I had a quick buzz-in, buzz-out trip to New York City a couple of weeks ago and needed some dinner, and perhaps some quality beer to go with that dinner. Lacking much imagination, I decided that my co-worker and I needed to pay another visit to CAFÉ D’ALSACE at 88th and 2nd, which you may recall HBJ visited back in 2006. This place bills itself as a first-class gastropub, complete with its own “beer sommelier” on hand to guide you through the many bottled Belgian, German and US craft microbrews on hand. We discovered HACKER-PSCHORR DUNKEL WEISS there two years ago in the midst of a fantastic meal. This time the weather outside was so warm we got to sit at an outdoor table, with fire trucks screaming by and all manner of New York denizens strolling past. Perfect beer weather, and given that the work stuff wasn’t until late in the morning the next day, Café D’Alsace was a tempting place to throw down a few high-alc European beers, if you know what I’m sayin’.
First, I have to rave about the food at CAFÉ D’ALSACE. The chef is a total superstar. I had a French lentil soup, followed by a fish that was out of this world, followed by cheesecake. One of those bust-the-expense-account meals, where you just keep ordering and ordering, even through it has passed your “allowable spending threshold” & now is your responsibility to pay for. Who cares?? If you’re not in a beer-drinking mood, they’ve got a rich wine and cocktail selection – but honestly, when are YOU not in a beer-drinking mood? The “beer sommelier” was nowhere to be found, just like last time, and I have to think that maybe this is a bit of marketing gimmick – though I did not personally ask for this person to visit the table. He (or she) and I might have bored my companion to death with all of our beer talk, and besides, I felt like rolling the proverbial dice.
I started out with a French farmhouse ale called ST. SYLVESTRE GAVROCHE, a red ale in the bier de garde style. It was a shot in the dark, and this time it missed the mark by a wide margin. It tasted to me like a tart red lager, with a predominant taste of cherries and some caramel & general toastiness. The other taste I got out of it was aspirin – and I hate the taste of aspirin in my beer, don’t you? Not a boring ale by any means, but not a good one. For my first French beer ever, I’m pretty sure, it was kind of a bummer in the Indian summer. We gave it a 4.5/10.
You get off to a bad start like that one, you need to recover in a hurry, and that’s when I ordered up all-time favorite beer, TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 8, followed very quickly by a TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 6. The latter was so fantastic that I’ve resolved to re-rate it to a 10/10 from its previous perch at 9/10, and which brings it up the Hedonist Beer Jive charts into our Top 20. I absolutely love the Rochefort beers; I think they are without a doubt the finest of the true-blue trappist beermakers. Sitting out there in the balmy New York night, eating the food of the godz, and drinking the beer of the godz, shuckin’ and jivin’ and gossiping about people from work, it was hard to call it quits, but we did. I am glad this place has stayed in business for close to three years now, and highly recommend it if you should find yourself in Manhattan, as many folks so often do.