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July 19, 2006

The Better Borough Beer Guide, Volume 2: Atlantic Avenue

(Originally posted on The Brooklyn Record):

Brazen Beer

In the wake of the Smith Street explosion, nearby Atlantic Avenue has developed a nightlife of its own. But where Smith Street transformed, leaving behind many of the old neighbors for a new young crowd, the scene on Atlantic is classic Brooklyn. Each bar provides warm, welcoming service to all who enter. Even better, for the purposes of our guide, they all serve beer that you may not find anywhere else.

The Brazen Head is a beer destination. Besides having a regularly changing selection of 15 top notch beers on tap, it is one of a select few bars in New York that offer cask ales. It has two beer engines that serve out beer the old-fashioned way. Three times a year, The Brazen Head hosts its Cask Ale Festival, drawing ales from far and wide. The next festival is slated for November. Don't miss it. Check out the chalkboards on the wall to find out about events like dart contests, nightly specials, as well as upcoming festivals. The regular crowd includes bartenders from neighboring bars and locals stopping in for a pint and a chat with friends. (228 Atlantic Avenue, between Court St. & Boerum Pl.)

Read on for Pete's Waterfront Ale House, Floyd, and Chip Shop...

Waterfront Ale House, a bar and grill, is a neighborhood institution. "Pete's," as regulars call it, was among the first beer bars in Brooklyn and still serves one of the finest selections of craft beers in town. Weekly jazz and blues performances bring friends and neighbors to take in good music and good company. The food is traditional pub food, often with an exotic twist like the Kobe Beef Burger with homemade wasabi catsup or the Venison Chili. Waterfront is a family saloon, so don't be surprised to find a row of strollers parked up front on any given evening. (155 Atlantic Avenue, between Henry St. & Clinton St.)

Floyd NY immediately drew attention when it opened in 2004, due largely to its indoor bocce court. Besides teaching people to bowl again, Floyd NY provides a comfortable wide-open space to relax. One bartender describes the space as "Rustic; raw but stylish." He attributes a lot of the appeal to the size of the space, formerly two storefronts. Despite all its space, the bar is often full. Usually bustling, the crowds vary from night to night. The 8 tap beers are good, if common selections. What really earns Floyd NY a place on this list is its selection of bad beer. Obscurity runs both ways, and in this case, you'd be hard pressed to find another bar that serves Stroh's, Schmidt, Schlitz, Miller High Life, Piel's and Colt 45. Dubbed the crapucopia, it is served chilled in a bucket of ice in the cans they came in. (131 Atlantic Ave., between Henry & Clinton Streets)

Next door to Floyd NY is Chip Shop. The Park Slope fish 'n' chips restaurant opened this branch early last year. This deep fried slice of British culture would not be complete without a respectable selection of British beer. In addition to serving some of the best beer the United Kingdom has to offer, Chip Shop rounds out its 16 taps with a some of the best beer found right here in the US. Every week two new beers are tapped, keeping the rotation constantly fresh. (129 Atlantic Ave., between Clinton & Henry)

— clay williams
[Photo by ultraclay!]

July 11, 2006

Wiliamsburg: Brooklyn's Beer Capital

(Originally Posted at The Brooklyn Record):
IMG_4595

The Better Borough Beer Guide, Volume 1

It's no surprise that Brooklyn's former brewing center is now home to some of the best beer drinking in town. For a proper beer tour, start out on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Brewery for its Friday night happy hour or Saturday tours.

Mugs Ale House is the place to go when you want to geek out with other beer connoisseurs. The Malted Barley Appreciation Society meets here monthly. The crowd is older than at many of the other bars in the area, and there is a strong contingent of regulars who may seem aloof to a first-time visitor, but they warm up pretty quickly to beer talk. The food is standard pub grub — no better, no worse. (125 Bedford Ave.; L to Bedford Ave.)

Spike Hill, Spuytin Duvil, and Barcade after the jump...

Spike Hill is not your typical beer bar. There are 12 taps and nearly 50 bottles, serving up beer of all styles and nationalities — yet it has none of the geekery you might expect. There's no need to impress anyone with your vast beer knowledge here. You can sit in the front window and watch Bedford Avenue pass by, chat with fellow patrons at the long dark wood bar, and/or pack into the deep booths in the back with friends or a laptop. The menu takes unassuming dishes like grilled cheese and makes them interesting as well as comforting by changing up the breads and cheeses. (184 Bedford Avenue, L to Bedford Ave.)

Spuytin Duyvil sits in an unlikely storefront, away from the neighborhood's main strips. Behind the hole-in-the-wall façade lays a gourmet soul. Snacks include ever-changing offerings of meats, cheeses and pâtés. The beer selection is impressive, with representatives from Sri Lanka to Switzerland and a rather large delegation of Belgians, which are broken down into Flemish and Wallonian. (359 Metropolitan Avenue, L to Metropolitan, G to Lorimer St.)

Barcade has everything adulthood should have: great beer and video games. Knock back one of the two dozen beers on tap while playing Frogger or Zaxxon or Moon Patrol or any of the other '80s video games. A pool table is in the back for those seeking a more traditional bar game. Gothamist recently ran an interview with Paul Kermizian, filmmaker and owner of Barcade. (388 Union Ave. L to Metropolitan, G to Lorimer St.)

—clay williams
Stay tuned for more installments of the Better Borough Beer Guide from Clay, our in-house beer expert.
[Photo by ultraclay!]

July 7, 2006

Viva Italia

(Originally posted on The Brooklyn Record):

Scopello
Cheer on Italia this weekend at Scopello in Fort Greene. The Sicilian restaurant acquired a gigantic television weeks ago for the sole purpose of showing World Cup games. It precariously straddles the bar and and makes Scopello one of the most unlikely sports bars in Brooklyn. Clearly, World Cup fever knows no bounds. In fact, Scopello has been opening early every game day just to show each match. To greet World Cup spectators, the restaurant, which doesn't usually serve lunch, offers a menu of panini and pasta specifically for game time.

The World Cup comes to a close this weekend with Germany and Portugal battling for the third place Saturday afternoon at 3pm. The grand finale is on Sunday — France vs. Italy at 2pm. Be sure to get there early, as the front bar area is small. Last week, the crowd of onlookers overflowed out onto the sidewalk as customers and passersby clustered together to watch the action.

Scopello is at 63 Lafayette Avenue, just off of Fulton Street. (718) 852-1100.
— clay williams
[Photo by ultraclay!]