Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beer There

I don't get to travel much for work. I do occasionally visit a neighboring museum, but generally I stick close to home. This past Thursday, however, I had the chance to scoot down New York City way. Granted the trip was technically for work—but why not make it a bit beery, too?

My traveling companion for this little sojourn was Carrie—fellow hop-head, co-worker, and all-around buddy. We hopped the 7am katy out of Rensselaer and headed for Penn Station, en route to a meeting at the New York Public Library-affiliated Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. The train was due in around 9:30 and our meeting wasn't scheduled until 11:30. Two hours to kill—what were two museum professional, beer loving friends to do? How about a quick ride on the C up to Central Park West and the New York Historical Society's Beer Here exhibition? That's exactly what we did, and let me tell you, it well worth it. Worlds collided for me in that exhibit space. Not only was I surrounded by all things beer—which made my head spin—the exhibit was amazingly well designed and concise. NYHS hit every topic in New York City's brewing past—everything from 18th century account books to temperance banners and Miss Rhinegold's dress from the mid-1950s. Oh, and there's a beer hall in the exhibit, too. Not a model of a beer hall—a real beer hall offering at least twenty real craft beers from across New York State. The only downside was it was ten in the morning—not as if that would have stopped us—but the hall didn't open until two. If I couldn't drink beer, at least I could be immersed in a beery environment, right?

Unfortunately, we did have to get back to work. As much as we were willing to hang out at NYHS until two, we were expected uptown. Back onto the subway and a 20 minute jaunt up the 1 and 2 lines and we landed at 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. A few hours later, we shook the hands of our Schomburgian cohorts and headed out in search of food and beer. After a steamy 94º stroll down what Langston Hughes dubbed the "the heartbeat of Harlem," we ended up between 127th and 126th Streets at the legendary soul food joint—Sylvia's. Fried chicken, waffles, collards and mac n' cheese washed down with Harlem's own Sugar Hill Golden Ale—a bready, sweet blonde ale with a hint of spice and honey. I'm not much of a food and beer pair-er, but the Sugar Hill's sweetness was a nice compliment to the spice of the fried chicken and the smokiness of the collards. We sat outside and people watched, and I've got to say—there's nothing much better, on a 90º+ day, than people watching in Harlem and a cold beer.

In order to not get back in the middle of the night, we needed to catch the 5:45pm Amtrack back north. After Sylvia's, we headed back down the 2 to 34th street and ended up killing our last hour at Tír Na Nóg, an Irish pub across the street from Madison Square Garden. Although the beer was nothing to snuff about—I quaffed Lagunitas IPA while Carrie kicked back a few Smuttynose Pales—the interior of the bar was what was really stunning. The Dubliner barman told me all of the woodwork, including what would become the bar, was pulled from a Irish church slated for demolition, reworked and shipped to Manhattan fifteen years ago. Intricately carved and detailed woodwork adorns the pub. High back confessional pews act as booths and web-like carvings edge the bars archways and door. Tír Na Nóg is dark, but inviting, traditional but comfy—and groups of soccer fans slowly filled the place to watch Italy beat Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-finals. With all the hustle and bustle outside on 8th Avenue, Tír Na Nóg was a quiet respite—despite the occasional hoot from an Italian soccer fan—from a long day. We downed our last pint and headed back to the train station. Two-and-a-half hours later we stepped off the train in Rensselaer, and called our trip finito.

So, there you go, NYC in three beery acts—and we got a little work done too!


  1. Good story, well told.

    Interesting that Lagunitas was available in NYC. I suppose it is not too surprising given they sold 165k barrels in 2011. I had a good deal of their beers in Salem, Ore.

    Reckon you know, Lagunitas is opening a second brewery in Chicago with an annual capacity of 150k barrels.

    Tony Magee, the Lagunitas owner, is Over The Top anti-aluminum cans.

  2. Lagunitas is fairly available in Albany, so I wasn't that surprised to see it in the city. Next trip down I'm going to try and hit Rattle n' Hum. I hear their beer selection is second to none

  3. Hitting Rattle n Hum, right now.