Category Archives: Bars

Beer Nerd PSA: Cantillion Zwanze Day 2013 is This Saturday

Cantillon Zwanze Day 2013

Just an (un)friendly reminder: Cantillon’s 2013 Zwanze Day is this Saturday, September 14. I wrote about the event last year, and believe you me, it was a blast.

Details on this year’s event and a full list of locations can be found on Cantillon’s website. Or read more about it here.

I’ll be at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA, on Saturday. If you spot me—I’ll be the guy with the Red Sox hat and the beer—leave me the fuck alone, huh? I’ll be busy drinking Cantillon.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: d.b.a. in New York City’s East Village

d.b.a. beer bar in New York City's East Village

Last week, while working in Manhattan, I stopped in for a quick beer at d.b.a, which is located in New York City’s East Village neighborhood. I visited around lunchtime on a Friday afternoon, and it was absolutely dead, so my experience probably isn’t representative of the typical d.b.a visit. But I got a good enough feel for the bar that I decided to write it up in my next Barfly’s View.

Two more d.b.a. bars exist, one in Brooklyn and one in New Orleans. The name d.b.a. stands for Doing Business As, which is the term the owners put on the licensing papers when first opening because they couldn’t decide on a name. They never did, and the d.b.a. designation stuck. (The bartender also told me he sometimes tells curious assholes like me that d.b.a. stands for “Don’t bother asking.”)

The outside of d.b.a. isn’t exactly welcoming. It looks like a dark old bodega or something. But I kind of like that, and shady facades have never kept me away from quality beer bars. d.b.a. is just that. The bar had about 15 drafts available, including a few local New York beers and some quality Belgian and German ales. One of my favorite things about d.b.a. is that it lists the dates the kegs were tapped, so you can tell which ones are the most fresh. That’s a nice gesture, and it shows the proprietors know the importance of fresh beer. The bar also has a beer engine that pours cask conditioned ales.

The taps at d.b.a. aren’t the main attraction, though—not for me, at least. It’s the bottle list that’s truly impressive. And it’s the quality of that list not the quantity of bottles. d.b.a. offers quite a few bottles, but I saw a dozen or so very interesting limited release bottles from breweries like Fantome and The Proef, and I drank a bottle of Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, which is one of my favorite krieks.

Overall, I was impressed with the beer selection at d.b.a., but I do have one notable complaint: The list of beers on its website is completely inconsistent with the beers that are actually available. For example, the d.b.a. website says it currently offers a number of different Cantillon lambics, and that’s the reason I walked from Midtown to the East Village in the first place. But I was disappointed to find that the bar didn’t have a single one.

Inside d.b.a. beer bar in New York City's East Village

The bartender was friendly, unassuming and willing to humor me by answering a bunch of what must have seemed like random questions for this post. He didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about beer, though. For example, the dude didn’t even recognize the name Cantillon when I asked him about the lambics listed on the bar’s website, which is a bit of sin for a bar that prides itself on serving quality Belgain brews.

The bar doesn’t serve food, only beer and liquor.

As for the atmosphere, d.b.a. is fairly dingy, with dinged-up wooded stool and tables that clearly show their age. But it’s not dirty. New Orleans Saints paraphernalia can be found on the walls in some place, probably as a nod to d.b.a.’s Big-Easy-based sister bar. A small outside seating area can be found behind the barroom, but it was far too cold when I visited for it to be open, and the bar was empty anyway.

Despite New York City regulations against it, d.b.a. is also somewhat animal friendly. Patrons can bring dogs in, as long as they’re kept on leases, and you may even spot a bold feline named Maggie mingling with locals on occasion.

I’ve only visited a handful of New York City beer bars, and The Ginger Man is still probably my favorite. But d.b.a. is located in a cooler location with far fewer tourists, and its bottle list makes it a worthy destination for any beer nerd wandering Manhattan in search of quality craft brew.

Learn more about d.b.a. on its website, DrinkGoodStuff.com.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, MA

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Last fall, I Barfly’s View’d the fuck out of Boston’s Bukowski Tavern, one of my regular haunts. Today, I’m spotlighting Buk Boston’s sister bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Inman Square, which I don’t visit as often but still stop by a few times a year.

The hipster vibe is palpable at Bukowski Tavern Cambridge, probably even more so than at Buk Boston, and you’re guaranteed to spot lots of tattoos. But the bartenders are friendly enough to non-regulars, and they’re usually knowledgeable about the beer they serve. One complaint: Yesterday the beer list was a mess. I ordered two beers that were on the draft list but weren’t tapped yet. And when I asked about the rotating gueuze as the beer book told me to, I was told they no longer sell gueuze. (Get your shit together, Buk.)

