Beer­ca­tion: Queens, New York

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

While Brook­lyn may be the bor­ough best known around the world, not many places in the coun­try can ri­val the rich culi­nary in­tri­ca­cies of Queens, New York. The orig­i­nal “melt­ing pot,” dubbed the most di­verse place in the world by the Guin­ness Book of World Records, is an in­ter­wo­ven com­mu­nity of many global cul­tures that in re­cent years has formed a di­verse craft­beer cul­ture. By Cat Wolin­ski

MORE THAN FIFTY DIS­TINCT

neigh­bor­hoods make up Queens County: As­to­ria, in the north, is home to New York’s “Lit­tle Egypt,” with many res­i­dents orig­i­nat­ing in the Mediter­ranean and Mid­dle East; fur­ther cen­tral, Ridge­wood is largely in­hab­ited by Latino and His­panic fam­i­lies; stretch­ing up past JFK Air­port, Ja­maica is pre­dom­i­nantly African Amer­i­can; Flush­ing claims one of the largest Chi­nese pop­u­la­tions out­side Asia; and back north­east in Bay­side, Ital­ian, Ir­ish, and Ger­mans and their Amer­i­can de­scen­dants re­side.

In this densely pop­u­lated, im­mensely di­verse com­mu­nity of im­mi­grants and their off­spring, a col­lec­tive en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit is ev­i­denced through­out, vis­i­ble and pal­pa­ble in the many bars and restau­rants through­out the bor­ough. In fact, with the ex­cep­tion of Brook­lyn Brew­ery’s 1988 de­but, Queens is re­ally where New York’s craft-brew­ing rev­o­lu­tion cranked into gear.

It all started in 2012, when Sin­gle­cut Beer­smiths, in As­to­ria, and Rock­away Brew­ing Com­pany, in Long Is­land City, opened their doors, and res­i­dents’ eyes and minds, to lo­cally brewed beer.

As­to­ria–dit­mars

Sin­gle­cut Beer­smiths, lo­cated at As­to­ria’s north­ern­most tip in a mid­dle-class neigh­bor­hood known as Dit­mars, brought rock-and-roll and bold beer to a lo­ca­tion bet­ter known for its su­per­mar­ket across the street. The mu­sic theme is some­what sub­tle for those not well-versed in gui­tar riffs, lyrics, and lingo, but more ob­vi­ous than the oft-ob­scure beer names (Softly Spo­ken Magic Spells, Weird, and Gilly) are the bla­tant fla­vors they pro­vide: West Coast–in­spired, East Coast–in­ter­preted hops bombs take cen­ter stage here in a ro­bust port­fo­lio of IPAS and IPLS. (For some­thing softer on the palate, the 19-33 Pil­sner, named for the brew­ery ad­dress as well as Pro­hi­bi­tion’s end, pleases hop­heads and ba­sic beer lovers alike.)

The cen­tury-old Bo­hemian Hall and Beer Garden has been sling­ing Czech food and beer since 1910; the back­yard bar, with its mas­sive square footage and plethora of pic­nic ta­bles, proves a good place to catch a Euro­pean foot­ball match. As­to­ria Bier & Cheese–dit­mars, sis­ter lo­ca­tion to the orig­i­nal about a mile south, of­fers up­ward of 150 types of cheese, more than forty char­cu­ter­ies, and 350 or so beers in bot­tles, cans, and on draft, avail­able to drink on site or to go. For a can­dlelit date night, head to Cres­cent & Vine, a wine bar that reg­u­larly fea­tures live jazz. Walk a few more blocks west and you’ll hit Bow-

ery Bay Bar, a recla­ma­tion, whiskey- and farm-to-ta­ble-fo­cused boutique bar named for the for­got­ten body of water and beach re­sort now home to La­guardia Air­port.

As­to­ria–30th Av­enue

Run­ning west-east on a down­ward slant across As­to­ria’s mid­dle sec­tion is the in­vig­o­rat­ing 30th Av­enue, where one could spend the en­tire day bar hop­ping (with plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for snacks and shop­ping along the way). Start­ing from the sub­way train en­trance and mov­ing east, stand­outs are Judy & Punch, a craft beer– and cock­tail-fo­cused pub with a per­fect peo­ple-watch­ing store­front win­dow as well as a pleas­ant back­yard. Wil­liam Hal­let of­fers fam­ily-friendly, but still chic, com­fort food in a dimly lit set­ting; Black­birds boasts daily happy-hour deals to pair with its brews; and for the tra­di­tion­al­ists, Max Bratwurst Und Bier is the spot for Ger­man brats, plat­ters, and clas­sic Euro­pean lagers in hefty mugs.

