Tag Archives: bars

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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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: Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland, ME

Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub in Portland, Maine

Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland, Maine’s Old Port neighborhood is “Maine’s original brew pub”—it was Maine’s first brew pub since the end of prohibition, and it opened in 1988. I stopped by Gritty’s for a few pints a couple of weeks ago during Portland Beer Week, and it turned out to be one of my favorite watering holes I found in a city that’s packed with quality drinking establishments.

The brew pub is just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, and you can see the waterfront area through a back window on clear days. The bar is topped with shiny, battered copper. The bartender was friendly and quick to offer recommendations for other nearby bars and attractions. I didn’t have any food, but I Gritty’s offers a wide range of pub grub.

All of the “real ales” at Gritty McDuff’s are brewed on premise, and it shows; the beers I had were extremely fresh. I’d had a few different Gritty’s beers before my visit; Gritty’s Black Fly Stout isn’t difficult to find in my home city of Boston. But the draft version I had at the brew pub was even more delicious, a truly fine stout.

Gritty McDuff's Mug Club mugs

Gritty’s Mug Club mugs hanging above the bar

Gritty’s regulars can pay $75 a year to join its Mug Club, which gets you a 21-ounce, white ceramic mug of your own and five more ounces of brew for the same price as the standard 16-ounce pints. Five-year Mug Club members get special colored mugs that are even larger. And every Gritty’s pub—there are two more of them, in Freeport and Lewiston/Auburn, Maine—offers two-dollar drafts for Mug Club members two nights a week.

If you’re ever in Portland and have a hankerin’ for a real ale, you’ll find a friend in Gritty McDuff’s.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

Last week I traveled to Portland, Maine, for a few days to celebrate Portland Beer Week. Portland is an amazing New England city by the sea that’s packed with great restaurants, quality breweries and brewpubs, and top-notch beer bars. I hit up nearly a dozen different bars in Portland, but one in particular really stood out: Novare Res Bier Café.

Novare Res is a dark, semi-subterranean beer bar with brick columns and other brick accents, and Belgian-themed decorations throughout, which make for a very cool, laid-back atmosphere. The beer list is amazing; Novare Res has 25 rotating drafts, two hand-pumped casks and more than 500 bottles—I drank some very hard-to-find Cantillon Lambics, Vigneronne and Saint Lamvinus. And Novare Res spotlighted a number of Maine brewers I’d never heard of, as part of Portland Beer Week. (Shout out to Oxbow Brewing Co. and Bull Jagger Brewing Co., two awesome Maine breweries that put on noteworthy events at Novare Res last week.)

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

The bar serves a number of meat-and-cheese hors d’oeuvres, and a few small meals, but it’s the beer not the food that makes Novare Res shine. The bartenders are also very knowledgeable and friendly. In fact, one particularly-cool bartender noticed that I was drinking sour beers and went out of his way to let me know that a nearby Japanese noodle bar had one of my favorite gueuzes, Tilquin, on draft. (If you read this, thanks man, the gueuze—and gyoza—at Pai Men Miyake was awesome.)

Boston is home to some world-class beer bars that I frequent. I travel fairly often, and I make it a point to visit all the best beer bars wherever I roam—hence, my collection of Barfly’s Views. In other words, I know my beer bars. But I was blown away by Novare Res Bier Café. Novare Res is not only the best beer bar I found in Portland, it’s one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to. If you find yourself in Portland, Maine, you need to get your ass over to Novare Res.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: The Lower Depths Tap Room in Boston’s Kenmore Square

The Lower Depths Tap Room in Boston's Kenmore Square

Whenever I’m in Boston’s Kenmore Square neighborhood, be it for a Red Sox game—Fenway Park is steps away from Kenmore—to grab a book at the Boston University Barnes & Noble or just wandering, I always hit up The Lower Depths Tap Room, one of my favorite beer bars in the city.

The Lower Depths is a cash-only beer bar—no liquor—with 16 rotating drafts, 150 or so bottles and a cask. The bar doesn’t serve any Budweiser beers. (Hurrah.) It also has better-than-average bar food, including a number of delectable tater-tot platters, an awesome handmade pretzel with beer cheese, and, my personal favorite, a rotating grilled cheese of the day. My girlfriend appreciates the vegan-friendly options. And you can get hotdogs for a dollar each.

