Put down that watery draft beer! The craft-beer movement has taken New York City by storm, and bars around town are tapping into a supply of artisanal brews made by small producers around the country. At these hopsheads meccas, you can geek out by learning the nuances of the various offering - and get a little tipsy to boot. Click through the slideshow below to see our guide to the best craft-beer bars New York has to offer. Got a go-to pint for the season? Let us know your favorite in the comments.
- Beer Table
Why It's Cool: This Park Sloper has everything it needs to land on anyone's short list of beer meccas. There are seven draft lines and a cask that are devoted to a selection that hails from around the world, 25 by-the-bottle offerings and a "cellared beer" component that consists of rare bottles that you might want to whip out for a special occasion. But what really makes it stand out is its menu, which is specially designed to pair with the drink selection. For the low price of $25 per person, you can snag a three-course menu that rotates from night to night. Selections may include items like caramelized bacon with fingerling potatoes or roasted cauliflower with pickled onions and chili flakes. Once you have a meal here, you may start to think that pairing food with wine is totally overrated.
P.S. commuters wanting to score some choice craft beers before hopping on the train at Grand Central should stop by Beer Table Pantry, a new grab-and-go sibling in the terminal.
The Details: 427 Seventh Ave.; 718-965-1196
[Also see: 8 Things You Can Do To Annoy Your Fellow Diners]
- Blind Tiger Ale House
Why It's Cool: If you've been in NYC for a while, chances are you've enjoyed a brew or two at The Blind Tiger Ale House, which has been topping off frosty mugs since 1995 (albeit in multiple locations - its current home is on Bleecker Street). Although the vibe can get a little frat-tastic at times, the healthy selection of brews more than makes up for it (though, you may have to elbow your way to the bar). There are a whopping 28 varieties of beer on tap - you'll find a good mix of American and European producers, with a health dose of Canadian makers thrown in. The ABV% is listed prominently next to the offerings, so you can carefully plan out just how drunk you want to get (and, judging by most of the hops-hounds here, the plan is for "very").
There's a selection of grub that's mostly meant to soak up all the drink - think deviled eggs and a grilled cheese sandwich. IPA lovers should also take note, this trendy beer style is pouring on at least six of the taps at press time.
The Details: 281 Bleecker St.; 212-462-4682
[Also see: Christmas Dining in 8 Cities]
- The Cannibal
Why It's Cool: With over 350 beers to choose from, this storefront run by the folks at neighboring Resto is the closest thing to a craft-beer jackpot that you'll find in the Big Apple. During the day, it really functions as more of a butcher shop, where guests can pick up house-cured meat and sausages made onsite to bring home. In the PM, it converts to a foodie haven where beer lovers can grab one of the hundreds of labels to choose from (don't worry, the staff is there to help you) and enjoy it with some of the meats. The only problem with this place is it's size - it's already become popular with the brew crew, so expect to wait for a seat.
The best thing about those beer coolers is that they keep the snob quotient to a minimum by including selections like PBR and Miller Light. While Cannibal is a place to discover a fancy new favorite, there will be no judgment if you reach for the swill.
The Details: 113 E. 29th St.; 212-686-5480
[Also see: Chik-Fil-A Vs. Eat More Kale Battle Heats Up]
- Colicchio & Sons
Why It's Cool: When Tom Colicchio announced that his Chelsea restaurant Colicchio and Sons would feature a more-casual "tap room" up front, beer lovers knew to be excited. While higher-end dining goes on in the main space, drinkers can camp out at the bar and enjoy a stellar selection of brews along with affordable, but still upscale, grub like a pizza with Taleggio, prosciutto, scallion and soffritto. Over 20 tap lines focus heavily on area producers like an Irish Red Ale from the Davidson Brothers in Glen Falls, NY. If you need a little help making your selection, check out one of the beer flights, which will let you sample a curated selection of three sips for around $11 (the bartenders will also let you take a sip of any unfamiliar varieties before you order a full pint, provided you ask nicely).
If you really feel like blinging out, look at some of the higher-cost options on the draft list. There aren't many other places where an eight-oz. pour will set you back $14, but we think you won't be seeing labels like Evil Twin Brewing's Soft Christmas popping up on other lists around town.
The Details: 85 10th Ave.; 212-400-6699
- Jimmy's No. 43
Why It's Cool: This East Village restaurant and brew bar was devoted to craft beers before the movement was hip, and its proprietor Jimmy Carbone has done a lot to promote the spread of artisanal brews around the city. He's a co-founder of the Good Beer Seal movement, which vouches for the lists at worthy bars (you can get more info about that here). Even our surveyors are impressed with the selection of suds, lauding the eatery for its "killer" beer list. The 12 taps have a selection that ranges from the local (Brooklyn Brewery - represent!) to the far-flung (a Spezial Rauchbier comes from Germany).
