Saturday, October 8, 2011

New York Pub Crawls -- Part I -- Cafe D'Alsace

New York City. What a helluva town.

Sorry Canada, but I would move there in a heartbeat if there wasn’t all sorts of hassles with visas and green cards. Those border guys ask a lot of questions. I wouldn’t try going on vacation and never leaving. It might not work out so well for you. They’ll catch on pretty quick unless you can marry yourself off before they find you.

That’s not a knock on Canada, only a comment on how great New York is. Go before you die. Don't argue. Just go.

This is a city that has something for you to do no matter where you are from, what you are into or what language you speak. Needless to say, there are some seriously fun beer joints and a cast of characters to be found in New York City bars as well.

A friend recently asked me “how can you stand drinking in bars on you own”? If the answer isn't a smart-alec one like "I don't stand. I sit down" then the real answer is: "characters". In the time it takes to find the bottom of a glass (two, perhaps) you will likely find yourself already in conversation with a character. Think about it another way: if I was hostage to companionship to fulfill my craft-beer sipping needs I would be a rather insistent and bothersome person who would hound people to go drinking with me in order to fulfill my own selfish needs. I prefer to go solo when necessary and run into the characters bestowed on you by the beer gods. The New York City beer gods have been generous to me.

First, a word on why I was there in the first place. I was there to take a flight to Argentina. This saved me over $500 compared to the same flight out of Toronto and had the added bonus of forcing me to be in one of the world’s greatest cities for a couple days to drink at bars that I have only read about on the internet. What a hassle, eh? If Canadian craft brewers want more of my money then they should lobby for lower airport taxes.

Arriving early in the morning by bus (a harrowing journey filled with a very different sort of characters) I found cheap eats, dropped my bags with a thoroughly unpleasant person at a luggage storage facility near the Port Authority, took in Bryant Park with a newspaper, and gawked a bit at the MOMA until a respectable drinking hour was reached.

I had sent out some Tweets the weeks before to try and meet some like-minded beer people and

was invited by Gianni Cavicchi (check him out here, here and here) to pop by for a drink during his shift at Café D’Alscae where he works as a beer sommelier. If you can’t go there for a drink then pop by his BeerSomm blog (co-written with Damon Oscarson). If you "don't get Twitter" this is a good example of what it is good for: breaking the ice and finding new drinking buddies.

The café is gorgeous and features a pleasing visual palette of wood and yellow paint that makes you feel upbeat like you are enjoying a cloudless day but without the pesky sun getting in your eyes (perhaps an Alsatian picnic?).

If you aren’t already thirsty when you arrive you will be when you sit down at the bar.

Gianni is a very friendly guy. He will be the guy who is smiling by the bar and attending to drink-related details. He took the time to pick out a pint for a thirsty traveler and made me feel very much at home by introducing me to a group of his friends who were midway through a platter of tempting cheeses and charcuterie. Maybe he is a people sommelier too.

The history books will show that the first beer I enjoyed in New York was a Bronx Brewery Pale Ale he recommended. The beer was only a couple days old and was the newest tap in town at the time as the brewery had only just launched. It was a solid pint and I wish the folks at the Bronx Brewery the very best of luck--another good use for Twitter.

Looking at art and reading in parks is exhausting work and I one beer wasn't going to cut it. Something chewier was in order to fill me up so I switched to a Founders Breakfast Stout. I was familiar with Founders by name but had never had the pleasure until that moment. This is a much better thing to come out of Michigan than those annoying tourism ads. Might I suggest that the beers of Michigan would be a more effective tourism lure for Canadians? Canada already has access to the waters of Lake Michigan, but less so to the beers of that state.
My time at D’Aslace was limited as I needed to settle into my digs for the night before resuming my search for tasty beer. I was staying on a friend’s boat in Long Island (big thanks to Lars and Chris!). I managed to settle in and get back to Manhattan fairly quickly--thirst is an incredible motivator--and arrived at Rattle N’ Hum after a short walk from Penn Station.

That Adventure in Alcohol will have to wait for part II. In the meantime you can read my notes from Cafe D'Alsace.

6.3 %
Bronx, New York City

At the time it was drinking this beer was three days old. Hoppy has hell to start off but it mellows out to a less aggressive but still quite assertive level. A nice way to settle into a stool after a long day of walking.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Voluminous head, espresso nose. Scents and flavours of coffee, cocoa and creamy oats. The body rides the line between slick and syrupy. This beer is sinfully chewy and delicious. A real winner here, folks.

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