Sunday, 12 December 2010

A visit to Happy Hour at the Brooklyn Brewery

Venturing away from Manhattan and a little off the tourist trail, we ventured into Brooklyn in the hopes of a good evening with lots of beer. This was my experience of Happy Hour at the Brooklyn Brewery.

Brooklyn Brewery Beer

We got off the subway and climbed the stairs up to the street. It was only early evening but it had been dark since we were at the top of the Empire State Building. When we had made it to street level, we stepped into the softly lit streets of Brooklyn.

The streets in the area we had arrived in reminded me more of home than the jungle of Manhattan. The first thing was that the buildings weren't quite so tall and more importantly the streets were quieter with a slower pace, most notably; less traffic and less people. Once we'd taken a moment to adjust our eyes, we realised we didn't actually know where exactly we were going. Norngirl had printed lots of maps but we hadn't called back to the hotel so we didn't have the one we needed with us. Oops. Not to worry though, Norngirl kinda of knew what we were looking for and with a bit of landmark spotting we picked the direction as being about right and set off to find Camelot; our own very silly place - or at least somewhere we certainly hoped could be after some beer.

We hadn't located the Brewery at the time but we were hungry. We called into a convenience store and bought some snacks that we wouldn't really find at home, a Bean Burrito in my case. Why I bought something containing Kidney beans, when I don't really like them, baffles me, but whatever sauce there was in that thing made it really quite tasty!

We lined our stomachs lined as we walked and before long we turned a street or two and found ourselves in sight of the Brewery. We couldn't tell from the end of the street but the queue outside it kinda gave it away.

We got in line. The accents around us seemed to be more local than those we'd been listening to the rest of the day which had been quite a mix of dialects from around the world. The people in line were also chatting about work, life, sports etc. This wasn't the tourist crowd we'd been around all day. I had the feeling like I was back at Uni, it wasn't a clubbing crowd either, it was the sort of crowd who enjoy a nice drink and chat with their friends - aka - my sort of place!

After a short wait, the doors opened and the line filtered into the building through a check of IDs at the door to make sure we were all 21 or over. Thankfully we still were and made our way inside.

Beer Token flip side and BeerInside there were some big vats and in front of them some bags of Malt and other beer making ingredients. We were a little confused for a second as there was a queue for a bar but also a queue for a small booth which had a display case of Brooklyn Brewery branded merchandise. The signs soon enlightened us that you buy tokens at the booth then go to the bar with them to get the beers in. We got our tokens and headed to the bar. There was a nice wee selection of Beers and Lagers on tap, from the standard low % Pilsener to a general Larger, to Brown Ale to some nommy high percentage beers... and I mean high percentage, 9.6% and 10.2% alcohol if my memory serves me correctly. The two strong Beers were called the Blast and the Detonation and cost 2 tokens each compared the regular beers at 1 token. Tokens at the time we were $4 but if you got 5 you got a 6th free, so $20 for 6 tokens or $3.33 (Approx £2.10) per drink or $6.66 (Approx £4.20 at the time) for the high percentage ones. I think it was the cheapest we found beer out of anywhere we went in our week in New York.

Beer Token and Beer
I started off with a Lager to get warmed up and Norngirl jumped into the deep end with a Blast.
I really like my Ales and Beers so I'm not sure why I began with a Lager and and not with a Brown Ale. Sadly we didn't get a Brown Ale at all that night, it's popular and the barrels had ran dry by the time we had got through the rest of the beers. This was happy hour but happy hour is the event rather than one specific hour of time; by the sounds it's most Fridays of the year from 6-11pm. Thankfully we did try the Brown Ale in a bar later in the week and it was very nice. That night though we gave the rest of them a try and my favourite was certainly the Blast. As Norngirl said in her blog post about this day, she preferred the Detonation Ale. Granted these probably aren't names that breweries have top of their marketing lists in Northern Ireland.

In the world of beers, Theakston's Old Peculiar is my favourite followed by Guinness and I wouldn't say no to a Speckled Hen or a Wells' Banana Bread either. I think that 'the Blast' would come in there after an Old Peculiar on tap in Yorkshire and a Guinness on tap from the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin - so a well positioned 3rd in my overall list. It had a nice rounded flavour to it that wasn't at all over powering for a beer with such a high percentage. I've had a couple of other beers in the past that were of a percentage as high as these and they didn't taste right at all. One of those was a German beer in one of the beer tents of the Christmas market at Belfast City Hall which had 'Santa' in the name somewhere but these in the Brooklyn Brewery were everything that beer wasn't as far as flavour and enjoyment go. The Detonation was nice too, it had a similar but stronger flavour but I just preferred what I felt was the subtler edge with the Blast.

