One of the biggest understatements of all time is that NYC has a lot of places where you can grab a beer. Restaurants, bars and even most corner stores have selections of brews that will quench your thirst. But then there are these magical places that don't just sell beer—they make it, too.
Microbreweries are breweries that produce small batches of fermented grains that can be flavored with all sorts of things from hops to fruits to chocolates to spices. These are independently owned entities that produce far less quantities of beer than the Budweisers and Heinekens of the world. This trend began in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and then made its way to the USA in the 1980s.
Since then, microbreweries have grown in popularity and their beers have become the go-to drinks for fans of craft beer. New York City is home to microbreweries and brewpubs—microbreweries that also sell food on the premesis—though a lot of them are in the boroughs, likely due to the cost it takes to run such an establishment.
While microbreweries brew smaller batches than Anheuser-Busch, they still need plenty of room for all the equipment that turns water into beer. Science is amazing, right?
Here is a list of a few brew places to check out if you're on a quest for some quality local drinks.
Heartland Brewery—Midtown Manhattan
This bar and dining room located at Port Authority features a selection of beers, cocktails, wine, homemade soda and an all-day menu that will satisfy any craving. House brews at Heartland Brewery include Indiana River Light, Cornhusker Lager, Harvest Wheat Beer, Red Rooster Ale, Indiana Pale Ale and the award-winning Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout—a hearty yet creamy stout with hints of espresso and dark chocolate.
Seasonal beers are served throughout the year and include Full Moon Barleywine, Empire State Premium (a traditional Czech lager) and Old Red Nose Ale (a mahogany ale with orange and ginger tones finished with a roasted chestnut flavor).
The Paulaner is the first international off-shoot of Munich's brewing tradition. Paulaner's Hefeweizen (light hops flavor with a balance of bitter and fruity), Munich Lager (a bottom-fermented beer that is tasty year-round), Munich Dark Lager (a regional specialty beer made from seven types of barley) and Munich Pale All (a top-fermented IPA made especially for Paulaner NYC) are all made on-site and served alongside a menu of authentic German food.
Bronx Brewery's goal has always been to make the best pale ale the east coast has to offer. Their four pale ales are the American (English caramel and biscuit malts are balanced with West Coast citrus hops), Rye (a crisp, golden-orange pale ale with bold rye and piney hops), Belgian (Belgian Pilsner and malts from Beloeil and Bamberg with Sterling hops) and Session IPA (tropical hops flavors with a subtle tart finish).
All are on tap for tasting year-round and in the summer there's also a seasonal summer pale ale to refresh you when it gets too darn hot, plus some unique B-Side brews they make for kicks. Don't just show up here and expect to get your drink on—the Bronx Brewery offers guided tours that need to be booked through their website.
SingleCut Beersmiths—Astoria, Queens
This Astoria microbrewery makes fun, colorful beers in a variety of flavors. There are plenty of beers on tap all year at SingleCut Beersmiths, including the 18-Watt IPA (flavored with orange zest, pine and tropical lupulin), 19-33 Pilsner (a Czech/German Pilsner made with ingredients from both countries) and a Full-Stack IIPA (tropical, dark pine and herbal aromas with an 8.2% ABV). There is food available at SingleCut and free guided tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (no reservation is needed, but check website for times and other upcoming events).
Big Alice Brewing—Long Island City
A nano-brewery, Big Alice Brewing produces even smaller batches of beer than microbreweries. It's quality, though, not quanity that is important when it comes to these brews, so flavors are bold and batches go quick and then it's time to move on to something new and exciting.
Beers have included Peppermint Stout, Sweet Potato Farmhouse Ale and Jalapeño Rye. A farm brewery, all beers are made with locally-grown ingredients and farm products. The taproom has hours for the public and there are about two dozen beers on tap at any given time. Big Alice Brewing also hosts events for fellow craft beer enthusiasts.
Rockaway Brewing Company—Long Island City
Every handcrafted batch is made with fresh ingredients in the reggae-loving environment at Rockaway Brewing Company. Guests can take a tour of the tap room at this nano-brewery on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Beers on tap include the Rockaway ESB (a malty and sweet beer and the flagship brew of the company), Black Gold (a stout served from a notrogen tap) and the 1875 Pale Ale (tastes of citrusy hops). There are special beers and a rotating cask ale available as well.
Flavorful, complex craft beers are made with love at Finback Brewery. Tours and special events allow guests to take in the 12-tap tasting room, the barrel-aging room and the "sour/funky beer" room. Limited edition and seasonal beers are available at varying times, but there is a generous list of beers on tap, such as Red Shift (American Sour brewed with cranberry and yuzu), Out of Gamut (a double IPA with stone fruit and plum) and Starchild (a sour ale brewed with grapefruit peel).
Other Half Brewing Company—Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Founded in 2014, Other Half Brewing Company has an ever-changing rotation of craft beers on tap that are available to the public. Guests can take a tour to see where these brews are made and sample some tasty drinks. Flavors include Other Half IPA, Cool Summer Bro!, Birreria Maratona, Canni’Baal, Stupid Wild, In Absentia Luci and many, many more.
Greenpoint Beer and Ale—Greenpoint, Brooklyn
The American take on Eurpoean brewing traditions at Greenpoint Beer and Ale makes small batch beers five barrels at a time. Guided tours take you through the history of the brewery and the beer making process, covering ingredients and the different techniques used to create these palate pleasers. There is an open restaurant of European fare to complement the libations found in the tap room. Beers include the Fisticuffs (a mild beer with notes of biscuit, coffee, brown sugar, bread crust and nuttiness), Highline (an India brown ale with pungent notes of pine needles, back currant, sage, carob and tobacco) and Zealander (an Imperial IPA that tastes of fruit cup, lime, white grape, soft mango and zest), among others.
One of the larger microbreweries in NYC, and quite popular outside the city, Brooklyn Brewery celebrates beer with big flavors. Beers available year-round include Brooklyn Lager (American amber lager), Defender IPA (red IPA), Brooklyn Blast! (a double IPA), Hecla Iron Ale (a dark ale) and Brooklyn 1/2 Ale (a hoppy session saison).
Seasonal beers include Summer Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Winter Ale, Black Chocolate Stout and Oktoberfest. Reserve beers rotate out every four months or so and are available on a limited basis until they are gone forever. There are ticketed tours, in addition to free tours, and other events going on at the brewery all the time, so make sure to check the schedule on the website.