The Gotham Imbiber presents the


Demystifying the world of craft beer in New York City

About Beer Demystifier NYC…

There are hundreds of guide books focused on steering the wide-eyed masses to New York City’s array of museums, skyscrapers, Broadway shows and the like. Until the original Beer Demystifier e-book was published, there hasn’t been one that concentrates on the snowballing craft beer movement within the five boroughs. Now divided into unique pages for each location for ease of viewing and downloading, Beer Demystifier NYC is designed as a resource for both New Yorkers and tourists alike, containing recommendations for bars, restaurants, and beer stores where a good range of craft beer can be enjoyed. In addition, there is a comprehensive listing of all breweries which have representation in the City, together with reviews and descriptions of the beers they brew.

Note that the bar, restaurant, and shop listings are the personal recommendations of Alex Hall and may not be representative of outlets with the largest selections, though that is a major factor for inclusion. A bar with six taps pouring interesting craft beers is much more likely to be included than one with forty that pour mainly common, mass-produced lager brands.

About the beer…

Craft beer = A high quality ale or lager, almost always brewed without the use of cheap adjuncts (rice, corn, etc.) commonly found in mass-produced lagers, made by hand in small batches at a microbrewery or traditional regional brewery. Craft beer is the tasteful antidote to common mass-produced, mass-advertised, bland light lagers (aka ‘macro beers’) which had driven true beer styles in America to the brink of extinction prior to the emergence of the craft beer movement.

Cask-conditioned beer = Also known as ‘cask ale’ or ‘real ale’, this is unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer served without any forced carbonation pushing it to the tap. It is served either by gravity-dispense straight from the tap hammered into the front of the cask (an example of this is shown in the cover photo), or by use of a beer engine (also known as a ‘handpump’ or ‘handpull’) which is a simple manual pump clamped to the bar which extracts the beer with the vacuum created when the lever is operated. Cask ale or lager is beer in its natural state, and should be served at around 54 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum mouthfeel – chilling beer detracts from the full taste spectrum. Carbonation is natural and soft, coming from the yeast which continues to ferment the beer in the cask. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the popularity and availability of cask-conditioned beer, with pre-sold empty casks regularly coming over from the UK (where they are made as cask ale is common there) by the container load for use by eager domestic craft brewers.

Look for the CASK ALE [H] and CASK ALE [G] symbols in the listings to identify which recommended bars serve cask-conditioned ale ("H' meaning on handpump/beer engine, 'G' meaning served straight from the cask by gravity).

Bottle-conditioned beer = The same principle as for cask-conditioned beer, having the presence of living yeast in the bottle – bottle-conditioning – gives a fuller, more complex mouthfeel and natural carbonation as the beer continues to ferment and mature until the moment it is consumed. All mass-produced macro lager brands are pasteurized and sterile filtered to remove all living yeast, leaving a consistent but totally dead product with pseudo life from forced carbonation. Many craft brewers produce bottle-conditioned beer, look for such wording on the label or for a light yeast sediment resting at the base of the bottle.

About craft beer vs. mass-produced beer…

This is the political and ethical bit. And it’s also the ‘quality vs. quantity’ bit.

Craft beer is lovingly produced in small batches by small businesses which have passion and commitment to quality. Most craft brewers started as homebrewers, boiling up 5 gallon batches of wort on the kitchen stove for home consumption. Their dedication to the skill of brewing - and the enjoyment of the finished result – forms the basis of the craft beer movement today. In part two of this book, I have listed the names of the head brewers of each brewery so you can see for yourself who is actually responsible for creating that enchanting elixir that you may be curious about. Once you know that, you can be content in the knowledge that you are actively supporting that particular craftsperson – and a small, non-corporate business. And drinking craft beer boosts the local economy rather than hemorrhaging it as is the case with global brands. Local craft beer obviously also means fresh beer! Knowledge to this effect is becoming widespread, but it is still a work-in-progress.

Conversely to the good aspects of craft beer, mass-produced ‘macro’ brands (Bud, Boddingtons, Coors, Miller, Stella, Corona, Heineken, Harp, etc.) come from giant automated factories, where someone in an office pushes a button for each process required. Where’s the passion in that? Where’s the enjoyment in drinking some rice- or corn-padded light lager that millions of other people are drinking out of habit? What satisfaction is there in the knowledge that your money is adding to the fat wallets of the management and shareholders of some giant global corporation, often not even based in the USA?

Budweiser: "The great American Belgian-headquartered but mainly Brazilian financed lager" (manufactured by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a corporate monstrosity formed as a result of a sobering and worrying recent merger of two global brewing juggernauts, making them the World's leader by volume in the beer market - which carries an incredible amount of marketing force) .

Also, what about the taste? Try a macro lager at a temperature a little higher than frozen (excess chilling numbs the taste buds) and compare it to a craft brew to see my point.

For anyone on a low budget, I suggest drinking a little less but drinking better. If I ever found myself living on a tight budget, I would always choose three or four outstanding craft beers that I would enjoy very much over six bland, mass-produced industrial lagers or ales which could be obtained for the same price. Craft beers are made by individuals for individuals. Mass-produced beers are made by corporations who contribute to the ongoing global standardization and dumbing-down of the entire human race, and the resulting unbalanced shift of wealth out of local communities to the rich, corporate industry barons. Taste and satisfaction is the reward for every individual – just remember we are all individual people capable of thinking and choosing what’s best for ourselves. It’s just a pity that so many people forget that when they choose a mass-produced, mass-advertised brand of beer.


About the author of the original e-book / webmaster of…

Alex Hall is a native of Brighton, England, where he latterly worked for The Dark Star Brewing Company – a multi-award-winning craft brewery. Since moving to New York City in 1999, he has been actively promoting craft beer in many ways – by founding and publishing The Gotham Imbiber, by running cask beer festivals, by writing the regular cask column in Ale Street News, and by working for UK Brewing Supplies who sell casks and cask ale equipment. He returns to England every summer to co-organize a leading cask ale and independent music festival (Glastonwick) near Brighton. He is also part of the small but dedicated team opening a new craft brewery this year. He is a firm believer in freedom of speech and self-publishing, and would like to see rigid controls introduced to regulate the phenomena of ‘giantism’ – which describes huge, global corporations that are currently left to grow unchecked to the detriment of choice, quality, and tradition. He would like to thank his wife Felice for being patient all these years, and also for choosing to visit The Evening Star on a certain June day in 1996.

Public Transport Guide

Please don’t drink and drive. For the benefit of non-New Yorkers, here’s how to get around by public transport. For buses and subway, use a Metrocard. There are two versions, pay-per-ride and unlimited travel. Pay-per-ride is based on the $2.25 per journey fare with limited discounts for buying rides in advance. Unlimited travel is $8.25 for a single day, $27 for one week, $51.50 for two weeks, or $89 for 30 days. Use the vending machines in the subway to buy these. Prices and availability of Metrocards are subject to change by the MTA during the currency of this guide.

Buses only: $2.25 per journey (coins only) or use a Metrocard. If changing from one to another and paying as you go, you can ask the driver of the first bus for a free transfer ticket (valid 2 hours).

Subway only: $2.25 per journey from ticket machines or use a Metrocard.

Taxis: There’s no shortage of yellow taxis here, just hail one with the central light on and ride.






© Alex Hall, 2010.