BIRRERIA, 200 Fifth Avenue (between 23rd and 24th Street), 14th Floor

It’s been a while since I’ve visited Manhattan’s most centrally located brewery. It’s also a beer destination that many never think about. That’s because Birreria is hidden on the rooftop of the very popular Italian mega-grocer Eataly. But up here, a handful of brewers make some really unique cask-conditioned ales to pair with the restaurant’s seasonal menu.

Most of their beers feature surprising herbs, fruits, or vegetables in the brew and it makes for a refreshing and culinary-focused experience.

At any given time, they only have three housemade beers on tap. Two are usually seasonal and the other is one of their “flagship” beers. One that has been floating around for a while, but I never got a taste of is the Gina.

Gina Thyme Pale Ale at LA BIRRERIA

Gina is what they dub a Thyme Pale Ale, an American style loaded with piney resiny hops and a whole bunch of aromatic thyme. If I hadn’t been told, I might have mistaken the herb for oregano, but I certainly wouldn’t have missed it. It’s not terribly subtle and is the main flavor of the beer.

Your enjoyment of this unfiltered, low carbonation beer has to do for your enjoyment of thyme. It’s a difficult and complicated beer to wrap your head around and almost screams for food. Towards the end, I did discover some candied malt notes that helped with balance. But I feel like some citrus or fruit characteristics would have helped to tame the thyme.

Birreria’s beers are not cheap ($10) or overly accessibile to the mass beer drinkers. But they are certainly interesting and designed to be a complement or a foil to the food. Some of them are hard to digest by just sitting at the bar and drinking.

The rooftop bar has recently been turned into Sabbia, a seaside themed restaurant focusing on coastal Italian food. The beer will remain, so no worries.

Is La Birreria’s Gina the best beer in NY? I can’t say it is because the interesting and surprising ingredient just takes over and it tastes more like thyme than anything else. 6 out of 10.

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Category: Beer

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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