Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Beer Blogpost: A Review of the South Brooklyn Beer Book

A used Beer Book in the wild
Call me Christopher Columbus, for I have just gotten back from an expedition, exploring and discovering lands already established and populated. No wait, that’s not good. Nobody should be called Christopher Columbus. Unless they like genocide, slavery, and writing confused tracts about religion, How about Chris Columbus? For I was home alone, lost in New York, except not the Island of Manhattan, but the Brooklyn portion of the Long Island that nestles up to it like a serpent coming out of the sea. Yes, that’ll do for comparisons.

However, like Columbus I had my Marco Polo’s guide that I was trying to follow. Instead of spices, I was seeking suds spread out among the rumored bars, pubs, and taverns of Southern Brooklyn. The name of this guide? The Brooklyn Beer Book, specifically the one for Zone 2. That is, for bars in Brooklyn below Atlantic Avenue. However, it is no ordinary guide that gives you a list of places to go and their addresses where they might be found. No. That would be what this blogpost is for.

For $30, you get 30 coupons, each one entitles you to a drink at the bars listed. That’s right. 30 beers for $30, and all you have to do is a little bit of walking to get them, well, that plus using the subway, the bus, or the car service of your choice. The coupons aren’t all the same. Some can be redeemed for any beer at the bar listed. Some can only be redeemed for a beer up to a certain dollar value. Tip is obviously not included. There’s no fancy magic involved. You just rip off one of the coupons in the booklet and hand it to the bartender.

The bars are spread out across lower Kings County, which does discourage bar crawls among the timid. However, I am not one of them. While there are establishments in the beer book located in many of the far-flung areas, most of my adventures occurred in a few clusters of bars, that formed constellations of discounted inebriation. One was centered around the Gowanus Canal, another was grouped around 5th Avenue in park Slope, and yet another was located near Franklin Avenue. But there were exceptions, with bars on Coney Island, Sunset Park, or in Bay Ridge.

With that said, here are the bars I encountered as the result of 2018’s Beer Book. I visited them between August and December of 2018. Who knows what the 2019 version will contain?

Abilene (442 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11231) – A retro looking spot with outdoor seating and plenty of decent beers on tap. It’s lively and feels like a part of the community. Friendly staff and interesting light fixtures. They have Genesee Cream Ale, which is nice. I went there while doing a pub crawl before a Chapo Trap House show at the Bell House.

The Adirondack (1241 Prospect Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11218) – Nestled in Windsor Terrace, this bar has an interesting New York state theme, which is fitting with its name. A rustic look with rustic paintings. I went there late in the summer. It was nearly empty when I went in, but then it filled up with the teachers of a nearby school, looking to blow off steam from training and have one last hurrah before the start of the school year.

Making cider
Bad Seed (2936, 585 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238) – This is where all the bad apples go. This bar is centered around cider! Specifically, the ciders of the Hudson River Valley. A crisp and refreshing spot in Brooklyn.

Bar Cord (1008 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11218) – This is one of my main watering spots. The other is Sycamore, where you can buy flowers for your loved one, or if you’re alone, for your beer. But back to Bar Cord! Ditmas Park’s best bar, when it comes to live music! They have a nice jukebox, Afro-Cuban bands, and free pretzels. It gets crowded on Saturday nights, especially if the band’s good, so come early.

Berg’n (899 Bergen St, Brooklyn, NY 11238) – A large bar that’s almost like a warehouse. I don’t know if it was at one point. Big with families and the brunch crowd because it has lots of tables and seating. It also has several counters serving food, much like a small food court.

Building on Bond (112 Bond St, Brooklyn, NY 11217) – I went here as part of a pub crawl after the Kavanaugh hearings. The place is whimsical and it has one of the nicer bathrooms I’ve been in, which is no small feat among the Bars of this or any other borough.

Canal Bar (270 3rd Ave # A, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – I went here as part of my Chapo Trap House pub crawl. A survivor, just like me after that night. It’s a holdover from the way the neighborhood used to be, which was industrial, polluted, and put the “anus” and “anal” in Gowanus Canal. The bartenders and the customers are close and there’s popcorn for the taking. There’s a TV too, and I watched an episode of Fresh Off the Boat without any sound.

Cebu (8801 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209) – An okay place, I guess. Not really a bar as much as a restaurant that happens to have a bar attached.

The Commissioner (247 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – A narrow place that’s geared for sports viewing. I guess it’s an okay standard bar. I don’t remember much. This was at the end of my Kavanaugh pub crawl.

Coney Island Brewery (1904 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224) – An interesting place. It’s a bar attached to an actual brewery. The brewery is near the beach and the amusement parks. I went there on a December night though, so it was kinda weird, the only light on at the end of Surf Avenue. If I went during the day, I’m sure I could’ve taken a tour.

Covenhoven (730 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238) – A cool little bar that specializes in European beers. On a good day, it’s a delightful place to sit, either in the backyard, or near the street, looking at the leaves changing color, or the flowers coming in, depending on the season (or saison).

Not to be confused with Faulkner, though I'm sure he would've dug it
Fawkner (191 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11201) – A favorite of mine. I’ve been there before the coupon book led me there. Again, it was part of the Kavanaugh Crawl, BUT I remembered it vividly. It has a stuffed Ram overlooking the bar! There’s wooden alcoves to sit in and plot! In the back, it’s like being in an old time British club, with oil paintings and chairs with green leather upholstery! What more can you want from a bar?

Franklin 820 (820 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225) – An aptly named bar, maybe the most aptly named. I can vouch for the food here. I had the macaroni and cheese, which was good. The staff were friendly and the music was good. They played a bunch of songs from the late 90s that made me feel like I was at a middle school dance. But this time I got to drink.

Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (627 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – A hidden gem, at least from the street. Esquire Magazine called it “one of the best bars in America.” It’s an eclectic, crazy place, that’s vibrant even when you’re by yourself on a Saturday afternoon. Freddy’s Bar has the kind of d├ęcor that TGI Friday’s wishes it could have. Lots of old time art, statues, strange devices, and my favorite, a friggin’ fish tank. You never drink alone when you drink with a fish tank.

Greenwood Park (555 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – This bar used to be a gas station and has a mechanical feel to it. Out front they were selling Christmas trees when I was there. It’s a community institution of sorts, and you pass a giant cemetery while going there.

Halyards (406 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – I went here to start the Chapo Trap House pub crawl (not affiliated with the Chapo Trap House Podcast). It has rooms with a kind of nautical theme in the back, where you can play pool, if you are so inclined. I encountered a lot of pool tables on my way through the bars of Lower Brooklyn. I didn’t play with any of them, either according to the standard rules of the game, or using the balls and cues in fun, new, and obscene ways.

High Dive (243 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – Yeah, I went here for the Kavanaugh Crawl. I remembered neon lights, bright lights, people in the back laughing, laughing and a bathroom with a chalkboard (and chalk) where I kept writing “we are using our skins for wallpaper and we cannot win.”

Irish Haven (5721 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220) – A classic old school mid-century bar. Of course, it has an Irish theme. Nothing too excessive. When you go into the men’s room, there’s no leprechaun staring at you. There was a drunk, bloated guy at the bar who looked like Steve Bannon, but with a beard. The bartender called him a car to take him home. So you know they take care of you there. The decor is simple, but sturdy, the beer is cheap, and there’s a pool table in the back to pass out on.

Kimoto Rooftop (216 Duffield St, Brooklyn, NY 11201) – This bar is the highest one on the list. It’s on top of a hotel in Downtown Brooklyn. It’s got a fun view, but was a little too hip for me.

The Kings Beer Hall (84 St Marks Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217) – This German themed bar is on St. Marks Place in Brooklyn, not Manhattan. They have plenty of German brews in giant mugs and German dishes. It’s much bigger inside than it looks from the street. Which again, is in Brooklyn and not Manhattan. There’s lots of games for people to play, including darts. From time to time the place hosts the Simpsons Trivia Night, which I’ve been to there before.

Krupa Grocery (231 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – This bar and eatery were built on an old grocery, hence the name. The place is nice, good for brunch, I imagine. I didn’t eat there.

Lavender Lake (383 Carroll St, Brooklyn, NY 11231) – This bar is close to the Gowanus Canal, and it represents the way the area has transformed itself. It reminded me of a scene from an Impressionist painting. It’s got an extensive and sophisticated beer and drinks menu, which me being me, found intimidating. I can’t remember what I got. I think I just sucked on a napkin that soaked up various beers on the bar counter. A moist smorgasbord.

Lowlands Bar (543 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – A good, solid bar. Enough said.

Midwood Flats (577 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11226) – A rustic chic bar, as some might say. It’s packed on Saturday nights. It’s a gastropub, although I didn’t find the menu all the appetizing. But I didn’t actually eat the food, so I can’t say who it was. Maybe nachos made with potato chips are in fact good, and not just something I would create at home for myself out of kitchen odds and ends after a night of heavy drinking.

The Monro Pub (481 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – We’ve had Irish Bars and German Bars, here is a British Bar! Or pub, I guess. Unlike the others though, it actually acts as a cultural embassy of sorts. It serves British food and shows British sports. I don’t really follow this and that FC, but it’s nice that those who do have a place to go to.

The Montros(47 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217) – So many bars on 5th Avenue! I could go back and just do 5th Avenue all over again, and add bars I haven’t been to yet. This bar is convenient for people going to the Barclay’s Center for a game or a show. I forget what was going on the night I was there, but everyone else was definitely waiting for it to happen. Maybe…I was the show.

I think this was the way to the bathroom at Robert Bar
Robert Bar (104 Bond St, Brooklyn, NY 11217) – This bar is from another time, a past that never existed and a future that has yet to come. There was something Ridley Scott-esque about it, or perhaps Kubrickian. While I was there, I was surrounded by couples, and I had the eerie feeling they were looking for a third.

Skylark Bar 477 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – A retro bar with an aesthetic that I’d describe as “late Ford Administration.” There’s furniture and paintings from estate sales and thrift stores, and a fine selection of beers (thankfully that’s not stuck in the past, with nothing but Pabst). It’s like drinking at your grandmother’s before or after Thanksgiving dinner, but without having to deal with the rest of your family.

Strong Rope Brewery (574 President St, Brooklyn, NY 11215) – A family-run taproom. It’s less a bar, and more of a tasting room.

Ugly Duckling, or UglyDuckling? (166 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11201) – Now last, and maybe the least. I didn’t get much out of this place, but it might’ve been the time I was there. It was a weird time in the afternoon and they were moving things around to get ready for the dinner rush. Then again, the true Brooklyn Bar worthy of respect, is always open and ready for its drinkers

Well, that’s it. Those are the bars of lower Brooklyn from the Beer Book. Overall, I think it was a nice thing to do, I don’t think I’d do it again next year. It was hard getting around to all of them because of the way the trains are arranged here. You can’t go crosstown without difficulty. Or I might try the Beer Book for upper Brooklyn, above Atlantic Avenue. I wonder if half the bars are just in Williamsburg.

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