There’s at least one person in your life who talks about Heady Topper and refers to certain beers as “juicy.” Maybe it’s whoever delivers your mail, or maybe you’re that person, and all of your friends roll their eyes whenever you request a tulip glass for your saison. They aren’t wrong. But neither are you. Beer is delicious, and here are the best places to drink it.
The beer menu at Grand Delancey is so large and detailed that it should come with a color coding key. For example, it’s broken up by flavor profile, and tells you the temperature each drink is best served at. And, since this LES spot is located in The Market Line below Essex Market, you can order in snacks from any of the neighboring vendors like Veselka pierogies, pickle plates, and dumplings from Nom Wah.
If you spend time in Hell’s Kitchen or the Theater District, it’s important that you know about As Is. It’s a busy spot with hardwood floors and potted plants, and it’s perfect for a first date, a drink before a show, or a meeting with your local run club (which is something we’ve definitely witnessed here). You can grab a table in the dark back corner and share some nachos with someone, or you can just find a seat at the bar and do an impromptu beer tasting. They typically have about 20 semi-obscure beers on tap (with an emphasis on stuff from the Northeast), and there are some natural wines and cocktails as well.
Harlem Hops is the best place to drink beer in Harlem. It’s right by the 135th Subway station and serves hard-to-find beer, specifically from small-batch breweries and businesses owned by people of color. All of which you can drink at a big barrel table in their backyard.
Between the sheer variety of options and the friendly staff to help you figure out what you like, Top Hops Beer Shop on the LES is the ultimate gateway beer bar experience. Even if you’re savvy enough to recognize the taste of galaxy hops, we’d still recommend asking the staff what they’re currently excited about. Considering there are 700 cans and bottles to choose from (not including whatever’s on draft), you might want some help narrowing it down.
Randolph Beer is usually our back-up plan when we’re grabbing drinks in Nolita and we’re worried a place might be too busy - but if beer is your priority, come here first. They usually have around 30 on tap, and they’re divided into groups with names like “Funk,” “Malt,” and “Hop.” The space is long and dark with weathered wooden booths and decorative knick-knacks like a model ship and a cat painting, and it’s great for either a first date or some casual drinks with friends.
Milk & Hops Chelsea
Milk & Hops in Chelsea changes their selection all the time. But the one constant is that it’s always full of things you’ve probably never heard of. While you’re here, take advantage of the homemade pretzels and the fact that you can try 4oz glasses of absolutely anything on draft. And, if you’d rather drink your beer elsewhere, you can also stop by and pick up a growler or some cans to-go.
Beer Run in Chelsea is sort of like a mullet - there are refrigerators stocked with cans in the front, and a tiny bar with about twelve taps in the back. Of all the spots on this list, it’s one of the smallest. So you can sit here with about five other people and feel like you’re in a special beer club called The Imperial Stouts.
Ask someone to characterize a quintessential, somewhat-snobby beer bar, and they’ll inadvertently describe Proletariat every time. It’s extremely dark and full of framed cartoon drawings, there’s a tiny chalkboard of the daily-changing draft list, and the East Village space is about as wide as an Amtrak train car. Not to mention, most people in here look like they spent a summer in Vermont preserving maple syrup lines and learning how to grow malt.
If you wanted, you could get your shopping done at Alphabet City Beer Co. Near the entrance, you’ll see some fridges filled with beer, meat, and cheese, and you’ll also find a small selection of honey, pickles, and other things typical of attractive, impractical grocery stores. But mostly you come here to drink lesser-known beers on draft. This is a long dark space with concrete floors and wooden ceiling beams, and it has one of the largest communal tables we’ve ever seen. There’s also has a confusing number of leather armchairs, so go ahead and treat this bar like your living room. Dates, book clubs, it works for everything.
What do you do when you’re taking a bus at Port Authority or get out of work in Midtown and don’t want to go home? You could always walk over to the library at Bryant Park and read something that’ll make your brain smarter, or you could just hang out at Beer Authority. It’s just across from Port Authority, and it’s a massive space with plenty of windows, tables, and TVs. They have over 90 beers on tap, and there’s a nice rooftop where you can sit at a picnic table and drink when it’s warm out.
George Keeley shares a lot of DNA with your average neighborhood bar. It’s a dark space, for example, with TVs, a dartboard, and lots of fried food. But there is one key difference between this place and the usual spot where you lean against a sticky bar and watch some sports: George Keeley takes its beer seriously. They have a TV above the bar showing everything they have on tap, and it even says how much of each keg is left. You can also check these logistics on the website if you’re looking for something specific.
Amsterdam Ale House feels like any other casual bar where you’d share deep dish nachos and giant pretzels with colleagues or roommates while occasionally saying “terrible call” about a game on TV. But what makes this Upper West Side bar different is its beer program, which includes more than 30 options on tap, including plenty from small breweries as well as rare releases from better known ones.
