the best that Washington bars have to offer.  The foreground includes the Treasury Department Building and the White House.  To the southwest stand the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  Various sections of Arlington, VA provide the backdrop in the distance.

    9:20pm – Laughing Man Tavern – The first venue on our tour that was not a hotel bar, but just a few blocks from POV, this spot is a solid happy hour place with 16 beers on tap.  A semi-sports bar with 2 levels and 10 TVs.

    10pm – Black Finn – This is a large, upscale sports bar near 17th and I streets. It has many Old Washington pictures and some NYC pictures on the walls.  The beer selection includes 12 taps, but nothing too hard to find.  But there are some local bottled craft brews available.  The space has two bar areas and is arguably one of the best sports bars in the District.  On the weekends, the back bar area transforms into a dance floor with a DJ.

    10:40pm – The Exchange – This bar near 17th and G Streets is sort of in a no-man’s land part of the District.  Close enough to the White House to be considered downtown, but just east of George Washington University, so it could also be part of Foggy Bottom, the bar was renovated a few years ago and has a large eating area.  It has 24 beers on tap, several of which are hard to find.

    I hope you enjoyed this first of two posts of’s visit to Washington.  Please share your comments.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Check back soon for part 2.