Going to New York City for work in the olden days – i.e. my many, many trips there 2004-2006 – always meant good meals & excellent streetwalking/impulse buying, but rarely did it mean good beer. Sure, I went out for drinks with co-workers from time to time, but going to New York now means going to a city utterly transformed when it comes to your & my favorite adult beverage. This place is just loaded with amazing bars, and incredible restaurants with incredible beer selections. I was introduced to a site called BEER MENUS that the New Yorkers all seem to use to find their way around town, drink-wise, and – well – just look at it. There’s no shortage of wild Belgians, high-ABV one-offs and fresh local pints to consume across at least two of the five boroughs (I'll try Staten Island and the Bronx next time).
I decided to set my first-night-in-town sights on RATTLE N HUM in midtown Manhattan, and booked my hotel room accordingly. (“Why are you staying all the way at Park & 39th, Jay?”. “Hmm, no real reason, that’s just what came up as being in our travel policy when I tried to book a room”.). I was wary of this place initially, when I saw their name – yeah, named after the U2 album. Ouch. Yet I walked by there right when they opened last year, took a gander inside, and decided that it would be a fine place to drink some of the strangest & most unique east coast beers – what a tap list! So I shot an email to Aaron from THE VICE BLOG, whom we’ve never actually met but whom you may remember from the interview we did with him here, and he informed me that only an hour before my email another similar email had some in from The Captain, as in THE CAPTAIN’S CHAIR beer blog. He was coming to town as well, same night, and they’d already planned to meet here. Beer dork city all the way. So we made the plan, rendezvoused at Rattle & Hum at the anointed hour, and threw down a few big ones.
This was definitely a night where socializing, not note-taking, was the primary objective. So my descriptions & accounts of the beers I consumed are taken from memory & the “scrawled” digital notes I pecked into my phone. That said, I’ve rarely had a night where my shot-in-the-dark picks were more spot-on. 4 beers, 4 big winners, none of which I’ve ever had before, and only two of which were recommended to me. The others I was just wingin’ it. Here goes:
KUHNHENN “PLAY IN THE HAY” – I don’t think it’s possible to get the real story on this beer online – we had trouble even getting it at the bar itself. This weird-ass Michigan brewer, who apparently were a hardware store at one point who changed to craft brewing when Home Depot moved across the street, have a number of fruit beers, several of the cherry persuasion like this one. When Aaron G had this one a week ago, they called it HAIRY CHERRY; now it’s apparently PLAY IN THE HAY. Whatever, it’s not a lambic, as is claimed on Beer Advocate. It’s a low-ABV fruit beer that’s out of this world. Sweet, smooth and not tart in the least – just a beautiful fruit ale, with sediment at the end just to remind you that this ain’t no fruit juice. 8/10.
ALLAGASH ODYSSEY – This is the first Allagash Brewing that’s absolutely knocked my friggin’ socks off. I’m pretty sure this dark photo to your right is a picture I took of it. It’s a 10% Belgian strong dark ale; I remember thinking it tasted incredibly smooth and like something you’d have out of a snifter – oaked and mysterious and so good. Conversation and yuks kept me from doing anything but going wow-wow-wow under my breath and typing a 8.5/10 into my phone.
LONG TRAIL BREWMASTER SERIES DOUBLE IPA – Expecting a simple hoppy beer, I got this delicious double IPA with balance to die for. Never had anything from these guys before but you can bet I’ll be going back to the well next time I’m in Vermont – or here. 7.5/10.
CAPTAIN LAWRENCE FRESH CHESTER PALE ALE – I wanted to take it down a notch, have something really easy to send me back to the hotel, but with Captain Lawrence Brewing, nothing’s quite what you think it’s gonna be, and it’s usually 10 times better than anything else. This is a terrific pale ale, really creamy and piney and quite hoppier than expected. Really tasty and totally recommended. 8/10.