The watering hole isn't much to talk about in the decor department, but after a few pints, are you really upset that there aren't fancy sconces? We didn't think so. There's also a kitchen putting out beer-friendly grub like steamed mussels with bacon lardons and a steady stream of events to justify buying another round (scope the calendar here). Even though Carbone started the Good Beer movement, there's no doubt that this place earns its seal of approval.
The Details: 43 E. Seventh St.; 212-982-3006
- Mission Dolores
Why It's Cool: This Park Slope bar is in a retrofitted auto-repair shop, but a kick-ass industrialist decor isn't the only reason to drop by. You will find plenty of labels that you've never heard of on their rotating list of drafts, which you can preview in daily updates on the bar's blog. The selection skews mostly American: out of the 20 kegs being poured, you might find one or two set aside for an interesting pick from Belgium or Denmark. As far as American producers, you'll find a mix of more familiar beer houses like Smutty Nose alongside relatively obscure makers like Rhode Island's Narragansett. Pints are available starting at the low price of $4, with many of them in the $6 or $7 range, and a cask beer is also available daily.
The best time to hit this spot is when it's warm out. Many of the walls are removable, turning the bar into an open-air, urban oasis.
The Details: 249 Fourth Ave.; 718-399-0099
- Pony Bar
Why It's Cool: The most exciting moment at this Hell's Kitchen bar comes when a keg is tapped. Yeah, that's usually a sad time in the life of a beer lover, but once one keg ends here, a new one is unleashed onto the crowd. Just wait for the bartenders to ring the bell, and witness the magic as everyone stops what they're doing and shouts "NEW BEER!" The drinkers here are excited because many of them are on the hunt to become a Pony Bar All American. Once they try 100 unique brews (all of which come from the good old U.S. of A at this haunt), they get a special T-shirt, plus the epic glory that comes with it.
Aficionados pack this place day and night to sup from the rotating drafts, which won't leave you broke since many of the pints are only $5 a pop (an increasingly rare site in this town of $8 pints). Even better is the happy hour that slices $1 off each of the pours from 4:20 to 5:20 PM daily. Combine that with a menu that features inexpensive grub like hot pretzels, and you should be itching to pony up to this bar.
The Details: 637 10th Ave.; 212-586-2707
- Rattle 'N' Hum
Why It's Cool: Craft-beer lovers know that this is the city's best kept secret when it comes to getting a stellar pint. Rattle is located in the dregs of Midtown, where you're much more likely to come across bars like The Blarney Stone than a destination for beer geeks of all stripes. The bar flies under-the-radar, but it still draws a boisterous after-work crowd when it can be standing-room-only despite the ample communal seating in the back of the room. There are 40 brewskis on tap - most are American craft labels, but there are few solid European options thrown into the mix. If that isn't enough hops to get you hoppin', you can score more from an epic bottle list or hit some of the classic cask ales that are dispensed straight from the barrel.
The Details: 14 E. 33rd St.; 212-481-1586
[Also see: Would You Pay $200 Or More For a Meal?]
- Spuyten Duyvil
Why It's Cool: Three words - hipster-beer heaven. This Williamsburg drinkery is the go-to bar for interesting beers on the east side of the river - the taps mix it up with a solid selection of European labels and American options, some of which literally come from down the block at the Brooklyn Brewery. Enjoy your rare and obscure brews with a meat and cheese platter, and you'll see why this locale is so popular with the skinny jeans set. You might have to fight your way to the bar (and deal with some beer-snob 'tude from the bartenders), but there is a big backyard where you can spread out when its warm enough outside. The menu regularly features selections that make beer-lovers drool - keep your eyes peeled for offerings from Vermont's Hill Farmstead Brewery or some of the bar's tasty Japanese brews.
The Details: 359 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn; 718-963-4140
- The Stag's Head
Why It's Cool: This quiet Midtown East brew hall is tucked away behind the more typical Cornerstone Tavern - if you have trouble finding your way, just look for the gigantic buck on the sign outside (its motto is "All American Craft Beer With the Deer"). The bar is a bit cozier than some of the more boisterous watering holes around town, making it perfect for some serious beer-breakdown discussion. You're likely to find a lot of options that you've never tasted before, along with a showcase of excellent labels from local producers, including River Horse Brewery from New Jersey and New York's Ommegang. If you need help navigating the list, stop by on on of Brewery Nights, when the bar features an abundance of beers from one maker.
Another good time to duck in is during happy hour, which goes down from 11 AM-7 PM every day. After knocking back a few of the $4 craft drafts on special, you'll never want to tap the Rockies with a humdrum Coors Light again. You get updates on specials and events on its Twitter account.
The Details: 252 E. 51st St.; 212-888-2453