Round 2 for #BARchmadness

So, the first round of #BARchmadness is complete with more than 15,000 people participating in voting for their favorite bars in NYC.

How did the Bitch do on my bracket? Not too shabby. I won’t win a million dollars because I wasn’t perfect, and in one case I was sadly disappointed (Adobe Blues didn’t pull off an upset, despite being in the lead for most of the voting). But I did pretty well, if I do say so myself. I’m moving on to Round 2, however, and may the best bar win!

Round 2: The West Side


#1 The Pony Bar v. #5 The Owl Farm

I am engaging a bit in fuzzy math here, as I voted for The Owl Farm but really thought it would be Queens Kickshaw winning by a nose. In fact the competition for both these bars were pretty much non-existent in the first round; neither bar ever lost the lead once the voting really got underway.

For Round 2, I expect a closer fight, but I believe The Owl Farm is both a better bar and will have more fans voting for Brooklyn

My vote: The Owl Farm My pick: The Owl Farm

#2 The Gingerman v. #6 Jimmy’s No. 43

This is not going to be the most brutal battle of Round 2, but it’s sure to be among the more interesting. I think it will really come down to beer geeks v. casual bar lovers. Jimmy’s No. 43 doesn’t serve liquor and it’s not really known as “a bar”. But for beer lovers, it’s among a handful of truly important craft beer bars in the city. That said, I think it will come down to the wire and The Gingerman will pull it out at the end. But this reminds me of the six-division NHL, where the third best team in the conference gets seeded fourth, ending up playing their division rival in Round 2 when both should be in the conference finals. I would love to see Jimmy’s No. 43 in the Sweet 16, but this may be a time when Goliath simply wears down David to limp off for Round 3.

My vote: Jimmy’s No. 43 My pick: The Gingerman

#3 Alewife v. #10 The Gate

Technically, I probably don’t get to vote on this one, since I didn’t choose Alewife. I think this will be another close race, but I’m going to go for the more interesting bar of the two and probably lose this round… again!

My vote: The Gate My pick: The Gate

#4 The Jeffrey v. #9 Astoria Bier & Cheese

I said somebody would make it out of Astoria in the first round (in fact, two Astoria establishments did), but I didn’t vote Astoria Bier & Cheese the first time, and I think this time The Jeffrey will knock them out cold.

My vote: The Jeffrey My pick: The Jeffrey

Round 2: The East Side


This was the only bracket that didn’t cause me problems (I did think that 124 Old Rabbit Hole wouldn’t get the upset, but I did vote for them).

#1 Rattle-N-Hum v. #5 Bierkraft

This is why my brackets always get messed up during March Madness; I’m just too much of a fan girl. I love Bierkraft, and I want it to win. I voted for it. But honestly, I think Rattle-N-Hum has a much larger fan base. And you don’t have to take the G-train to get there.

My vote: Bierkraft My pick: Rattle-N-Hum

#2 Tørst v. #6 The Double Windsor

I think this is going to be a great match-up, but I believe the “coolness” of Tørst gets old after awhile. Not to mention that—much like Jimmy’s No. 43—Tørst is exclusively a beer bar (and unlike Jimmy’s No. 43 they don’t even offer wine). That fact, combined with The Double Windsor’s cadre of beer + wine + spirits lovers, should be enough to get them into Round 3.

My vote: Tørst My pick: The Double Windsor

#4 Good Beer v. #9 Fourth Avenue Pub

Growler shops did very well in Round 1, but just as some of the beer bars are going to fall short on the “bar” part of the measurement, so will these bottle shops. At some point, you want to sit down with a meal, invite some whiskey drinking friends, and enjoy a full bar experience. Not to mention Fourth Avenue Pub is one hell of a great bar.

My vote: Fourth Avenue Pub My pick: Fourth Avenue Pub

#7 Proletariat v. #14 124 Old Rabbit Club

124 Old Rabbit Club pulled off the biggest upset of Round 1, and you can expect the West Village to triumph over the East Village in this round.

My vote: 124 Old Rabbit Club My pick: 124 Old Rabbit Club

Round 2: Downtown


#1 Blind Tiger v. #5 Mugs Alehouse

Okay, well, this is the race to watch, mark my words. I think it’ll be back and forth up until the last vote. But I’ll plead my case for Mugs taking this round: Unlike Dave Brodrick, Ed Berestecki is still involved in day-to-day operations. Mugs was cool when Brooklyn wasn’t, and it’s going on 22 years of riding a tide of craft beer change in the city. Finally, you can actually sit down in the place, bring your kids, and enjoy your beer without having to take a pill to combat claustrophobia. The old school beer drinkers will have to choose between the old school beer bars, and I think Mugs will be the sentimental favorite. (And yes, I do realize that this goes against my thinking Round 1that Blind Tiger would meet Mission Dolores for the Division title.)