Worth the short walk south­ward from 30th Av­enue is the Lo­cal, a love­able pub that man­ages to marry the com­fort­able vibes of a dive with clean en­vi­rons and a vir­tu­ous craft-cen­tric beer se­lec­tion. Take your pick from the twenty taps mix­ing lo­cals, re­gion­als, and rar­i­ties, then stay for a chat with the friendly staff, and if you’re lucky, the even friend­lier lo­cals known to close down the bar at dawn.

As­to­ria–broad­way

Call­ing those who love all things ar­ti­sanal is the Queens Kick­shaw, a great place for a break and a drink, be it beer, cider, or cof­fee; the grilled cheese menu is also ad­vis­able. Oliver’s beck­ons nearby with floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, open on warmer days, and a ro­bust menu of ap­pe­tiz­ers, en­trees, and beers, an ideal set­ting for a bite and a breeze.

The orig­i­nal As­to­ria Bier and Cheese (next door to its pre­de­ces­sor, As­to­ria Wine and Liquor), is an ab­so­lute can’t miss for those who seek craft beer, meats, and cheeses in a ca­sual cafe set­ting. Barbeque, beer, and whiskey await in the rus­ticmeets-in­dus­trial Strand Smoke­house.

As­to­ria–35th Av­enue

The last leg of As­to­ria be­fore Long Is­land City of­fers a quiet respite with a hand­ful of clever craft-beer and food op­tions. Rest-au­rant, or RAR Bar, of­fers tapas-style snacks to pair with beer or wine; Snow­do­nia sets the stage for Welsh food and craft brews; and Sunswick 35/35, the area’s orig­i­nal craft-beer bar, is easy to miss but not to be over­looked: bet­ter-than-ex­pected pub grub and an ex­cel­lent se­lec­tion of brews hide in­side.

For those miss­ing the glory days of col­lege, Stu­dio Square, an event space and beer garden that’s spa­cious and mod­ern in­side and out, draws a younger crowd with its boom­ing mu­sic and clubby vibe.

A few min­utes’ walk off the path, but still nearby, is Iconyc, which re­cently de­buted its tap­room fo­cus­ing on farm­house-style brews.

Long Is­land City

Long Is­land City is ar­guably the most densely-packed brew­ery district of New York City, and it shows no sign of stop­ping. Bet­ter yet, most brew­eries and bars are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble in a day or so on foot (even eas­ier by bike).

Trans­mit­ter Brew­ing dis­tin­guished it­self as one of New York’s best brew­eries when it stepped onto the scene with its yeast-fo­cused, re­fined farm­house ales in large-for­mat bot­tles. Each beer is de­signed with a tra­di­tional yet in­ven­tive ap­proach, and the tap­room, though small, is worth the squeeze to taste what’s fresh (and take home some bot­tles).

Alewife of­fers a con­stantly ro­tat­ing, oft-hu­mor­ously writ­ten, beer menu and tasty fare, though the space can get hec­tic and less at­ten­tive. Rel­a­tive new­comer, Bie­ro­c­racy brings a Bavar­ian-style beer hall into a mod­ern set­ting with its cir­cu­lar bar and slightly pricier brat and beer op­tions (note the lux­ury con­dos loom­ing nearby).

Beer-con­scious bars and restau­rants are aplenty head­ing up and around Ver­non Boule­vard: Wood­bines for Ir­ish bites and whiskey flights; Alo­bar for in­ven­tive dishes (plus about 100 whiskies) that have earned the restau­rant Miche­lin Bib Gour­mand awards; John Brown Smoke­house is a des­ti­na­tion for ca­sual, counter-style Kansas City-style BBQ star­ring suc­cu­lent meat candy and sloppy sides atop lunch trays and checker print table­cloths. Ex­pect a line.

Back­track to Rock­away Brew­ing Com­pany (its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion; re­cently, the com­pany also opened a new lo­ca­tion in the place of its name­sake), where English-style beers have evolved into more Amer­i­can and East Coast styles (Da Beach, Hawai­ian Pizza). Prac­ti­cally next door, Fifth Ham­mer Brew­ing, in its build­out at press time, is ex­pected to open its doors in late 2017. Be­tween them is the Gut­ter, a grungy bowl­ing al­ley bar orig­i­nat­ing in Wil­liams­burg, Brook­lyn, that got a facelift in Queens; the fresh space of­fers a great group ac­tiv­ity op­por­tu­nity.

