Back in 1991 my buddy Dave and I were both married to women who worked in the banking industry. That meant that most often they were working on Black Friday because federal regulations state that banks can’t be closed for four days in a row. We decided we should do something cool together since we were both off and they were working. I suggested going to NYC as I knew a few bars up there and after having a great time in the city the 10+ year tradition of the Black Friday Pub Run was born.
Several years later I met Chuck who also was going to NYC regularly. So we pooled our resources, shared beer places we’d discovered and not to long after that, the Dogs of Beer were born. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance in recent years to head up to the city together. We’d both gone many times with other people but we hadn’t done a proper pub run. Well a couple of weeks ago we decided that this wrong needed to be corrected so we picked a date and went.
My ex-father-in-law Lou was more then up for the trip. Sadly he was the only one of the original dogs that could go. Chuck’s wife (THE Beer Goddess – sorry all you woman out there but she’s the original) had to decline the trip but luckily Tracey was able to go. After all, it never hurts to have a woman around to say, “uh guys, I don’t think that’s a good idea!”. So on November 5th we piled into the truck and headed across the Delaware Memorial Bridge and up the New Jersey Turnpike.
The first stop on most pub runs in NYC is usually lunch at Molly’s ( 287 Third Avenue). We stumbled onto Molly’s around 1994, a small little Irish Shebeen (speak easy) with a working fireplace (which Lou got yelled at for one year because he was unaware that if you sat next to it you were expected to tend it), saw dust on the floor, a staff with the requisite Irish accents, a bar cat and the best burgers we’ve ever found in NYC. Sadly the cat is gone, but the burgers are still there. So a round of burgers (except Lou, he had fish and chips) and a round of O’hara’s stout and we’re ready to begin the day. Our waitress sneered at us for only having one round (apparently that’s really against Irish custom), but we had beer to drink dammit and the last thing we wanted to do was sit around and waste time drinking beer!
So out the door and a short walk north brought us to the Rattle-n-Hum (14 East 33rd Street). I have to thank all my twitter peeps for this one. I had not heard of the bar before, but everyone in NYC I follow on Twitter seemed to be going in and out of this place like it had a revolving door. Well it doesn’t, but what it DOES have is 40 taps of some of the best beer goodness you’ll find in Manhattan. Tracey and I stopped in back in August and fell in love with the place. Not only because of the beer, but the atmosphere as well. From the rock music, to the tap handles on the ceiling, to the giant map of America on the wall that has flags sticking in it marking breweries – this place just feels great to be in. On this stop we enjoyed beers ranging from Conundrum by Kuhnhenn brewery on cask, to Crotch Sniffing Bastard by Laughing Dog Brewing, to Breakfast stout by Founders Brewing Company. Another great thing about Rattle-N-Hum is there’s always something going on there. This day the guys from Surly Brewing were in the house as well as Joshua M. Bernstein author of the new book Brewed Awakening. If the Rattle-n-Hum isn’t on your list of NYC beer spots – add it!
After we left R-n-H we walked up a couple of blocks to the Galway Hooker (7 E. 36th Street). This Murray Hill bar is named after an Irish sailing ship and it popped up one day when I was researching bars in the area. It was a nice place – maybe a bit to nice for a bunch of dogs and the bartender made the mistake of telling Chuck that Captain Lawrence Golden Liquid was a slightly sweet IPA, which it isn’t. Chuck isn’t a big fan of “cruel jokes” (Dogs of Beer slang for beers that aren’t what they’re promoted to be) so the bartender got negative points right off the bat. Tracey had an nice Ithaca Brewing Nut Brown that she enjoyed very much and I quite liked my Captain Lawrence Ale. But we weren’t staying long enough for a second round as more beer was just down the street.
So we traversed the grueling 60 ft down 36th Street and strolled into The Gingerman(11 East 36th Street). We started going to The Gingerman back in 1996 and have enjoyed stopping there ever since. The bar is roomy with an area of tables in the front and booths lining the wall across from the bar. The huge back room lounge full of high back chairs and couches is still there, a left over remnant of when you could smoke cigars inside. We were sad to hear that they had already kicked both the Founders’ Canadian and Kentucky breakfast stouts as a side-by-side comparison of them would have been interesting. Luckily they had Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale as I’ve been looking to try a beer from these guys for quite some time – I was not disappointed. A glass of regular Breakfast stout got passed around while Tracey sipped her Captain Lawrence Pumpkin beer.
