My search for the best beer in New York continues….
I should probably be up front about this. I’ve never been a big drinker. It doesn’t take much more than two or three drinks to knock me out. So when I go out for dinner or cocktails, I usually just have one so I can keep my wits about me. Unless, of course, it’s a special occasion and I have the entire next day free to recover.
This will be interesting for me now that I’m doing a beer search. I’ll either build up a tolerance, get smashed every single day, or end up throwing half the beer away. I’m afraid, it’s the latter that happened at Spitzer’s Corner.
I had been to this corner neighborhood beer bar a few times for birthday parties and to meet up with friends. I always found it very comfortable and inviting, if overly crowded, and remember being perpetually wowed by their huge draft beer selection. They have 4o draft beers and more than that in the bottle.
I came around 6:00, so the crowd had not started to congregate yet. The service was very friendly and I didn’t even mind when the waiter checked my ID (he even needed to take it to the bar to scan it!). I’m glad I passed the test.
In a cozy little spot facing the street, I began to study their massive selection. Now it’s going to be a little easier for me to narrow down which beers I order because I’m sticking to the most local ones. The first one that caught my eye was Captain Lawrence, which is just in Westchester County. I had visited their brewery a few years ago and have been a fan of their brews. Yet I had not encountered this one before. It’s called Freshchester (presumably after the county and the quality of the ingredients).
The Freshchester is a pale ale and it had a strong amber color with grapefruit aromas on the nose. The first sip revealed some bitter hops, but those mellowed out to a sweet flavor in the middle and finally finished with some more fresh citrus. I found it quite balanced with a light, but firm carbonation. It was refreshing and complex.
I went up to the bar to get a closer look at their selection and I noticed the blackboard proclaiming the Happy Hour special. Until 7pm every weekday, they offer $2 off all their draft beers. That’s when I realized I wouldn’t be leaving here with ordering just one beer. So I examined the list again.
The second (and final) beer I got was not something I normally would have been attracted to. It was the Chelsea Brewing Company’s Blackberry Wheat. No fancy, witty names for this – just calling it what it is. I have not been to the brewery yet, but if this is an indication of what they brew, I’m not that eager to walk west.
Fruit beers aren’t generally my thing, but if they’re fresh and well-rounded, I certainly can be convinced. I am a big fan of fruit and a big fan of beer, so why shouldn’t I like fruit beers?
This one didn’t help matters. It had a hazy, unfiltered hue and the nose was not terribly pleasant. It smelled like fruit-flavored plastic, if that makes any sense. Didn’t really make me want to dive in.
But I did. I was overwhelmed with a sweet, butter flavor which surprised me (this might have been a problem with the bar’s taps). I didn’t actually get much blackberry at all. If anything, it tasted faintly of a jolly rancher (and I’m no expert, but I don’t think there was ever a blackberry jolly rancher). The beer sat heavily on my mouth and took a while for that sweet, thin, tangy flavor to settle. I’m willing to bet this beer isn’t actually even made with real blackberries.
Like the Freschester, I only drank half this. However, unlike the Freschester which I didn’t finish for practical reasons, this one left a sour taste in my mouth and I just didn’t want to drink anymore.
So I drank two half beers. For anybody keeping track, that’s one full beer, but I saved $4 and I was able to walk out of there without the need for assistance.
Is Captain Lawrence’s Freschester the best beer in NY? It’s a well-balanced and refreshingly tart pale ale with lots of complexity earning it an 8 out of 10.
Is Chelsea Brewing’s Blackberry Wheat the best beer in NY? It gets a 5 out of 10 because even for a fruit beer, this one tasted artificial and was lacking much substance.
|CAPTAIN LAWRENCE BREWING COMPANY|
|CHELSEA BREWING COMAPNY|
|101 Rivington Street (between Essex and Ludlow Street),
Lower East Side