Friday, February 29, 2008

I Heart

I've made my way to New York, for the first time, and like so many before me have found myself impressed at the enormity of it all. Yesterday found me at the iconic Time Square for a couple hours, and that was more than enough if you ask me. Yes, it was shiny and big, bustling with tourists, but with the mass of national brands vying for my attention, it really just seemed like an outdoor version of my local mall. Sad really. I had hoped to find an old shop run by third generation family members, cooking up something entirely different from that which I'm used to. A few blocks away was a bit better, but overall this place just wasn't for me.

My disappointment continued with a later Manhattan stop at Ginger Man, which really just looked like an upscale dive mix, had a few good beers mixed in with more mediocre beers and way too many people for a lazy Thursday night.

Luckily the company I kept seemed equally unimpressed with the scene, thus finding it necessary to take me to a place with a bit more character. Sam Merritt, president of Civilization of Beer, was with us and suggested we stop in at Keens Steakhouse, an old bar dripping with history - a place I fell in love with instantly. Kraig Beaudoin was with us too, he's part of the DRAFT team on the east coast and is a marketing guru with a keen beer sense due to stints with Brooklyn Brewery and other beer marketing opportunities. Among the cool things to see at the bar, a displayed collection of 45,000 clay tobacco pipes, several of which belonging to ex-presidents and American icons, hanging from the ceiling.

I got choked up when I found an original hand-written letter Abe Lincoln had written to a mother who had lost all five of her children in the Civil War. Wow! The letter was personal, hand written and as full of pride as it was with remorse. Reading every word of the letter, I moved on to find a couple more items worth mentioning. Next there was the playbill Lincoln was holding when he was assassinated. Hanging on the wall was also his copy of the declaration of independence, stained with blood, found in the inner pocket of his jacket that night. It seemed perverse, being so fascinated by a piece of our nation's gory history, but there I was, transfixed with it all.

There was a final stop for the day, a quick beer at Stouts NYC, a very nice bar with good taps and food (the artichoke dip being particularly good). This place was only three years old, but clearly popular for the home crowd, which was lively and mostly entertained by the company they were keeping.

I'd be remiss to neglect my lunch stop of the day, at Queen's Sunswick 35/35. On the outside this place didn't look like much, but walking inside you couldn't help but appreciate the taps and ambiance of this seemingly family bar. I had a chicken club sandwich, a pint of Legacy's Hoptimus Prime and enjoyed watching as locals streamed in for their lunch break - one lady had picked up more lunch that she should have been expected to carry, clearly running the lunch-time errands for whatever office she worked for.

So, to recap. I'm quite enjoying my time here, just could do without the mega-touristy stops that today has little more to offer than a history richer than present.

Today's Stops (if all goes well):
  • Barcade
  • Spuyten Duyvil
  • Clem's
  • Spikehill
  • Mug's Ale House
  • Brooklyn Ale House
  • Brooklyn Brewery