Finishing up we hopped on a Subway and arrived down in the Village. The Village has seen a large turn over in bars over the years. Some have come and gone, and some (Chumbly’s) have gone but keep promising to return. But we were here for a bar that’s come, gone, moved and come again – Blind Tiger (281 Bleecker Street). When the dogs first started frequenting Blind Tiger, it was located at 518 Hudson Street, a small little place over on the west side of the village. But on one trip we found it closed, and panicked. Luckily, we found out that it was only moving over to Bleeker Street and after a few start up pains it’s back to its original glory and maybe better. First, they now have food which the old place didn’t have. Also, the shutter style windows allows them to open the place up on nice days so you don’t feel to closed in. I agree with Chuck however that if there’s one complaint with Blind Tiger it’s with their lack of beer menus. Instead you’re dependent on two small chalkboards for the list of beers they have and sometimes when the bar is dark and crowded they can be a little tough to read. But tonight I could read it well enough to find another Cigar City beer, Jai Alai (awesome!) and afterwards a Weizen Bam Beire by Jolly Pumpkin.
After Blind Tiger we decided to go to a place that we have not stepped into in over 10 years – The Peculier Pub (145 Bleecker Street). Everyone who has developed wander lust in search of beer has THAT place. The place that got them started. I guess you could say mine is the Peculier Pub. It was the bar Dave and I were looking for all those years ago when we started the Black Friday pub run. Back in 1991 when we found it, NYC didn’t have a beer bar on almost every corner like it does now. The craft beer explosion was just starting and most of what we were seeking out as far as “different” beers were imports from different countries. Peculier Pub had a beer list that could only have been described back then as massive. A sheet of paper with three columns of bottled beers, on both sides. However the service was inconsistent and the quality of the beer was always in question due to storage so we abandoned the place eventually. Well, I’m proud to report that it has definitely changed for the better. The place is brighter and cheerier than it was and has improved with the addition of taps. We were hungry so we ordered some pub food which was good and went well with my Founders Centennial IPA. It won’t be 10 years until we stop in again.
From Peculier we went to Vol De Nuit (148 W. 4th St.) which demonstrates one of the things I love about NYC. I’ve been aware of this Belgian bar for years because it was listed in the NYC Beer Guide but never thought to stop in. So imagine my surprise one year when I finally did decide to try it only to realize that I’d been walking right past it for all those years. Vol De Nuit’s entrance may be unremarkable with a small, barely noticeable sign above the doorway but what’s on the inside is not. Just on the other side the unassuming doors the entrance opens up into what looks like a small courtyard with tables and a small bar. Walk through the courtyard and up a set of wide wooden steps and you’re in the main barroom – a dark, wooden room with one bar, and 8 Belgian beers on draft. You can easily find beers like Leffe, Corsendonk and Lindemans here.Tonight it was Delirium Tremens for everyone!
The next stop was at the Jekyll and Hyde pub. There was a time when the eerie pubs ruled the village. Along with the original Jekyll and Hyde pub and The Slaughtered Lamb there were the now defunked Night Gallery and Jack the Ripper’s. All had awesome beer lists and a decor which went with their names. And although the Jekyll and Hyde pub has lost a step or two over the years (come on guys, open the upstairs once in awhile!) it’s still a fun place to stop in and have a beer, especially with people who’ve never been there. Things like bar stools that slowly go up and down and bathrooms hidden in the walls make for a lot of fun with unsuspecting people. The beer list isn’t what it used to be, but you can still find some good stuff here. And if you love horror type attractions, you’ll get a kick out of the decor and the animatronic show.
By this time it was getting late. We walked by The Slaughtered Lamb and Barrow Street Ale House only to find them more packed then we wanted to deal with. It was time for the dogs to get back to their own yard. Over the years I’ve come to love NYC for all things it has to offer, beer and non-beer alike. It is truly one of my favorite cities in the world and to be able to every now and then go up and spend the day is a treat. I hope after reading this that I’ve inspired you to do the same. So go! Investigate! Discover! Just promise me that if you do find that next awesome beer bar, or some up till now undiscovered gem that you’ll let me know. The dogs are always up for another pub run….
Time for another beer.