My vote: Mugs Alehouse My pick: Mugs Alehouse

#2 Top Hops v. #11 Bohemian Hall

Okay, so maybe there’s room for one bottle shop to get through to the second round. And since I didn’t vote for Bohemian Hall in the first round, I kinda gotta stick to eligible entries on my bracket. Fair is fair.

My vote: Top Hops My pick: Top Hops

#3 One Mile House v. #10 Coopers Craft & Kitchen

Coopers Craft upset Sunswick 35/35 and I admitted to not knowing anything about One Mile House. One of the cool things about an activity such as #BARchmadness is that it brings to one’s attention establishments of note. I’ve since heard a lot about One Mile House, so I look forward to taking up a bar stool soon. And since I did blindly pick them in Round 1, I gotta stick to my existing bracket.

My vote: One Mile House My pick: One Mile House

#4 Mission Dolores v. #9 Buddha Beer Bar

I’m not sure how Buddha Beer Bar gets in a “Downtown” division, but the Washington Heights bar pleasantly surprised me when it got out of Round 1. That said, it won’t get past Mission Dolores, as this is one of the more lopsided fights in Round 2.

My vote: Mission Dolores My pick: Mission Dolores

Round 2: Uptown


#1 The Pony Bar UES v. #12 Dive Bar

Another surprising upset from Round 1 was Dive Bar’s victory. I voted for them in Round 2, but since I have to stick with the bracket, I’ll choose The Pony Bar’s Upper East Side bar for my pick.

My vote: Dive Bar My pick: The Pony Bar UES

#2 Barcade v. #11 ABC Beer Company

It pays to be #2 in #BARchmadness. Barcade should win handily over a bar that barely eeked a win from Spuyten Duyvil and its “absence of presence” on the Internet. I hate to say, “I told you so,” but…

My vote: Barcade My pick: Barcade

#4 Idle Hands v. #8 Singlecut Beersmiths

This should be another tight race between two master marketers with very different establishments. Since I didn’t vote for Singlecut in Round 1, I’m stuck with Idle Hands in Round 2. No pun intended.

My vote: Idle Hands My pick: Idle Hands

#7 Bronx Alehouse v. #14 Spring Lounge

Speaking of “I told you so…” Woot woot and then some, that Spring Lounge pulled off its upset, which I think will continue. Bronx Alehouse is going down! Er… up. Er… you know what I mean.

My vote: Spring Lounge My pick: Spring Lounge

The Bitch has spoken! Round 3 starts Thursday, March 27th, at noon.

NYC Beer Week Wrap-Up Part 1

BeerWeekGrainsThrough a haze of amazing beer, people and NYC Beer Week events, I have emerged. While I didn’t go out every day this week, I did hit up several new venues and came to even more conclusions about what this “annual celebration” means for this city (more on that in Part 2, to follow). Rather than attempt to marry my activities to my thoughts, I’ve decided to sum up with a grade-school-style essay that might as well be called, “How I spent my Beer Week.”

Day 1 – Friday, February 21st

I guess I could say I’m getting too old to go out every night, but I think I’m just too lazy to go out every night. Not to mention the whole “beer makes you fat” thing (and to those opponents of this notion, I always joke, “Sure, beer doesn’t make you fat… but calories do!”). Anyhow, I had an awesome time hanging out at 508 Gastrobrewery with Brooklyn Brew Shop the night before, so I opted to lay low and hang with a friend at Williams & Bailey for East Williamsburg Restaurant Week (yes, there is such a thing, and it’s way cheaper than NYC Restaurant Week).

Day 2 – Saturday, February 22nd

I really hope that Clinton Hall finds its identity. I feel like it’s going through growing pains. On a positive note, the beer garden built from the ashes (or perhaps, more accurately, soggy mush) of Merchants NY Café still brings in an upscale FiDi crowd that would pay $8 for a Stella, so they’re really not gonna blink when they shell out $10 for Perennial’s La Boheme (Clinton Hall had the only keg of Jonathan Moxey’s wild sour in NYC). But does this crowd appreciate the delicacy of a flux capacitor (one of only two in NYC—the other at Tørst) or the fact that the bar is run by a Certified Cicerone (do these bridge and tunnel types even know what a Cicerone is)? I’ve met Abraham Merchant and he’s not one to fail; each of his Lower Manhattan restaurants has its unique style. That said, this bar is a cut above the neighborhood (and The Bitch lived there before she was Brooklyn-bound, so I know of what I speak!). I love hanging out there on a Sunday in the early evening, when there’s no one at the bar. But that’s kinda a problem, i.e. no one at the bar. A bar this good (and this pricey) will need the love of the NYC craft beer community if it is to succeed as an artisanal joint rather than just an excuse not to go to TGI Fridays one block east.