My favorite thing about Bukowski Tavern Cambridge is the atmosphere. The bar is inside an old mechanics’ garage, and its facade is still composed of two garage doors with rows of square-glass windows. A long bar runs along the right side as you enter, there are booths in the middle of the long thin space and tables just inside the entrance. Bukowski and Hank-Chinaski-related imagery adorns the walls. Behind the bar, hundreds of thick glass beer steins hang above the bartenders, a testament to the popularity of Buk Cambridge’s “mug club,” which requires that you drink every bottled beer they offer within a six-month period.

From BukowskiTavern.net:

“Bukowski Tavern is not responsible for any excessive weigh gain, marriage annulments, black eyes, one night stands, or spur of the moment tribal tattoo arm bands that one may incur throughout the process of completing your mug. Although completing a mug is an awesome accomplishment, it does not shoot said customer into the ranks of infinite coolness that are currently occupied by the bar staff at Bukowski Tavern.”

Well put.

Bukowski Tavern offers more than 100 bottles at any given time, in addition to a handful of “extra special bottles,” and 30 or more drafts. Buk also has a beer engine that serves up unique cask-conditioned offerings. And you can spin the Wheel of Beer if you can’t decide what you want to drink. But if you want the truth, only fucking amateurs spin the Beer Wheel.

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Food is fairly standard pub grub, and though I’ve never actually eaten at the bar—I hit up East Coast Grill for grub when in Inman Square, which is next door to Buk—my brother is a semi regular, and he tells me the quality has gone downhill in recent days.

I also get a kick out of Bukowski’s “Hobo Special,” which gets you a hot dog and a 40-ounce of your choice for $6.99. You won’t catch me drinking a fucking 40, unless it’s made by Dogfish Head. But I’m sure lots of grimy college kids and other lowlifes take advantage of the Hobo Special.

I still prefer Bukowski Boston, but that’s largely because it has sentimental value to me. Both bars make my list of Boston’s best beer bars, and you should definitely make a stop at each if you’re ever in Boston’s Back Bay or Inman Square in Cambridge.

UBN

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On Beer and Tea

Bar sign drink beer tea sucks

“After water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink in the world.” – Garrett Oliver, in the preface to the 2011 Oxford Companion to Beer. (Oliver is the brewmaster at The Brooklyn Brewery.)

Interesting factoid. But the above image, taken last year outside of Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, Mass., sums up my feelings on the subject.

UBN

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AT&T Park to Get Even More Beer-Friendly Thanks to New Anchor Brewery, Restaurant and Museum

Anchor Steam Beer at AT&T Park

If you read this blog, you know I’m a beer lover. What you might not know is that I’m also obsessed with baseball. I attend dozens of MLB games each year, and I always try to visit new ballparks during my travels. My favorite park is Fenway Park in Boston. But not too far behind Fenway is San Francisco’s AT&T Park, home of the Giants.

AT&T Park is far and away the most beer-nerd-friendly ball park I’ve ever been too. It’s easy to find a good selection of Anchor brews inside the park, which already gives it an advantage over many other parks that still focus mostly on Budweiser and Coors. And there’s even a top-notch beer bar inside AT&T Park called Public House that offers a very impressive lineup of craft beer drafts.

AT&T Park will increase its beer appeal even more in the coming years. Anchor Brewing Co. today announced along with Giants that it will begin construction in 2014 on a new brewing facility not far from AT&T Park, inside the Giants’ Mission Rock Development space. The new facility is expected to quadruple Anchor’s annual beer-production capacity from 180,000 barrels to 680,000 barrels, according to a press release from the Giants. And it will also include a new restaurant and museum, as well as a restored walkway that will let pedestrians see into the Anchor brewhouse.

From that release:

“Anchor will continue to operate its facility in Potrero Hill, but will greatly expand its operations with the development of the Pier 48 facility…Pier 48, the southern-most structure of the Port’s Embarcadero Historic District, will be fully rehabilitated and re-established as an industrial hub of the central waterfront…Anchor will offer tours of the facilities and educational seminars with a focus on the history of craft beer, the art of craft distilling and Anchor’s history in San Francisco. “

Though the new brewing facility isn’t actually inside AT&T Park, it’s within walking distance, and the brewery/museum will be a great place to swing by for a few brews before the baseball game. The actually facility won’t likely be operational until 2016 at the earliest, according to RealBeer.com, so it’ll be a while before Anchor opens the doors, but I look forward to checking it out as soon as possible.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Burger Bar in Las Vegas, Nevada

Burger Bar Las Vegas entrance

I haven’t found too many quality beer bars in Las Vegas, but Burger Bar in Mandalay Place qualifies.