At Bondurant’s, lots of the draft beers are local, and pretty much everything is from the Northeast. So if you’re looking for some Grimm beers or an imperial stout from Massachusetts with a name like The Exercising of Baxter Clown Shoes, this is your best option on the Upper East Side. It’s a friendly neighborhood spot that looks sort of like a small cabin you’d find in the Catskills, and there’s plenty of Southern food like pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes.
And now for something completely different. An upscale Alsatian restaurant on the UES with a nice bar area, a dedicated beer sommelier, and an insanely long imported beer list. This is also one of the few places that consistently serves Heady Topper. Go get it.
If you spend time in the east 90s, Earl’s is by far the best option for beer in the area. It’s right near the hospital and serves as a defacto resident hangout. So go flirt with a doctor, play Boggle, and order two plates of beer cheese for the table.
If beer were a person, it would look at the way people treat wine and immediately develop an inferiority complex. Then, after moping for a bit, it would open a place like Tørst. Tørst is a bar in Greenpoint where the beers come in stemmed glasses and drafts are available in three sizes. The unlabeled taps stick out of a clean marble wall behind the bar, and, with its wood-paneled walls and spherical light fixtures, the whole place looks more like a Nordic tasting-menu spot than a bar. There’s also a small amount of food, like an excellent burger and an extremely crispy fried chicken sandwich.
Try Grimm for your next daytime hang. This Brooklyn-based brewery makes all kinds of double IPAs, imperial stouts, and sour beers (among many other things). Also, their cans look cool, and they have a huge taproom at their East Williamsburg brewery where you can hang out and eat Mediterranean snacks from Samesa.
Both of Mekelburgs’ locations have around sixteen rotating taps each, and they’re both stocked with fridges full of interesting beer (by interesting, we mostly mean cool can art). But if we had to pick one, we’d recommend the Williamsburg location just because there are more places to sit. Whether you’re just coming to pick up the growler your friend from Philly keeps talking about, or you’re hanging out here for a few hours on a Thursday night, make sure to order a hot chicken sandwich and macaroni and cheese (both of which are available late-night.)
Tired of sour beers that taste like soapy skittles or quintuple IPAs? Us too, honestly. Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg specializes in Belgian beer, which means you can confidently proceed without worrying you accidentally ordered alcoholic Gatorade. Also, their backyard is one of the best in the neighborhood, and the most pleasant purgatory setting while you wait to eat dinner at St. Anselm next door.
Gold Star Beer Counter
Gold Star is a beer bar that doesn’t feel like a beer bar. And, as much as we love beer bars, we mean that as a compliment. This place has lots of blonde wood and plants, with a candle on every table, and if you bring a date here, you’ll seem reasonably classy and tasteful. Sure, there are only around 16 beers on draft at a time, but you probably haven’t heard of at least a few of them, and if there’s one you especially like, you can take a big growler to go.
When we mention Covenhoven to someone, it usually elicits a response like, “What a great spot,” or “I love that place.” This is, it turns out, an extremely likable neighborhood spot in Crown Heights where you can pick your beer from a fridge or choose from a bunch of things on draft before you find yourself a small table in the minimalist space and maybe play a board game. It’s especially great in the summer, when you can hang out on some patio furniture in the backyard.
Bierwax in Prospect Heights is one of the least nerdy bars for beer nerds. It’s a dark, narrow room with a DJ booth up front and a whole wall of vinyl behind a long bar that takes up most of the space, and it tends to get pretty loud in here. But there’s a backyard if you need a quiet place to sit, as well as a couch in the back of the space near a bookshelf filled with educational reading materials on beer.
Brouwerij Lane is explicitly not a place to drink beer and watch TV. It’s a place to appreciate deep beer cuts - rare stuff, local stuff, foreign stuff, and tons of taps that rotate constantly. You can fill a growler or take something from the fridge to-go, or drink in the tiny space. Greenpoint people use this place as a neighborhood hangout, but the only things to distract you from your beer are the occasional cute dog and your chosen drinking partners. There’s also a secret small patio out back.
Kings County Brewers Collective
Kings County Brewers Collective serves as Bushwick’s unofficial town hall or caucusing location. Any given Saturday, you’ll see toddlers running away from their strollers, obedient German shepherds watching over the toddlers, Scrabble boards, and people drinking beer called Unicorn Bones out of nice stemware. If you’re planning a beer crawl in North Brooklyn, this is a mandatory stop.
The drafts at Hops Hill change daily. And that’s one indicator that this tiny Bed-Stuy bar takes its beer seriously. The name should have been another good hint, as well as the fridge in the back where you can browse various bottles. This place is great for a quiet, low-key drink in the neighborhood, especially when you’re looking for something like a 17% ABV imperial stout from Long Island.