The Lower Depth’s bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. And the bar frequently holds “beer socials” and other events with local brewers. For all of these reasons and more, The Lower Depths Tap Room sits near the top of my Best Boston Beer Bars list.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Brewer’s Coalition in Newtonville, MA

Brewer's Coalition Newtonville Barfly's View

Brewer’s Coalition in Newtonville, Mass., is located right outside of Boston and less than a mile from the Massachusetts Turnpike. Newtonville is a yuppyish suburb west of Boston, and that’s quickly apparent after rubbing elbows with the Brewer’s Coalition clientele. That’s not to say, I don’t like the bar, which is an offshoot of the popular John Brewer’s Tavern restaurants in Nearby Waltham and Malden, Mass. It’s just not exactly a hip scene.

The beer selection is decent for a location like Newtonville, but it’s definitely nothing special when compared to other beer bars in the Boston area. The two things Brewer’s Coalition really has going for it are its friendly (and easy-on-the-eyes) bartenders and its selection of local Massachusetts and New England beers. The bar claims to have 50 craft beers available; I saw 20 taps and maybe twice that number of bottles, many of which were local. The bar also serves bar food, but I never hang around long enough to try any of it.

Brewer’s Coalition isn’t really worth driving out of your way for, but if you happen to be heading west out of Boston and you need a road soda, or if you’re just passing through the Newtonville area, you could find a friend in this pseudo beer bar.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Cambridge Brewing Co. in Cambridge, MA

Cambridge Brewing Co.

Cambridge Brewing Co. is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Kendall Square neighborhood, just across the Charles River from downtown Boston, and it is hands down my favorite brewpub in the Boston area.

That’s because of the laid-back, upscale pub atmosphere and quality, fresh foods. But the real reason I love Cambridge Brewing Co., or CBC, as the locals call it, is the beer. I’ve never met a CBC beer that I didn’t like. Lots of small brewpubs make mediocre beer, but CBC, the oldest brewpub in Boston, makes world-class brews. (In fact, it just won a silver medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Fest.) CBC has four house beers that are always on tap, as well as a frequently-rotating selection of more experimental brews, some with rather amusing names. And you can buy growlers to go.

Kendall Square is a technology center of Boston and Cambridge, and it’s home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So CBC is often packed with 30-something professionals drinking over lunchtime business meetings or quirky MIT students winding down after a day of hitting the books.

Whenever a beer-loving friend or colleague visits Boston, CBC is the first drinking-destination I recommend.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Neighborhood in San Diego, CA

Neighborhood Bar San Diego

Today I arrived in San Diego to cover a (non-beer-related) conference, and the first thing I did was seek out some decent beer bars within walking distance of my hotel. I hit a few duds first, but I eventually found Neighborhood. The bar also serves wine and cocktails, so it’s not really a straight beer bar, per se. But the beers it does serve, on tap and in bottles and cans, are clearly selected with love.

Neighborhood is located in downtown San Diego’s East Village, just east of the city’s Gaslamp Quarter, and it’s a solid beer nerd hangout. It has around 30 draft beers on at any given time and between 30 and 40 bottles. (Neighborhood had Pliny the Elder on tap today, which definitely didn’t hurt.) My bartender was friendly and unpretentious, if a bit stereotypically hipsterish. And she was knowledgeable and helpful when I asked for recommendations. The food is unique, upscale pub grub. And the décor and atmosphere both get thumbs-up from me. (Neighborhood also apparently has a secret “speak easy” called Noble Experiment with an entrance near the restrooms that’s hidden with beer kegs, but I didn’t actually see it.)

If you’re in San Diego’s East Village or Gaslamp Quarter and you’re seeking a unique craft brew, you could definitely do worse than Neighborhood.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Bison County Bar and Grill in Waltham, MA

Bison County Bar and Grill Waltham MA

Bison County Bar & Grill in Waltham, MA, a Boston suburb that’s about 25 minutes outside of the city, is half barbeque joint, half beer bar. I’m not much of a barbeque guy—I don’t eat beef or pork—so I can’t say too much about the food, but Bison has more than 15 draft beers available at any given time and 50 or so bottles, many of which are local. And (most of) the bartenders are cool and willing (and able) to chat craft beer.

A number of Boston Celtics players have also been known to hangout at Bison, since the team’s practice facility is located in Waltham. (I’ve never seen any of the Celts’ “stars” there, though.) The atmosphere is decent, especially since Waltham is known more for its dingy sports bar than beer bars. I’ve even found a few cans of the extremely elusive Heady Topper IPA, from the Alchemist, at Bison.

UBN

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