MORRIS PLAINS, NEW JERSEY
For an independent ‘old man’s bar,’ Morris Plains roadhouse, HOOVER’S TAVERN, stays youthful capturing western Jersey’s woodsy suburban rusticity while serving some of the finest tapped craft beer in the area.
Sure, there’s the typical Bud-Miller-Coors fare, but most of the draughts at this 1930′s established dive bar will please even the most stubborn beer snobs.
An illuminated Sierra Nevada sign guides patrons to this paraphernalia-laden one-room joint. Inside the pale blue bar is an ancient oval bar with 50-plus seats, three small tables and old reliable kitchen appliances to cook pizza, hot dogs and pretzels.
There’s a Heineken sign stretched along the wood-paneled front wall and several TV’s generate local sports fans. Live entertainment could be found on the weekends.
On my initial May ’18 mid-afternoon jaunt, I consumed Southern Tier Somoa This (a S’mores-like Imperial Stout), Stoudt’s Hobo Ed’s Imperial Coffee Porter and New Belgium Tartaion Lemon Ginger Sour Ale. Full reviews are in Beer Index.
One of the most bohemian campus-styled beer halls in the whole Northeast, ELI CANNON’S TAP ROOM serves Wesleyan College and the whole free-spirited Middletown community with its lively frathouse appeal , antique memorabilia, graffiti-clattered walls, eclectic curiosities, local paraphernalia and well-selected revolving draughts.
In the heart of Connecticut just south of Hartford at Middletown’s North End, the recently renovated red brick tavern co-owned by beer-centric entrepreneur, Phil Ouellette, will appeal to any seasoned brew hound. In business since ’94, its offbeat dive bar appearance never obstructs the fantastic pub fare (burgers, sandwiches, snacks).
Mugs hang from the 35-tap bar and several brewery signposts decorate the walls alongside bikes, fire engines, skeletons, motorcycles and a mummy poster.
My wife and I grab a table at the cramped right side dining area where several college kids tip glasses. It’s a stormy Friday in April ’18 when I consume local Connecticut fare such as Back East Crosby Stills & Smash Pale Ale and New England Kewl Beans Stout plus Cali’s Anderson Valley Framboise Rose Gose (all reviewed in Beer Index).
Inside an ivy-covered red brick edifice deep in the heart of Dallas, premier gastropub MEDDLESOME MOTH opened in 2010 and boasts 40-plus beer taps plus three beautiful stain glass murals honoring rock legends Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Maintaining an upscale appearance and classy sportsbar atmosphere, Meddlesome Moth’s 20-stool pewter-top bar services a cavernous dining space (with plush leather booths and tables). $1,100 in silver quarters don the draught board (with 40 taps) and an open kitchen offers large portions of gourmet pub cuisine.
The prominent Cathedral-like ceiling and broad brown wood columns arch down towards the back end and a wood-furnished side patio offers extra seating.
Visited on a sunny Sunday in April ’18, Meddlesome Moth is packed at noon. I got to quaff four previously untried brews, including Boulevard Jam Band Berry Ale, Peticolas Match Day Session IPA, Peticolas Too Soon IPA and St. Arnold’s Bourbon-Aged Bishops Barrel 10 (all reviewed in Beer Index).
One of the finest craft beer haunts in the Dallas area, THE BRASS TAP resides at the northern end of the interurban city of Allen. A freestanding red brick edifice with wide open interior space, The Brass Tap set up shop, August 2015.
A well-rounded selection of 100-plus draught beers fill the stainless-steeled taps at the 20-seat left side bar. The maroon-walled backdrop and studio lighting heighten the caliginous black ceiling.
Along the back wall, there are several black-boarded beer drinkin’ categories defined as Repeat Offender, Guru, Snob, Aficionado and Rookie. The high-ceilinged open space includes pristine wood tables and chairs. Drink and food specials are listed below the TV’s at the bar.
On my initial April 2018 journey with wife and youngest son, quaffed several fine Texas brews such as Rahr & Sons Paleta de Mango, Buffalo Bayou Sam’s Wake and Bake Blonde Ale, Great Raft Old Mad Joy Baltic Porter, Lone Pint Knecht Ruprecht II Porter, No Coast Agricultured Rye Porter, Blue Owl Admiral Garvitas Sour Imperial Stout, Lakewood The Temptress Imperial Milk Stout and Braindead Party Pooper Strong Ale (all fully reviewed in Beer Index).
Proud beer-centric restaurant chain, FLYING SAUCER DRAUGHT EMPORIUM, opened its waterfront operation in Garland, Texas, during 2007. Over a decade hence, this Lake Ray Hubbard-bound establishment continues to thrive.
