Wednesday, November 26, 2008


This is part two of an epic two-part series detailing my beer consumption adventures in Brooklyn, New York last week. In one night I visited two bars and tried four new beers – isn’t that something worth reading about? Well, read on, my friends. When we last left the plotline, I was being talked into – well, that’s not quite fair, I was agitating strongly for – continuing from BARCADE and checking out the legendary SPUYTEN DUYVIL beer bar in Williamsburg. I’ve heard much about this place for a couple of years, but had never broached the doorway until last Tuesday. Now take a look at that doorway, will ya? (both pictures courtesy of Mark Schwartz). There’s no sign announcing the place – you just have to “know”. Once inside, we were greeted with a gaggle of beer enthusiasts in every corner of this tiny bar, drinking from Belgian-style chalices and all manner of appropriate stemware for the beer styles they were ingesting. Sign of quality. I was in.

Mark & Elisa told me that on the east coast, what we call a “beer dork” on the west coast is typically represented here by a beard and a tight sweater wrapped around an expanding, pear-shaped frame. Hunh. The beard thing kind of threw me. On the west coast, our beer dorks seem to have sort of an aging fraternity-brother vibe about them: baggy shorts, backward baseball cap, t-shirts etc. Anyway, we couldn't find any extent examples of the east coast variety at SPUYTEN DUYVIL, but then I was too busy getting flustered looking at all the beer choices. This is a true beer enthusiast’s bar, the kind of place catering to the high-end ale drinker who knows his/her sh*t and is ready to try whatever’s newest, freshest and most obscure. It’s an underground insider’s punk rock dive, just cleaned up and with better furniture & top-shelf glassware. Have to say it was even better than I expected for the 45 minutes I spent there. Beer? Oh, did you want to know what I tried? Well, I only had one of the greatest revelations of the past year. Let me explain.

The revelation in question was CAPTAIN LAWRENCE CAPTAIN’S RESERVE IMPERIAL IPA, served up in a 10-ounce, wine-like glass. This double/imperial IPA was smooth as silk and loaded with hops, but rather than being “zesty” or “citrusy”, this big IPA was restrained, muted, still, and with all the rough edges rounded off. A real “big boy drink”. Balanced like you wouldn’t believe. After having so many hop bombs in my time, and enjoying most of them but being none too impressed with their sameness, this knockout from Captain Lawrence was (can I say it again?) revelatory. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but I had it again the next night in Manhattan, and it was just as amazing. 10/10. Welcome to the Hedonist Beer Jive 65, Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA!

The final pour of the evening was also outstanding – and no, it wasn’t just the beer talking, I was choosing well, OK? In all the excitement I drank something I’d already had before – whoops – but that something now gets an upgrade in its score to a big 9/10. AVERY FIFTEEN is Avery Brewing’s Fifteenth anniversary ale, and it was a pretty controversial one last summer. This funky tripel with figs & spices arose a lot of passions – I had at least two people tell me that thought it was a “pour out”, also known as a “drain pour” – I think you get the picture – but I don’t quite understand that. It’s a remarkable beer, a true representation of the modern brewer’s art. Again, 9/10. What did I say last time I had it? Here:

….AVERY FIFTEEN tastes like it just arrived on the early boat from Belgium along with the fondue pots. A distinct floral smell, and immediate taste of hibiscus (yeah, seriously!). A little mild, tart funk, much like you’d find in a classic Trappist tripel like the WESTMALLE. Complex and big, and an almost light orange in color. They say it’s supposed to taste of figs. I don’t taste any, but I don’t care. This is a unique beer that’s highly drinkable for the amount of experimentation going on inside of it…..

NOW it was time to stumble to the subway for the quick ride back to Manhattan. In sum, I’d go back to SPUYTEN DUYVIL anytime – maybe earlier in the evening, before the hoards arrive – and since BARCADE is essentially “down the block” from there, why not hit ‘em both up. Good times, good people, great spelunking. I came home two days later and boycotted beer for (gasp!) several days…..!


Steve said...

Agree with you on the Avery Fifteen. I had only had a small sample of it at the Stone anniversary, but I could not understand why people were hating it so much.

Aaron said...

Yeah, the Captain Lawrence DIPA is mindblowing. It's a shame so few people can try it. One of my favorite on the planet.