Not unlike “B.C.” or “pre-AOL,” we like to use “Before-Threes” as a marker of time. Ever since it opened in 2014, this Gowanus brewery has shaped what drinking beer looks like in New York City. This is partly due to its central location, but mostly because of their focus on lagers and mixed culture beer, and the expansive space. Get the Vliet pilsner - it’s our favorite.
The beer at Strong Rope Brewery isn’t necessarily better than what you’ll find at other breweries on this list, but the hyper-local philosophy and comfortable Gowanus space make it notable anyway. Everything here, including every hop, malt, cherry, and grain of wheat, is from New York State. And, they have a BYO-food policy in case you’re looking for a place to host a casual birthday gathering or bring your children.
Important brewery gossip: Mikkeller and Evil Twin are owned and operated by two identical Danish twins. And, much like the approach their parents probably take, you shouldn’t pick sides. There are over 15 drafts at Evil Twin’s Ridgewood taproom, and they’re all advertised on tickers like you’re in a train station full of amber ale. Bring a big group - there is a ton of space both inside and outside (and a taco truck parked out front).
If you like to ask bartenders about IBUs but your friends order whatever tallboy is tallest, go to Alewife in Long Island City. While they bet light beers on games of pool and pinball, you can try some of the nearly 30 draft beers, including a bunch they brew themselves, like the We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat (32 IBUs) or the Don’t Disturb My Friend, He’s Dead Tired (56 IBUs).
If you’re serious about trying the best beer in the city (from the actual source), you need to take a trip to Mikkeller and drink lots of fancy Danish beer. This place is attached to Citi Field (and it’s open all year round), so the next time you go to a Mets game, budget thirty minutes of extra time to get a drink here before the game.
You’ll find one or two Fifth Hammer beers at many of places on this guide, but if you want to try more than just whatever farmhouse ale you find in the wild, we’d suggest you go to the source. Fifth Hammer’s LIC taproom is one of our favorite places to drink with a big group in LIC. You can bring your dogs, your kids, and whatever Trader Joe’s snack you’re currently carrying around in Ziploc baggies. Plus, they have live music every Wednesday where the musicians improvise based on whatever beer is on tap and the people in the room.
At Maggie Mae’s, you can sit at a long bar while a taxidermied deer stares down at you and Ed Sheeran asks you to take you into his loving arms from the stereo. Think of this Sunnyside spot as an overachieving Irish pub, where you can drink craft beers in a big booth with a galaxy of hanging edison bulbs overhead. Local drafts change every week or two, and on weekends there’s a second bar downstairs with a DJ and dancing.
Does every great beer bar need to have brick walls, long banquettes, and a friendly bartender with an Irish accent? No, but it helps. And that’s what you’ll find at The Beerkeeper in Woodside. We can’t actually guarantee your bartender will be Irish (the employee schedule is not publicly available), but we can promise good beers on draft. And if you want to watch sports, there are plenty of TVs here.
Pye Boat Noodle and Butcher Bar are two of our favorite spots to eat in Astoria, which might seem irrelevant to this guide, especially because neither one is a good place to drink beer. However, both of them are about a block from Diamond Dogs, which, in addition to great beers, has a BYO food policy. Hang out in the backyard and try the “can of the week” while eating burnt ends and wings or noodles topped with pork rinds.
Bronx Alehouse takes drinking beer and watching sports very seriously. You can tell from all the TVs, one of which provides a rundown of everything on tap (including how much of each keg is left). Aside from these things, Bronx Alehouse is a fairly normal bar that makes a pretty good burger and a bunch of other bar food, and it gets packed on game days.
Gun Hill is a Bronx-based brewery operating out of Williamsbridge, and they also have a bar in Mott Haven called Gun Hill Tavern. It’s a plain, relatively quiet space with concrete floors and high top tables, and they serve a small menu of standard tavern stuff like mozzarella sticks wings. But mostly you come here to drink beer, specifically Gun Hill Beer, like their Void of Light stout with notes of coffee, chocolate, and pretty much everything else that’s brown and pleasantly bitter.
Not only is Bronx Drafthouse a great spot to grab a drink before or after a Yankees game, but it’s also perfect for when you leave your job at one of the many courthouses within walking distance and need to drink something that isn’t sanctioned at work. The space consists of two interconnected rooms with high ceilings, TVs, and bright red stools, and you’ll see the many draft beers written on a big chalkboard on the wall.
First and foremost, Kingsbridge Social Club is a thin-crust pizza place. But their beer selection is more impressive than just about any other restaurant that serves cheese, sauce, and dough in copious amounts. They specialize in drafts from local NYC breweries, and, if you come in the summer, you can host an impromptu pizza party in their back garden.