Inside an expansive freestanding red brick building next to Hooters and Primo’s, Flying Saucer’s busy interior is filled with plastic UFO-like saucers, brewery insignias, elegant china and glazed wood furnishings. An outside deck and windowed pale green-shingled porch (with block wood antique tables and red slate floor) sit alongside the waterside.
Visited April 2018 on a windy Saturday afternoon, its impressive 80-plus draughts don a penny-backed wall unit. A stainless-steeled kitchen alongside the curly 30-seat bar serves anything from pork bellies to goat cheese salad. A large bottled-canned beer selection fills a fridge. There’s a definite sportsbar atmosphere.
During my hour-long stay, quaffed previously untried Texas brews St. Arnold’s 5 O’Clock Pils, Martin House Friday IPA and Wild Acre Billy Jenkins Dunkelbock as well as Utah’s Epic Son Of A Baptist Stout (all fully reviewed in Beer Index).
SPARTA, NEW JERSEY
On three acres of “rolling hills and countryside” in the bucolic Western Jersey mining town of Sparta, MOHAWK HOUSE opened around 2004 after three years of construction. An exquisitely detailed and designed stone manor just off Route 94, this multifarious estate features several elegant wood furnished dining spaces, a roomy beer-centric bar, an expansive back patio (with hearth, grill and six-draught bar) and second-floor banquet space.
The cavernous red-bricked barroom offers an impressively broad U-shaped, 30-seat bar with decorative Edison light fixtures, bronze Temperance Eagle mural and back-windowed private room overlooking the glorious hillside. A temperature-controlled wine refinery sits across a top-to-bottom fireplace at the capacious right side dining room. The second-floor loft houses a conservatory, library with gas-powered hearth and back study.
Steve Scro, Mohawk House’s owner, enjoys Old World antiques and serving locally grown “farm to fork” upscale cuisine at his Bed & Breakfast-styled sanctuary. A host of cellar-aged bottled beer and great spirits are available alongside 50-plus local-to-national draught selections.
I had visited Mohawk House for a few beer-related events in the past. On this March 2018 mid-afternoon journey, I quaffed five previously untried brews, including three stouts (Green Flash Cacow Milk Stout, Flying Dog Sweet & Smoky Stout and Dark City Urban Decay Imperial Stout) , one porter (Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Blackberry Porter) and a fruity hybrid (Angry Erik Table 19 Infused Peach Tea). All are reviewed fully in Beer Index.
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
Just off Times Square in Manhattan’s Midtown West Garment District, lively library-like prohibition-styled pub, DISTRICT TAP HOUSE, retains its olden vibe with antique wood furnishings and wall panels. But the real draw is the double-decked 50-plus draught system that serves well-selected brews alongside a fabulous culinary-designed food menu.
District Tap’s elongated 30-seat bar features 4 TV’s, doom lights, colorful displays and hand-picked liquors. A few private backrooms offer elegance, comfort and quietude while right side dining tables fill out the tidy mid-sized beer parlor. One artful blackboard boasts “Drink The Boroughs,” a righteous slogan reinforced by a large contingent of fine local brews on draught.
During my initial March ’18 visit, I discovered four previously untried beers, including NYC’s Five Boroughs Class of 2017 Pale Ale and Iconyc Dropping Bombs IPA, Cleveland’s Platform Speed Merchant White IPA and Illinois’ Destihl Moon Jumper Nitro Milk Stout (reviewed fully in Beer Index).
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
A low key urban tavern with a positive vibe and highly respectable draught beer selection in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, VALHALLA features 48 tap handles at its popular 9th Street venue.
A small wood furnished corner pub with rustic furnishings, it’s ultimately a diminutive Norse-themed establishment dedicated to Valkyries, the mythological queen who led dead Viking souls into heavenly Valhalla.
Opened in 2006, its Kwaktoberfest banner hangs prominently from the low ceiling. Top shelf liquor is tightly packed into small space next to the draughts at the 20-seat left side bar. and 40 well-chosen bottled-canned beers are also available.
Two corner TV’s and a few dining tables take up Valhalla’s chill-out dive bar interior. A small pub food menu offers beer-battered pickles, hot dogs, bratwurst, sliders, nachos and spinach artichoke dip.
I discovered six previously untried brews on my initial March ’18 visit during a cool Saturday afternoon in NYC. Bunker Salad Daze Pale Lager, Staten Island Flagship American Wit, Wartega Spiced Ale, Pipeworks Passionfruit Guppy IPA, Pipeworks Rye Caramba and Montauk Double IPA were enjoyed and are fully reviewed in the Beer index.