Burger Bar is literally located in a mall between Mandalay Bay and Luxor so it feels kind of out of place, and the ambiance isn’t exactly beer-nerd chic. But it has a solid beer list with dozens of drafts and even more bottles.

It’s not called Burger Bar for nothing; the burgers (Black Angus, Naturesource or Kobe beef; lamb; buffalo; chicken; salmon; turkey; or veggie) are to die for. You build your own burger monstrosity using dozens of possible toppings, and they have four different kinds of French fries (skinny; fat; sweet potato; and buttermilk zucchini) in addition to a bunch of other greasy shit for sides. Neither the beer nor the food is cheap, but that’s to be expected in a mostly-upscale Vegas bar.

Burger Bar Las Vegas

I had a turkey burger with a fried egg on it, a side of skinny fries and a St. Louis Framboise draft, and I was in heaven on The Strip.

The servers didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about the beer, but they were extremely friendly and attentive, even though the bar was busy when I stopped by.

If you’re looking for bar with an interesting craft beer selection and good eats in Las Vegas, you could definitely do worse than Burger Bar. (Todd English P.U.B. in Aria is also worth a visit.)

UBN

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Barfly’s View: The Ginger Man in New York City

The Ginger Man New York City

I travel to New York City a few times a year for work, and whenever I do I always make it a point to swing by The Ginger Man in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. The dimly lit beer bar is located on East 36th St., just off of busy Fifth Ave and a couple of blocks from the Empire State Building. And it’s probably my favorite New York bar.

The dim barroom is large, and it’s cast in a slightly orange light thanks to its many tinted lamps and chandeliers. The bar itself is made of glossy, dark wood, and it’s complimented by matching wooden tables and chairs scattered throughout. There are also a number of easy chairs and padded couches in the front and rear areas of the Ginger Man, which makes the bar feel a bit like a loud, dark coffee shop.

The Ginger Man New York City

The New York Ginger Man was opened in 1996, a decade after the original Ginger Man opened its doors in Houston, Texas and quickly become a well-known beer nerd haven. The bar is named after the popular 1950s J.P. Donleavy novel.

The Ginger Man has 70 taps, and a bottle list with about 160 interesting options. I visited two days in a row this week, and I had a bottle of St. Louis Kriek, and Rodenbach Grand Cru, Vicaris Tripel Gueuze, Bahnhof Berlinerweisse drafts. I’ve never tried the food there, but the menu’s composed of typical pub appetizers, salads, sandwiches, hot dogs and sausages.

The bartenders are knowledgeable, if slightly standoffish at times. Some of the beers are rather pricey, but that should be expected due to its location. Overall, I’m a big fan o’ The Ginger Man. If you’re ever in Midtown Manhattan doing the tourist thing and you need a quality brew, you’d do well to swing by The Ginger Man.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Todd English P.U.B in Las Vegas, Nevada

Todd English P.U.B. Las Vegas ARIA

Anyone who is familiar with the Las Vegas restaurant and bar scene knows Sin City is the land of buffets, celebrity-chef branded restaurants and in-casino bars designed to serve free drinks to fools gamblers. To say Las Vegas doesn’t exactly have a lot of beer bars would be an understatement. But that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have any beer-nerd friendly establishments at all. (Check out my recent post for a list of the best beer bars I found on a recent trip to Las Vegas.)

One such beer-nerd friendly joint is Todd English’s Public Urban Bar, or P.U.B. (Mr. English obviously thought this name was quite clever; I think it’s kind of corny, but, honestly, the name of the bar doesn’t matter, I was just happy to find a craft-beer-centric spot in the middle of the Vegas Strip.)

Todd English’s P.U.B. is located inside ARIA hotel and casino, at the ARIA entrance closest to the Crystals shopping center and The Strip. ARIA is one of my favorite Vegas casinos, and it is home to a great Chinese restaurant I always visit when in the area, Blossom, so I’m a fan of P.U.B.’s location.

The beer list is decent, nothing exceptional, but impressive for Las Vegas, with a solid draft list of 30 or more beers and an adequate bottle list. The draft beers, however, are rather expensive at $12 each for the better brews (I drank New Belgium’s Snow Day and a Fruli Strawberry beer), but I visited during “happy hour”—between 3 PM and 6 PM—so I got my brews for half off, which basically reduced the price to a semi-normal number.

