A true original on the New York craft ale scene is Barcade. Not only does it stock 25 ales on draught and cask and has an assortment of beers from local microbreweries that include Sixpoint Ales, Dogfish Head and Blue Point, this excellent bar features more than 30 vintage arcade games.
Where else could you enjoy a high-hopped IPA whilst playing Donkey Kong, Centipede and Q*Bert?
After realising I wasn’t quite as good at Arkanoid as I had once thought, I tried a lovely Brooklyn Middle Engine Start while Emma went for Coney Island IPA.
The bar itself is the textbook “dive”, with the only light coming from the flickering screens of the arcade cabinets. Get $10 worth of quarters and recapture your youth with the added benefit of perfectly kept seasonal ales.
A couple of blocks from Barcade is the Charleston, a stereotypical rock-and-roll rathole. Be sure to bag a window seat and enjoy your pint whilst watching Bedford’s hipsters swagger past. Dirt-cheap rock shows play downstairs in what looks like a WWII bunker. The crowd is vintage Williamsburg, with battered leather jackets and ironic moustaches the uniform.
Again the range of beers is amazing, 12 craft ales, one draught and another 40 variations in bottle. We tried two quality New York state ales – the massively bitter Kelso IPA and a flavoursome Sixpoint Righteous Rye – both superb. But the Charleston has another trick up its sleeve – free pizza (one per $4 order until 3:30am) which is a perfect way to keep the drunkenness at bay and you at the bar.
The Pony Bar is a relative new comer to the craft beer scene, quickly establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with. Located in historic Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, the name comes not from a horse but from the short beers that used to be served between races at the local track. A ten to 15-minute stroll from Time Square makes the Pony Bar one of the best-see bars in Manhattan.
The bar is focused on supplying an ever-rotating selection of superlative American craft beers with absolutely no imports – everything served is brewed in the good old US of A. The only bottles on offer are Bud and Bud Light – not that you will see anyone drinking them, for at the Pony Bar, draught beer is craft beer.
All of the beer is priced at $5.00 and most are served in 14-ounce glasses with other speciality and high-gravity ones served in eight-ounce measures to prevent people from having too much of the strong stuff.
Ask at the bar for a tasting card and you’ll receive membership to the Pony Bar tasting club. Rate each beer you try, get to 100 ratings and you can claim a Pony Bar shirt.
“I got the shirt pretty quickly,” said Scott, a Hell’s Kitchen local. “I’ve already filled eight cards but some guys in here have filled more than 20.”
I looked down at mine. Over the course of the afternoon I’d rated nine. Not bad considering pints of beer are the done thing in New York.
“They’ve started a new prize,” Scott continued. “Rate 480 and get a jumper. Old cards don’t count though.”
The range of beer in this great bar is amazing. A gong sounds to a cry of “New Beer” whenever a cask goes live, which, thanks to the unquenchable thirst of its customers, is very often.
Standout brews included Dogfish Fish Aprihop, massively bitter with, as the name suggests, notes of apricot and Long Trail’s Reserve Porter offered a rich espresso and malt wallop. However, the real highlight of the session, the holiday, and possible the best tasting beer I’ve had all year came courtesy of HeBrew’s Barrel Aged Origin from the Schmaltz Brewery – a tart, peach-coloured beer with mountains and mountains of pomegranate flavour. The mellow aftertaste made for something quite remarkable.
*Andrew Mitchell concludes his New York beer and bar review in November.