Day 3 – Sunday, February 25th

Since the only event I really wanted to attend was Caskalot but couldn’t bring myself to schlep back into Manhattan, I took a day off from drinking (shock!)

Day 4-5 – Monday-Tuesday, February 24th-25th

Honestly, I had no idea just how hard publicizing NYC Beer Week would be! On top of my own (gratis) calendar and Best Bets, I was doing last minute-outreach for NYC Brewer’s Choice. So, while I did drink some growlers, mostly I was working my ass off on these days.

Day 6 – Wednesday, February 26th

BrewersChoiceOkay, I have to admit there’s something not quite right about the state of beer drinkers in NYC. They’ll pay a small fortune to line up to be part of a clusterfuck at a warehouse-packed tasting event, but then won’t spring for what was arguably the best beer event of the week. Yes, I’m paid to promote NYC Brewer’s Choice. Yes, I know there are certain behind-the-scenes issues. That said, this year’s event blew it out of the water! The amazing food (from Luke’s Lobster, Reynard, Nordic Breads and Blue Island Oyster Co., among others) was paired with several dozen different brews made with local ingredients. Plus, beers were poured by the brewers themselves! Maybe it was because people didn’t want to schlep to the Wythe Hotel or maybe it’s just because NYC is still in its pubescent “let’s get wasted” phase, but I’ll never understand why the more interesting and sophisticated drinking+eating events don’t sell out. I said the same thing last year when Savor came to town: NYC has a long way to go with regards to beer appreciation, and I fear that NYC Beer Week is not doing anything to advance quality (of both beer and programming) in this regard.

Day 7 – Thursday, February 27th

Was heading to Spuyten Duyvil for Two Roads when I passed my favorite growler shop… pouring Two Roads. I stayed in and watched Elementary.

Day 8 – Friday, February 28th

Kristen_SonyaOkay okay… I admit that I’m not a fan of the bus system in NYC. However, after I discovered the B48 (which I rode two days in a row), I will have to rethink my loathe of traveling to South Brooklyn. I didn’t know what to expect (from both the transit option and the bar) when I headed out to Glorietta Baldy for their Women+Beer First “event.” Turns out, it was more like a theme, with $1 off draughts, homebrew, and some amazingly cool women hanging out. I grabbed a seat at the bar, only to discover with great luck that I was sitting beside Allagash’s NYC rep, Kristen Demergian. I pretty much put shit out there (as anyone who knows me will testify), and it’s no bullshit when I say how much I love Allagash. As luck would have it, Kristen had something up her sleeve (okay, it was in her bag): an unlabeled bottle of the new year-round beer (their first since 2007), Allagash Saison. I haven’t sampled it yet, but it will be available on the market March 21st, just in time for spring!

After Kristen headed out for another event, I ended up talking to the So half of KelSo: Sonya Giacobbe was in the house, and even offered to save me from the bus ride home with a lift back to North Brooklyn (but I was able to find my way to the northbound B48 despite her kind offer). And the Internet is a strange thing: I’ve “known” Beerded Lady Hayley Karl, but this was the first time we’d met up face-to-face.

An awesomesauce time was had by all, I think (and I heard after 10 you really couldn’t get in the place, so I guess I left just at the right time).

Day 9 – Saturday, March 1st

Yesterday, I wrote all about this. Without a doubt, Saturday’s outing was one of those “I’ll never forget…” experiences. The lagering caves of Brooklyn tour led by Josh Bernstein was not just a geek out moment for beer lovers, but a truly historical tour that harkened back to a simpler time. Of course, no cell service in the caves punctuated that.

Afterwards, I headed out with Good Beer’s Matt Cincotta to Fourth Avenue Pub, where I drank some of the same Peekskill brews that were being poured from the tanks when I visited the brewery in January.

Day 10 – Sunday, March 2nd

Went out for Bloody Marys early, came home, took a nap, stayed up too late watching the least interesting (and most predictable) Oscars ever. But at least Ellen didn’t drive me to drink.

Cheers to another NYC Beer Week that came to a close just in time for March Madness!