Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer and the official start of outdoor brewery season. When the garage doors of Brooklyn open up and the farmhouse ales deprecate the boys from the men. It’s a magical time, and to celebrate, I toured the new craft beer scene in Brooklyn and Queens (LIC) to see how these boroughs stack up. Surprisingly, I think Queens was the winner for taste and authenticity.
Here are my findings from the big names in brewing East of the East River.
Big Alice (LIC, get it?)
Great small batch beer selection from a small brewery in an unassuming location. The neighborhood seems like it’d be dodgy at night, but tucked in a small warehouse space is the great and super tidy brewery. Similar to the equally small Transmitter and Rockaway breweries nearby, this is truly a micro brew where the tasting room is inside the brewing room. The staff is super friendly and will talk to you all day about dry hopping and IBUs. The sampler flights are the best way to try the range. A few brews are a bit too adventurous to me like the peanut butter stout and the gunpowder rye, but the jalapeño was fantastic and the simple honey wit was phenomenal. Best selection on the LIC beer route.
An awesome neighborhood microbrewery with a small tap room. The tap room is basically in the brewery and you can see all the equipment. The staff is super friendly and loves to talk about the beer and give free tours. They even give out free bags of chips. The beer is good, but doesn’t go much beyond IPAs and stouts. They recently expanded, so hopefully they will expand their offerings soon as well. Go for the flight which at $7 is a steal.
One of the most adventurous breweries with yeast. Transmitter is just as small, authentic, and delicious as the other LIC breweries. Nestled in yet another warehouse in a semi shady area under the tracks between LIC AND Greenpoint, there isn’t much ambiance but the funky beers here are top notch. I’m not sure I agree with their distinction between a farmhouse and a saison, but I can let bygones be far and by gone for their beer. The golden ale was a nice basic ale that will please just about anyone. The saison and especially the Brett saison ramp up the funk like Bruno Mars and don’t disappoint. They serve only via bottle here, and you have to beg for the singular picnic bench, so come with friends or a big appetite.
As a red and white blooded Dane, I wanted to love Törst, but it ended up feeling pretentious and over priced to me. I was very excited to try the hyped Evil Twin beer after the NYT feature on the brothers who split up, with one starting the brewery and this bar, but found the selection way too heavy on the IBU and hops. Instead, the German and Flanders brews appealed and did not disappoint, though the prices were high and the staff had a very Dane in winter approach to service, more hibernatory than outgoing. The overcrowded space and overly loud Brooklyn conversations from surrounding tables didn’t improve the atmosphere. The food menu was very Scandinavian in its simplicity and lack of appeal, I was hoping for a more Holstein side of the Schleswig equation with some meat or other Germanic bar food. The wine glass serving vessels also did not inspire a ton of confidence in the brewing prowess. Overall, the beer was good, but if you are looking for beer Mecca, though this kills me to say, try Dirck the Norseman, though we did actually colonize them.
Dirck the Norseman
Dirck the Norseman is a fantastic beer garden with outdoor and inside tables with a German slant on food and beer. There are a good number of tables inside and out on nice days, but due to the popularity, you may need to share with other groups. The beer menu is huge with a selection of German brews and local ones such as essentially the whole offering of Greenpoint beers from Lager to Sours to Kolsch. The food is also top notch and has some German favorites like schnitzel and sausage as well as more American faire like mussels and calamari. On weekends in the summer they even grill outside. The staff is great as well and even helped set up a table for us. It took two years of great reviews to get me there but I’m glad we finally made it.