Todd English P.U.B. Las Vegas ARIA

I didn’t try the food, because it too was exorbitantly expensive, especially for bar food. But the menu did look appetizing, thanks to some interesting twists on typical pub grub. The tattooed, hipster bartenders supplied free shelled peanuts, and you can just drop the shells on the floor when you’re done eating. I don’t know why, but I’m a big fan of the whole eat-nuts, drop-shells-on-the-floor thing, so P.U.B. gets a thumbs-up on that account.

The atmosphere in Todd English’s P.U.B. is a bit too Vegas for me, meaning too shiny, fancy and loud, but it is located on The Strip, in one of the nicer casinos, so, you know, that makes sense. A number of tables around the bar have built-in taps so you can pour your own beer, and they were clearly a hit with the customers I saw using them. P.U.B. also had a nice dart-board area, so if you like throwing sharp objects at circular cork board, you’ll find a friend in P.U.B.

Overall, I’m a fan of Todd English P.U.B., especially because it is one of the few craft-beer bars I found in Las Vegas. The bar’s website is down at the time of writing, but hopefully you’ll be able to find information on Todd English P.U.B.’s site in the future.

UBN

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Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas: 11 Places to Find Good Beer in Sin City

Welcome to Las Vegas sign

I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to beer bars, because I live in Boston, a city with a thriving craft beer scene. Boston is packed with great beer bars. (Check out my list of the best Boston beer bars here.)

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to locate quality beer bars, but depending on the area I’m in, that’s not always an easy task. This week I was in Las Vegas, Nevada, and though there’s definitely no shortage of bars in Vegas, the craft-beer scene is somewhat lacking. Las Vegas is a drinking city for sure, but the focus is mostly on free drinks for gamblers or expensive bottles of fancy-schmancy booze and Champagne for clubhoppers.

That said, I was able to find a handful of quality establishments that cater to beer nerds like myself. The following list isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to beer bars in Vegas, but each and every one of these bars serves quality beer, and each and every one of them gets a thumbs up from this Urban Beer Nerd. If you know of another joint that I should know about, drop a comment below.

UBN

Image via LasVegas360.com

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Barfly’s View: Deep Ellum in Allston, MA

Deep Ellum Barfly's View Allston Boston MA

Deep Ellum is a chic, atmospheric beer/cocktail bar in Boston’s Allston neighbor, which is commonly referred to as the city’s “college ghetto.” At least that’s what I call the area, thanks to its large population of college kids and recent college graduates fucking around before starting Real Life. Allston is also Boston’s hipster center; the only place I’ve been with more hipsters per capita is Brooklyn, New York. (The bar is named after the Deep Ellum section of Dallas, Texas, which is known for its music and nightlife scene.)

Though Deep Ellum is located right in the college kid/hipsters zone, it’s not really a college hangout or hipster haven; it’s a little of both, I guess, but it’s also a great beer bar staffed with passionate and knowledgeable bartenders and waiters. It is without a doubt one of my 10 favorite beer bars in Boston. (Check out my full list of the Best Boston Beer Bars.)

One of the coolest things about Deep Ellum is its unique atmosphere. The bar top is made of glossy, dark wood; there are black and white television sets in both corners of the barroom, and they only play random old movies, sometimes just static, with no sound; reddish-orange lamps hang above the bar and lend an amber hue to the dimly-lit room; and a network of overhead fans powered by and connected to each other by rubber belts provide an industrial flair.

Deep Ellum Bar Boston Allston MA

The bar has 25 or so taps on at any given time, with many local brews and limited-release or hard to find imports, including many great Belgian ales. Deep Ellum has a cask. And its bottle list is impressive. In fact, you’ll often find bottles of Cantillon and other rarities. Deep Ellum is also known for its wide array of cocktails, but I don’t drink cocktails, so I don’t have any firsthand experience with them.

The food at Deep Ellum is upscale comfort food, and it can be a bit pricey. I’m particularly fond of its appetizers, especially the handmade pretzels with beer cheese and mustard. I’ve had dinner there a few times, but I find the entrees to be overpriced, so I stick to the snacks for the most part. (The bar is also connected to the popular Lone Star Taco Bar, so you can just walk next door for food if tacos are your thing.)

Deep Ellum’s bartenders are cool and willing to chat up beer nerds. Nicole, in particular, gets a big shout out from me because she knows her shit and she really brightened up my day last Friday when I was having a personal poor-me pity party. (Thanks Nicole.)

Any beer nerd looking to hit up the best bars in Boston should have Deep Ellum on his or her list. Learn more about Deep Ellum on the bar’s website.

UBN

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