The beer wasn't the only thing our happy few hours in the Brooklyn Brewery had going for it. Many people were sitting at tables and chairs laid out in main part of what was essentially one big room but we had taken up residency on some of the bags of Malt in the thin part of the room by the token booth and doorway, sat with the vats behind us. It was a very chilled atmosphere and although lively, everyone seemed to be able to hear one another talking. In all honesty I can't remember if there was any background music playing or not, I'm going with not but I could be wrong as Norngirl thinks there was, she is usually right. The only negative I can remember from our visit was that later into the evening, the toilets had gone down hill a little in the cleanliness stakes. Apart from that though it was all excellent and we had a nice time chatting away to one another only to be distracted by a few random things:

One random thing - (to me at least) was the arrival of several huge pizza boxes and many other take away packages. As Norngirl explained to me at the time and as I came to find out, unlike in stingy UK and Irish establishments, New York is very open when it comes to ordering take out to a place like this or to your hotel room, I was ever so slightly envious and intrigued by this.

Brooklyn Brewery Cat
Brooklyn Brewery Cat photo by Norngirl
The other random thing - was a cute cat which seems to be very much at home in the Brewery. I would think probably a helpful aid in making sure no pesky mice sneak in off the street to nom all the ingredients. The kitty seemed very used to the noise and all the attention. Other than mingling around the feet of people drinking their beer, it was jumping up on to the bags and onto the desk/counter of the tokens booth, positioning itself into prime stroking locations. I love cats and was eager to pet this one, as was everyone else - staff included. The kitty wasn't going to let anyone go home disappointed though saying that it did try to nom a bit of take away from one of the door men but the dude wanted the food more so it didn't get a stroke from him, more of a shooing away.

Enjoying our beer, the evening got away from us and at around 10.15 we decided we best head on back across the river to find ourselves a proper evening meal closer to our hotel, so sadly and with a heavy heart we had to leave the Brewery and its merriment behind.

Brooklyn Brewery Building during Happy Hour

Happily tipsy, we wandered back to Bedford Street Subway station and caught a subway back to Manhattan. We got off a few stops short of the hotel where Norngirl knew of a few restaurants she had heard good things about with her pre-trip research. We ended up in an Italian restaurant where we ate some very nice pasta which we washed down with some water and a carafe of wine (that's 1ltr of wine, or pretty much 2/3rds of a normal bottle each). It probably wasn't the brightest idea given our evenings alcohol consumption up to that point but nevertheless we drank most of it. It was a very-very-merry stroll back to the hotel. We hadn't gone past the point of no return like you'd see some people doing on the streets of Belfast on a Saturday night as we know our limits even if we do push the boundaries now and again. That night we were just to that very happy tipsy place where life is good and where it's hard to not find things funny but still in a place where we can be polite, work out the correct tip, walk in relatively straight lines and find our way around places we've never been before. We're happy drunks rather than depressives or angry ones you'll be glad to hear. We made it back before we knew it and jumped into bed.

My comeuppance to mixing the grain and the grape and having a brilliant night out was a pretty heavy hangover when I awoke the next morning. I ended up trying to remedy this with a lettuce leaf, a dollop of Chicken Mayo sandwich filling (ordered in a hungover daze) and a walk in Central Park but before I get onto that, I'd just like to pass on some fine advice from an American great and true hero. Some advice that may help you decide if you want to follow in our footsteps with a similar night out in the Empire State.

"To alcohol! The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems " – Homer Simpson

So to summarise, the Happy Hour at Brooklyn Brewery was great and highly recommended. Having a carafe of wine in the same night is not such a good idea for keeping your liver in good condition or for feeling fresh and awake and trying to order a normal breakfast the next morning. Drink wisely my awesome, non-judgemental, kind-hearted blog readers, always drink responsibly.

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I were JUST talking about the Brooklyn Brewery! We live a train ride away from NYC and he's a huge beer fan so we were wondering if it was worth a stop! Glad to hear it is.



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