The out­lier, in terms of bar-crawl ge­og­ra­phy, is LIC Beer Project, a brew­ery worth the 20-minute trek (or short ride) north. The im­pres­sive space—enor­mous by New York City stan­dards—is home to the city’s only cool­ship, and the brew­ery pours a steady sup­ply of Bel­gian-style wild ales and saisons along with plenty of crowd pleasers such as their Kölsch and bright, hazy IPAS, which are also avail­able in cans.

Fi­nally, look for the neon green-bor­dered “BEER” sign and co­or­di­nat­ing door around the cor­ner for Big Alice Brew­ing, one of New York’s small­est, but most spir­ited, beer mak­ers, hav­ing hun­dreds of ex­per­i­men­tal one-offs un­der its prover­bial belt. Monthly non­profit part­ner­ships also help them stand out from the crowd.

Ridge­wood

Ridge­wood is New York City’s next craft­beer fron­tier, with trendy es­tab­lish­ments start­ing to pop up around every cor­ner. Bridge & Tun­nel Brew­ery was the first brew­ery to ar­rive, proudly boast­ing a DIY, mom-and-pop aes­thetic and au­then­tic­ity.

Craft Cul­ture, which cel­e­brated its grand open­ing in June, brings a brightly lit, mar­ble-white bar and tast­ing room/bot­tle shop to the area, fo­cus­ing on lo­cal beers from Queens and Brook­lyn, as well as some far­ther-reach­ing brews, with small plates, such as spicy, crispy em­panadas, that re­flect the neigh­bor­hood. Ju­lia’s of­fers a smaller se­lec­tion of lo­cal beer, em­pha­siz­ing or­ganic wines, home­made crack­ers, and other snacks.

Pi­o­neer beer bars here are the Monk, a Bel­gian-style (and Bel­gian bot­tle–stocked) beer cafe with light bites, and On­der­donk and Sons, an unas­sum­ing beer and wine bar worth a late af­ter­noon beer, burger, and fries combo.

Then, head to Glen­dale, where Fin­back Brew­ery, the Kick­starter suc­cess story tucked away in a quiet res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood, is pro­duc­ing some of New York’s trendi­est beers. First timers will ben­e­fit from a cus­tom flight to wit­ness Fin­back’s ver­sa­til­ity-driven styles span­ning bar­rel-aged stouts and fruited sours to pale ales and IPAS.

Mikkeller, the Dan­ish brewer that op­er­ates dozens of bars around the globe (plus a brew­ery in San Diego), will be mak­ing its East Coast de­but at Queens’ Citi Field sta­dium. Swing by be­fore a Mets game or visit any­time year-round to pe­ruse sixty brews on tap (by Mikkeller and oth­ers) in a mod­ern-de­sign set­ting. Restau­rant col­lab­o­ra­tions are be­ing planned to spruce up the food menu.

For­est Hills, Bay­side, and Wood­side

For the ad­ven­tur­ous, For­est Hills is a sim­ple trip from Penn Sta­tion via Long Is­land Rail­road (LIRR) or via any en­try point of the sub­way’s E train. Here, Sta­tion House is dressed to im­press with a dig­i­tal beer menu, juicy burg­ers, plat­ters, and pou­tines, and nearby Austin Street pro­vides the set­ting for an aim­less am­ble or shop­ping spree.

An­other LIRR stop that’s ba­si­cally sub­ur­bia, only with more bars, is Bay­side’s Bell Boule­vard. The craft cul­ture hasn’t quite caught on here yet, but Ir­ish pubs and fam­ily-style restau­rants are nearly in­fi­nite (Mag­gie May’s, Dono­van’s, Bour­bon Street). The un­ex­pected cham­pion here is Press 195, a sand­wich shop where you can en­joy a mean panini (ei­ther from the lengthy menu or cus­tom or­dered), Bel­gian frites, and a craft brew in the back­yard.

In Wood­side, head to Uniden­ti­fied Fly­ing Chick­ens for crispy Korean chicken wings and craft beer in the base­ment.

The Rock­aways

Fi­nally, for the beach bums, there’s Rock­away Beach. Rock­away Brew­ing re­cently opened its surf-in­spired sec­ond lo­ca­tion here just a few min­utes from the shore. A third lo­ca­tion is planned for the fu­ture.

Be­low » LIC Beer Project is worth the out-of-the-way trip.

Above » Grab some bar­be­cue at John Brown Smoke­house;

Left » Long Is­land City is a craft-beer hot­bed, and Fifth Ham­mer is join­ing neigh­bors such as Rock­away Brew­ing, Alewife, and Trans­mit­ter Brew­ing in the bur­geon­ing craft-beer neigh­bor­hood.

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