Rattle N Hum is easy to find as long as you can get to the Empire State Building, which can be a little like finding the end of a rainbow given how frequently it appears on the skyline from wherever you are in New York City... Once you get to the Empire State you’re only a block away.
Long and narrow as you pass the bar, it opens out into tables and benches at the back, with TV screens showing sport and bright beer signs hanging all around like trophies of conquered victims – it’s busy, lively, colourful and there’s a great atmosphere. The beer list is chalked onto a large blackboard with a selection of 40 to choose from, almost entirely American.
Our first visit was fresh off the plane, complete with luggage and that dizzy haze of what-time-is-it jetlag, so that chalkboard had our heads spinning. Freaking out with excitement at the number of beers on offer we each start with a flight of four 4oz pours before moving onto a couple of pints. Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat, Pretty Thing’s Jack D’Or Saison and Coney Island’s Mermaid Pils were all good. Stone’s Ruination IPA smelt amazing and was super fruity, then the kickass bitterness pummelled in; they call it Ruination for a reason. Founder’s Double Trouble was the standout choice, with oranges, peaches, apricots and tropical fruit before a lingering bitterness.
Later in the week we timed our visit perfectly to get a great seat right by the TV showing baseball. A Cigar City Maduro Brown and an Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale were both good and then another flight between us to try a few different brews. An OK Dogfish Head 60 Minute, an excellent black IPA from Barrier called Oil City, Pretty Things Once Upon a Time Porter, which Ron Pattinson helped out on, was dry, roasty and smoky with lots of hops, but they were all overshadowed by Avery’s Maharajah IPA which was so good Matt and I both ordered a pint of it (at 10.5%) and enjoyed every last gulp – amazingly good.
The Ginger Man is a short walk from Rattle N Hum and it’d be silly not to visit one without the other. An English-style pub inside with dark wood all around, complete with tables scratched with the names of past drinkers adding a hidden texture and story, there’s a long bar lined with bar stools and a lounge area out the back.
The beer choice is excellent in range and quality. Crossroads Outrage IPA was that desired smack of citrus we’d flown 3000 miles to get while Lake Placid IPA was the weirdest IPA I’ve ever tasted, being more like a beer made with berry syrup added... Odd but strangely good. Later in the week Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout was super and Matt said Oskar Blues Gubna IIPA was one of his top beers.
Pony Bar is a fun place to drink. It’s a few blocks over from Times Square and you pass the excellent 5Napkin Burger and Shake Shack if you get hungry on the way. ‘All American Craft Beer’ is the banner you walk beneath to get in and they list the beers on two large blackboards. Wooden floors inside, old barrels as tables, benches and bar stools – it’s like an old Western tavern uprooted and brought forward to NYC 2011.
It’s busy when we get there, standing room only, and we squeeze to the bar to order. Ithaca Cascazilla was a big, red, hop monster and Ballast Point Sculpin IPA was all juicy tropical fruits and delicious with a bitterness to keep it interesting. Another Ithaca beer was the worst of the week – Apricot Wheat. Why the hell did I order an apricot wheat beer?! Probably because it was the only thing under 5% but I should’ve known better; it tasted like yogurt. Captain Lawrence’s Captain’s Reserve DIPA restored the balance back towards awesome. Matt had Sixpoint Sweet Triple Action and Left Hand Warrior which were both really good. All beers are $5, which is great value.
We left a little lightheaded and decided to walk to Blind Tiger, figuring it wouldn’t be that far... it was pretty far. Hugging the bright lights of Broadway, we crossed through the city seeing a few sights on the way, gawping at the Empire State Building by night, marvelling at the Flatiron and stopping to ride the wooden escalators in Macy’s (in desperate search of a toilet pit stop).
Blind Tiger is in a cool area of town and there’s a village feel to the place. It’s packed when we arrive, lit by candlelight and a few uplights at the bar. It’s a saison showcase the day we go, with almost half the beers being of that style. The Bruery’s Seven Grain Saison was spectacular; stunning to look at as a hazy lemon colour with a thick foam, it was dry and clean and a little spicy; perfect after that long walk. Lagunitas Pils was equally good to refresh.
We liked Blind Tiger a lot. There’s a cool atmosphere to it with groups of friends chatting animatedly or people on dates chatting intimately; it’s the sort of bar where everything works together. And the beer list is fantastic. Stillwater’s Cellar Door, Southern Tier IPA and Blue Point Rastafa Rye were all good.
And then there’s Heartland Brewery, which have a few places around Manhattan. Walking through Times Square in the rain, one light shone brighter than any others: Brewery. We took shelter from the constant shower (which thankfully stopped when we left the bar) and ordered a flight of the beers. All of them were weird and none made us want to order a pint. It’s worth stopping in and trying the beers, especially in a flight to get through them all, but I was expecting better things.
That’s our beer drinking in Manhattan. The main four bars are all great places to hang out, to drink and to try lots of really good beer.
Here's a map of all the bars, which I'll update with other places as I blog abuot them. These are just the places we drank at on Manhattan and I'm sure there are other great places. We also spent lots of time in Brooklyn; that post is coming soon. I’ve put some photos from the trip on the Pencil&Spoon Facebook page.