Eight long months have passed since our tech guy, Mark Romano, unveiled his superior knowledge of the New York City slice. He shed light on the secrets of the “Pizzaluminati,” gave us the skinny on thin crust, and reminded us all that the square slice at Di Fara still reigns supreme. His words forever changed the way we look at our great city—as well as the amount of Pecorino we should sprinkle on our pies—and we’ve been waiting for our culinary dark horse to impart his wisdom again ever since.
The wait is over. Turns out, Mark is also a bona fide beer buff who has imbibed at almost all of the 40-plus craft breweries that have blossomed in our boroughs—especially in Brooklyn—over the past five years. (Before 1920, NYC was an oasis of more than 70 breweries, but most were forced to close during Prohibition.)
And he has a deep respect for the brewmasters behind the current craft-beer boom. Says Mark: “I love that it is in large part a grassroots community. Most of our local breweries started with a story about friends/families/husbands/wives who had a passion to learn a trade creating something they love. None of their stories start as ‘I wanted to get rich so I learned how to make my own beer.’ They are stories that romanticize the almost forgotten American Dream. In a time where everything in New York feels like it’s owned by some monster conglomerate, it’s nice to walk into places that are just the opposite. So join me in raising a glass, can, growler, flogan, or even a das boot to these artists of hops and barley.”
Below, Mark shares his favorite local, independent breweries in NYC where we can do just that. Cheers!
Believe the hype: There’s a reason Other Half has one of the most cultish followings among beer aficionados. Lately, it’s gotten to the point where demand for the sudsy goodness brings lines around the block on can-release days. (Securing spots on the Other Half line has become a popular request on Task Rabbit.) In addition to carrying 20 quality beers on tap, the Brooklyn brewery also offers around 18 styles of 30 different year-round beers, including numerous one-offs, seasonals, and occasional takeovers from out-of-state breweries. 195 Centre Street, Carroll Gardens
A stone’s throw away from Other Half is the best-kept brewery secret in Brooklyn—not to mention one of my new favorite spots, where Old Bavarian bierhaus meets New Age Brooklyn. While Other Half is industrial and airy, Folksbier is woodsy and warm, and it has a welcoming glow. It’s housed in what used to be storage for the Frankies Spuntino restaurant group; the creator of Folksbier used to work for Frankies, and his old bosses graciously entrusted him to use the space to chase down a beer dream. Rather than making an overwhelming amount of styles, Folksbier sticks to a small rotation of seven brews, which makes it quite manageable to try everything. The Recurring Dreams IPA series and Glow Up sour will not disappoint. 101 Luquer Street, Carroll Gardens
Step inside this popular Gowanus brewery and you might not realize it’s a brewery; the bar shelves slide into place, disguising the brew tanks behind them. Threes offers more than 60 styles of beers—from German lagers to hoppy American ales—and is one of the only NYC breweries that serves liquor and brews that it has not made. It is also equipped with a backyard space so you can soak up some sun with your suds when the season allows. And it’s where it hosts burlesque shows, trivia nights, concerts, and Boozy Bingo. An additional tip of the hat here for the amusing, existential beer names, such as The Constant Disappointment Imperial IPA, Echo of Nothing Mexican Lager, The View From Nowhere, and Voluntary Exile. If Camus were alive and living in Brooklyn, this would be his spot. 333 Douglass Street, Gowanus
Strong Rope prides itself on being a New York State Farmhouse Brewery, sourcing only the finest homegrown New York–farmed ingredients—and it shows in every pint. The brewery-taproom hosts fun events and offers a Mug Club membership, which includes a personalized 17.7-ounce mug and early access to bottle and can releases—plus the first pint is always on the house. What’s not to like about that? 574 President Street, Gowanus
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The home of these longtime gypsy brewers is probably the most aesthetically pleasing brewery I have ever set foot in. If you’re looking to go on a beer date, this is the spot. The space might come off a bit Williamsburg-pretentious at first to a brewery traditionalist, but the beer speaks for itself. Grimm has always been known for making excellent sour beers. I, for one, am not the biggest sour beer fan, but I would gladly drink any of the sours this brewery puts in front of me. They taste like a fruity beer-champagne hybrid. And the IPAs on rotation are as equally exquisite. 990 Metropolitan Avenue, East Williamsburg
Located amid taxi parking lots and tire repair shops (which I’ve never seen open), LIC Beer Project wins the Is This the Right Place? award. But the inside tells a different story: It’s industrial and sleek but not unwelcoming. And it is one of the first NYC breweries to adopt the coolship method, which provides a large surface area to efficiently cool down the heated wort and promote yeast growth—that must be the reason why everything I’ve tried here tastes so incredibly smooth. The Party Crasher IPA is a regular staple in my refrigerator. LIC also has fun can art reminiscent of the now-gone 5 Pointz graffiti (that was unforgivably wiped from existence in exchange for more glass towers, IMHO). 39-28 23rd Street, Long Island City
As a decade-long resident of Astoria, I must pay homage to SingleCut Beersmiths. This taproom looks like it used to be a band rehearsal space, but then that band got really good at brewing beer. (The name is even derived from a term used in guitar making!) Founder Rich Buceta weaves his love of music with his obsession with hops, with guitar-shaped headstock tap handles, excellently curated tunes (chosen from a collection of more than 1,000 vinyls), and clever beer names referencing certain lyrics and musicians. Most important, SingleCut was one of the first craft breweries to serve Northeast-style IPAs in NYC (yes, before all the hyped-up Brooklyn spots did). 19-33 37th Street, Astoria
Sometimes you need to go the extra mile. In Finback’s case, it’s a bunch of extra miles: This taproom sits hidden in a residential area all the way on the edge of Queens. But once you’re there, you won’t want to leave. Since opening its doors in 2014, Finback has excelled at creating a consistently tasteful beer selection. Both founders came from artistic backgrounds, and the product and space reflect that, so much so it has been used as an art gallery on occasion. They’ve managed to make what should be a grungy warehouse seem chic, with features like a marble bar top, contemporary benches and tables, and local art near the stacked beer barrels. They also have a fun yearly membership program that offers complimentary growlers or four-packs, as well as access to presales. 78-01 77th Avenue, Glendale
The Boogie Down reps the beer game hard at Bronx Brewery. One of the earlier breweries birthed from the city’s craft boom, this taproom has a strong sense of community that you can immediately identify the moment you step foot inside. In fact, the first time I walked in here I felt like I was in the brewery version of Cheers. The bartender seemed to know everybody’s name. One of my favorite features, besides the Foosball table: couches. Something about sitting on a couch makes beer taste better to me. I also love to play a round of cornhole in the 5,000-square-foot industrial backyard, which is nicely shaded by the Amtrak/Metro-North train track above. 856 East 136th Street, Bronx