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Wandering around the vibrant array of bars, brewpubs and restaurants in New York's hippest and most populated borough, it is hard to believe that for nearly two decades this area did not boast a single brewery. At the turn of the century, Brooklyn was home to 48 of the institutions, putting it at the very forefront of the American brewing. However, by 1976, amid rising labour costs and taxes, the last of its breweries had shut up shop, and it wasn't until 1996 when Brooklyn Brewery was founded in Williamsburg that the resurrection of the borough's beer scene began.
Today the number of breweries in Brooklyn stands at around 13, with the borough now seemingly leading the way in New York's craft beer revival. Alongside the wide variety of superb beers being produced in Brooklyn, a melting-pot of cultures and cuisines has resulted in some of the best restaurants in the city also being located in the borough. For the self-confessed food and drink lover, it is an destination that cannot be missed off any trip to The Big Apple.
To help sort the chaff from the grain, here is a list of six places in Brooklyn you really ought to visit.
Other Half Brewing (195 Centre St)
For many beer lovers, a trip to Other Half Brewing is something of a pilgrimage. This brewery, located a short walk from Smith 9th Street subway on a predictably barren industrial estate in Red Hook, is famous for its turbid New England IPAs and collaborations with other breweries across the world.
Visitors come from far and wide to sample Other Half's beers in their taproom and to nab their elusive cans, which aren't available anywhere else in the world, to takeaway. If you want to be certain of getting all of the brewery's weekly releases then be sure to get there early (a recent collaboration with Trillium saw punters camp out overnight to secure cans!)
The taproom itself is functional and minimalist, with all of the focus being on the twelve of the brewery beers on draught. If you're not into hazy beer, however, you may want to steer well clear.
Threes Brewing (333 Douglass Street)
A half hour walk or short bus ride from Other Half is another of Brooklyn's new wave of craft breweries. Threes Brewing was founded in 2014 by Justin Israelson, Josh Stylman and Andrew Unterberg, and the brewery-come-brew pub's name is derived from both its address and its mission statement to be a brewery, bar and events space all rolled into one.
The bar is more welcoming than Other Half, feeling more like a traditional drinking establishment or restaurant than a brewery. Threes brews are accompanied by other beers from micro and macro brands alike, whilst there is also a substantial wine and cocktail list. Food is provided by rotating pop-ups, meaning that the beers aren't the only thing that is ever changing on the menu.
Threes beers range is huge, from their simple yet elegant and citrusy table beer, right up to Wandering Bine; a Green apple skin, mixed berry foudre-fermented saison that has more layers than an onion and a distinct whiff of Burning Sky's Saison A La Provision about it.
Covenhoven (730 Classon Ave)
It would be very easy to mistake this quaint, modern bar for a coffee shop or an art gallery. Located on a quiet street in Prospect Heights, Covenhoven takes its name from a farm that pre-dates the neighbourhood and boasts 16 taps, as well as more than 150 beers in bottles and cans.
A small square porch out the back of the bar could easily be a residential garden, whilst the clientele ranges from hard-core beer nerds to families with young children and students.
Amongst the highlights on tap are a sticky, bud-like Imperial IPA from Hudson Valley brewery and a wild sour mango IPA from Baltimore's Stillwater Artisanal microbrewery. Cans from local favourites Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co and gypsy brewers Grimm Artisanal Ales come highly recommended by the bar's helpful staff.
Fette Sau (354 Metropolitan Ave)
Located in the slightly more bustling surroundings of Williamsburg is Fette Sau, an American smoked meat restaurant, which also serves craft beer 'by the gallon' and boasts an impressive selection of whisky from the US and abroad.
Queues at peak times often stretch around the corner at this popular foodie hangout, but the tender and juicy cuts of meat (priced by the pound) are well worth hanging around for.
The flexible nature of the pricing means there is little to no wastage, whilst the burnt beans and 'slaw are essential sides for an authentic American BBQ experience that is totally unpretentious and incredibly delicious.
Interboro Spirits & Ales (942 Grand Street)
Around 30 minutes walk to the east of Fette Sau is Interboro Spirits & Ales, Brooklyn's only craft brewery and distillery. This quirky taproom only opened in 2016, but has fast become a mainstay of the New York beer scene.
Interboro takes its name from a prohibition brewing company, and is well connected with its founder Jesse Ferguson hailing from Fort Collins and having previously worked for Other Half. The beers are clearly inspired by their Brooklyn neighbours, heavy in tropical flavours, low on bitterness and even lower still in transparency. 'Another Dose' the brewery's collaboration with Other Half, is a smelly, almost cheesy double IPA that leaves you reeling, but intrigued enough to come back for a second slurp.
For those less inclined to drink beer that smells a bit like old feet, Interboro launched Brooklyn's first ever canned gin and tonic, produced at the brewery's on-site distillery, in May of this year.
Brooklyn Crab (24 Reed St)
Don't come to Brooklyn Crab if you're looking for a fast bite to eat. This three-floored restaurant in Red Hook, Brookyln's most southerly point, is famed for its long waits and leisurely approach to service.
However, if you've got an evening in New York to spare, there are hardly better places to waste it than this idyllic seafood shack looking over New York harbour. The beer selection leaves a little to be desired, although brews from nearby Sixpoint Brewery are more than passable. The focus is instead on the atmosphere and the delicious range of seafood on offer.
From Sewansecott oysters to succulent crab cakes, the entire menu is a fish-lover's paradise, but the pick of the lot is undoubtedly the 1.25oz Maine Lobster, served up with three different varieties of North American crab at the eye-watering price of $130. One for special occasions.
Let's face it; Spaghetti Bolognese is pretty much everyone's favourite comfort food ever. Mums across the land have fallen back on this tried and tested recipe for generations, a crowd pleaser for any occasion, simple enough to cook and bursting with rich, meaty flavour. There have been many different variations on the Italian-classic, some more faithful to the original eight ingredient recipe than others, and for my first real foray into the world of cooking with beer, I decided to attempt my own beery take on the traditional spag bol. I based my bolognese loosely on a recipe that appears in Mark Dredge's excellent book, 'Cooking with Beer,' with some minor alterations. For my beer, I chose a smoked brown ale, 'The Smoked Brown' from Bermondsey-based brewery Anspach & Hobday. The powerful smokey characteristics it imparts really intensifies the meaty flavour, and at 6% it also gives the dish a nice boozy edge. You could, however, as Mark suggests, use any smoked porter, or a Belgian Dubbel if you prefer a more sweet, spicy flavour.
I ate the dish with another bottle of The Smoked Brown, although any rauchbier/smoked porter would also work well.
Beer Bolognese (Serves 3-4)
500g minced meat (beer or pork is fine) 4-5 rashers bacon/pancetta (chopped) 1 large onion (roughly chopped) 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped) 150g mushrooms (sliced) 400g can chopped tomatoes 100g garden peas (frozen) 40g butter (for frying) Salt & Pepper Mixed herbs (optional) 1 bottle Anspach & Hobday 'The Smoked Brown'
- Melt half the butter in a large, wide pan. Fry the minced meat until browned and then remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining butter, and then fry the bacon for around a minute. Then add the onion and garlic. After a few more minutes, add the mushrooms and reintroduce the meat.
- Pour the tomatoes and beer into the pan, keeping it at a low temperature. Season with the salt, pepper and herbs. Add the peas and then place the lid on the pan and leave at a low temperature to cook for at least 40minutes (longer if possible). Stir occasionally and add more beer or water if necessary.
- Serve with spaghetti and a smattering of grated cheddar cheese.