Tag Archives: Beer Bar

Earl’s Beer and Cheese

Excluding peanut butter and chocolate, there are few things that pair as well as beer and cheese. Who doesn’t like beer and cheese? Communists, that’s who. Well, and the lactose-intolerant. And non-drinkers. But why the hell are non-drinkers reading this blog? They’re not. However, I do have a huge lactose-intolerant following. Fact.

Earl’s Beer and Cheese is an unlikely spot – unlikely in its location, its menu, and it success. Nestled amongst the brownstones overlooking the Metro-North tunnel egress, the gaudy yellow awning of a Caribbean eatery is the signal that you are near the subtler banner of Earl’s. Enter the space and the first thing you think is “narrow”.

Like everything else about Earl’s though, it isn’t so narrow as much as succinct. The space is tiny. Stools accompany a shallow drink shelf along the north wall and a great communal table under an Upstate woodland scene mural on the south wall. Both the table and the wall shelf are made of reclaimed bowling alley parquet, which adds to the small-town NY feel. The space funnels to the back toward a tidy square bar, a bathroom, and ultimately reaching back to the kitchen, where the staff works busily amongst clean stainless steel. I digress, let’s get to business.

The beer list is simple: four taps and a short bottle list that is, in fact, mostly cans. During my visit, the taps were

Avery IPA
Avery New World Porter
Bear Republic Hop Red Rye
Belfast Bay Oatmeal Stout

That’s good mix, no crap, and a lot of great possibilities for pairing with the cheese list.

The cans:

Session Black
Dale’s Pale Ale
Old Chub
Ten Fidy
Tetley’s
Molson XXX

Again, this is a good selection. Earl’s seems to favor the West Coast, which is just fine for a hophead like me, and the Avery and Oskar Blues are familiar but not uninteresting. The Session Black is a great brew – one that’s not seen on the East Coast enough – and a good choice when you’re looking for something with flavor that’s not going to fill you up when you’re sampling the hearty grub at this joint. As for the Molson, well, it shows that Adam, the owner, has a good sense of humor. Not too many restaurateurs are so keen to stock malt liquor on their shelves.

Adam was kind enough to chat with us a bit throughout the night, and mentioned that the taps rotate frequently. Not long after that, the Hop Rod kicked and was replaced by something else. It was late and I was a few deep, but I think it was a lager.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is a beer blog, but I have to mention the food, too. We tried everything on the menu save for the spicy tomato soup and a few of the cheeses. We started with a three-cheese plate that included Old Chatham blue, Tomme Delay  goat cheese, and Ben Nevis cheddar from VT. The Old Chatham and the Avery Porter were a glorious pairing.

The mac-and-goat-cheese with chicken was excellent, but the grilled cheese stole the show. We had the NY cheddar, pork belly (which is used to make bacon, which you might find in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich), kimchi, and a fried egg, on thick sourdough slices that are chewy on the inside and crisply buttered on the outside. No photos though – it wasn’t around long enough. I’ll be back to this place very soon though.

When you find a diamond in the rough like this place, you tend to want to keep it a secret, particularly when there is so little room for patrons. However, it is my duty to spread the word and let you, my fine readers, know that this place is awesome.

L’Oubli

L’Oubli Gourmet Bar, a new cocktails-and-small-plates spot coming to the LES, has a scheduled soft opening on Wednesday, August 11. Started by the Demarchelier family (of, appropriately, Demarchelier), the bar will be tended by son Ben, one of NYC’s most eligible (and best) mixologists. They’ll have local beer (and I’m sure some French options), so check it out ASAP.

Draft Magazine’s Top 25 Beers of 2009

Draft Magazine recently put out their special annual Best of Beer issue. Inside its glossy pages are lists of the 150 Best Beer Bars, as well as the 25 Beers of the Year. I’d like to take a minute to recognize some of the best beer bars in NYC that were singled out, including Blind Tiger and Barcade. While some people give Barcade grief for its ‘gimmick’, it is indeed a quality house of brews. Blind Tiger is, well, just stellar.

DBA also got a nod though its whiskey and scotch lists are more impressive than its bottled beer list, which is still sizable. Sadly, George Keeley was snubbed and, though I’d like to keep that little gem tucked in my pocket with my beer money, I want the world to know that it is a glorious destination.

The Hopleaf and the Map Room in Chicago both got their necessary press, as did Sheffield’s (thanks to Nick A. for all of those introductions). Santa Monica-based Father’s Office, home of one of the finest burgers in the contiguous 48, also made the list (thanks to B-Doc for the intro to that place, and demanding I sample the burger despite the $200 sushi dinner I had literally just eaten).

Alas, not one Dallas location made the list, though the East listed a Boston bar named Deep Ellum. Gingerman in Houston made the cut, too. Big D, we’ve got work to do.

On to the main event though: the beer.

So as not to upset the folks at Draft, I won’t just list all the beers, but I’d like to mention a couple. First, there were a couple that were no surprise, namely Duvel (because it is simply luscious), Utopias (because it’s crazy), and Firestone Walker‘s IPA (because FW makes every list).

However, I like that Draft went out and picked some brews that were daring, though not just shock-value beers – beers that make you stop and think. Cuvee de Castleton, by Captain Lawrence, is an American Sour Ale. I’ve never had this particular brew – and sour beers are an acquired taste, to be sure – but I’ve had a lot of their other offerings and I always like seeing an Empire State brewery make it big. Sour beers might make a splash with the headiest of beer geeks, but the real world wouldn’t sip them twice, so cheers to Draft for that pick.

Another great selection is New Glarus‘ Wisonsin Belgian Red. Aside from the fact that this is great brewery – and the favorite of my brewing compatriot Vin – the brewmaster has a serious ‘stache and it was the source of some drama, namely some great beer at a terrible bar (sorry Bucky fans). Also, this is a fruit beer, one that might not hit the highest consumer demographic.

One final shout-out to my man, Garrett Oliver for his collaboration with Hans-Peter Drexler of Schneider: Hopfen-Weisse, the hophead’s wheat beer. Or the wheat freak’s hoppy beer. You get what I’m saying.

For those of you not subscribed to Draft, do it.

Cheers to another year of fine beers.

And for your viewing pleasure:

A hirsute Brew Yorker finds himself at the Map Room, Chicago.

An old lady enjoys a brew at the Map Room, Chicago

George Keeley Fine Ales & Lager

George Keeley
485 Amsterdam Ave (83rd & 84th Sts)
212-873-0251
New York, NY
Keels covers many of the necessary criteria for a great pub. To begin with, the beer selection is excellent with about 25 taps that rotate consistently. A few stalwarts provide a foundation, but there is always an eclectic mix of brews.
The bartenders know the beer and can make suggestions, often offering tastes for the patron facing an impossible decision. Likewise, the bartenders are friendly and patient.
A few TVs show a variety of events and it is worth mentioning that Keels supports Norwich City, which happens to be the oft-relegated squad my brothers and I support. Go Canaries. Also, I play for Keels’ darts team, so I’m doubly biased.

Wood paneling abounds and beneath a banquette which runs the length of the north wall, a line of shining plaques stretches from door to dartboard. The plaques indicate the name of each patron who has officially joined Keels’ Beer Club, as well as the date started and finished.

Keels hosts a brewery at least one Wednesday per month. They bring in a few kegs, often some interesting or rare ones, and even a cask. The cask is always a nice touch and while the single barrel may not entice the real beer enthusiast, it is a good option and is well-tended.