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
A cozy li’l hole in the wall with an unpretentious low-key vibe, terric 500-plus bottled-canned selection and fine rotational draughts, midtown Manhattan’s diminutive BEER CULTURE is reminiscent of a Speakeasy with its dimly-lit hideout setting, maroon-curtained front windows, antique Edison lighting and wood-floored rusticity.
Buried in the middle of 45th Street, an orange-lettered banner leads Theatre District patrons into this tiny pub. At the left, its red brick-walled bar features 12 stools, two TVs and twelve tap handles across from a few wood tables and a refrigerator loaded with great local New York brews as well as trusty national brands.
In the rear, the small kitchen serves light pub fare and a second refrigerator provides splendid international beer fare. A decorative Allagash barrel separates the front the back.
While visiting on a Sunday afternoon, March, 2018 (following Broadway’s ageless Wicked), sampled tidy Iconyc Manhattanhenge Amber (reviewed in Beer Index) while wife downed previously quaffed Empire White Aphro Witbier.
Inside an inconspicuous Route 32 mini-mall just off Route 287 one mile north of Woodbury Commons at Central Valley, A BETTER PLACE BAR & GRILL began operations in the summer of ’16.
Serving a quaint neighborhood, this cozy sportsbar (with strategically placed TV’s) utilizes its 12 tap handles for mostly hand-crafted New York State brews.
A wood-furnished pub with backside open kitchen and left side dining area straddling the 20-seat bar that snakes around the right side on a crazy angle, A Better Place feels homey and warm. An American flag carved from wood sits atop the tap handles and liquor bottles.
On a seasonally warm pre-Thanksgiving Day perusal, fine Big Apple draught selections from Kingston-based Keegan Ales, Livingston Manor’s Catskill Brewery, Florida’s Glenmere Brewing, Chester’s Rushing Duck Brewing and Calverton’s Twin Fork get imbibed by the small mid-afternoon crowd.
At the crossroads of Orange and Rockland counties heading north to the bucolic Upper New York expanse, A Better Place is its area’s best craft beer choice.
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
In the center of St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan’s East Village, the fourth Barcade franchise opened during 2015. Taking the space once occupied by iconic New York record shop, Kim’s Underground, Paul Kermezian’s latest arcade-laden beer pub provides the same fine craft beer and wine as its other idiosyncratic locations.
Retaining the crudely rustic black-walled interior and exposed pipes of its predecessor, Lower East Side’s Barcade features 20-plus taps at its right side 12-seat lamp-lit bar. A central blackboard lists current beer selections.
On my terse half-hour stopover, October ’17, I discovered Great South Bay Splashing Pumpkin (reviewed in Beer Index). On deck were a few brews I hadn’t yet tried, such as Barrier Tanto, Shmaltz Hannukah in July in Napa, Du Claw Collusion, Chelsea Pumpkin Pie and Kelso Berliner Weisse with Cranberry.
SLOATSBURG, NEW YORK
A dinky l’il hole in the wall tucked into the main thoroughfare of Sloatsburg’s Orange Turnpike, the diminutive SEVEN LAKES STATION is a fertile craft beer oasis specializes in local New York brews as well as fine Belgian ales and specialty one-offs.
Open during the summer of 2016, its casual 8-seat bar (with 14 taps, a blackboard menu and walled TV) gets squeezed in next to three windowed tables. And the friendly low-key atmosphere, diminutive size and quaint ambiance contrast the loud biker-family sportsbar expanse of nearby Rhodes North Tavern and Characters Bar.
Charming newlyweds Martijn Mollet and Jamie Lovelace make amiable hosts and there love for music and brews proves worthy. There’s even a nifty orange Dogfish Head Brewing turntable on a shelf.
By August ’17, the beer-centric couple fixed up a three-tabled backroom (with chevron-patterned wood design, geometric bear and owl plaques and blackboard tap list) as well as a fenced-in picnic area (with Edison bulb lighting, patio furniture and graveled ground).
Today’s previously untried fare included Beau’s Buenos Dias Gruit, an ancient Margarita-like herbed ale with lightly salted lime-peeled lemon juicing, and Oxbow Grizacca Saison, a dry-hopped saison with zesty lemon and orange tartness topping musty mineral grains. For dessert, I quaff long-time fave, St. Bernardus 12, a world class Belgian Abbey Ale with sweet-spiced candied fig, sugared molasses and toffee illusions.
Well-suited for the pastoral quietude of nearby Harriman State Park (a historic spot for cutting class during high school), Seven Lakes Station proves less can be more. Besides the fine draught menu, there’s a refrigerator off to the side offering magnificent Belgian bottled beers and respectable local fare. Plus, warm pretzels, cheese plates and cure meats are available for munching.