Forget skyscrapers and yellow cabs. Since the mid 2000s, New York’s brewery scene has exploded, making craft beers an integral part of the city landscape. Now there’s another New York — a beer lover’s New York.
“I hate to say it, but the fact that you can get to so many breweries without ever hopping into a car makes it both amazing and a dangerous place to do a brewery tour,” Dan Lamonaca, the owner of the beer store and bar Beer Karma in Brooklyn, tells me. “Maybe it’s not totally unique, but the culture in the New York brewery scene is incredibly inclusive. It’s a group of great people sharing great beer with an amazing city.”
So the next time you make it to the Big Apple, bypass the longstanding landmarks you’ve seen in hundreds of pictures. Go to the breweries instead.
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Here are the ones you absolutely need to visit in New York; a few operations that don’t have taprooms but fuel the city with unique brews; and the full list of breweries for those who want to make sure they drink in the whole city.
Threes Brewing: Threes has everything. There’s a coffee shop, restaurant, large outdoor patio, full bar, and, most importantly, delicious beer brewed on-site. Half the tap lines are Threes’ own beer and the other half are guest taps. And while Threes’s bigger beers are nothing to scoff at, the company really excels at light and sessionable beers.
The draw is the communal and big group atmosphere, but one taste of the beer and you’ll be heading to the on-site bottle shop to grab some beers to take home. Be sure to try the Vliet Pilsner, Echo of Nothing, and the Constant Disappointment. Location.
Other Half Brewing Company: Other Half is one of the trendiest names in beer right now, thanks to big hazy IPAs and collaborations with breweries from around the country. It’s the type of beer that inspires people to stand in line and wait for hours for a limited release. Skip the line and head to the taproom, where you’ll find some of the most coveted beers from the brewery as well as a hell of a good time. Be sure to try one of Other Half’s freshly brewed IPAs as well as whatever new beer the geek beside you is going on about. Location.
SingleCut Brewing Company: On the uppermost reaches of the Astoria neighborhood of Queens sits one of the city’s best breweries and taprooms. The oasis that is SingleCut is a moderately sized industrial bar space with plenty of games, food, and good music on one side, brewing equipment on the other. In warmer months, the front opens up to an outdoor space where you can sit and drink in the sun with your beers. Be sure to try the Kim Hibiscus Sour and Weird & Gilly. Location.
Brooklyn Brewery: Omitting the Brooklyn Brewery from an NYC beer pilgrimage is like going to Arizona and skipping the Grand Canyon. It’s the most famous and widely distributed beer from the five boroughs, as well as one of the oldest existing breweries. The taproom can have outrageously long lines on most weekends, but you can bring food in and spending the Brooklyn Brewery tokens on beer is too easy. Be sure to try Sorachi Ace and whatever special beer is in rotation at the time. Location.
Transmitter Brewing: Slow it down a notch and escape the hustle and bustle of the trendiest neighborhood spots. Transmitter is about as small as it gets, but it’s a personable outfit where you can taste a couple of the beers and then buy a 750 milliliter bottle to share with friends at one of the picnic tables inside or outside. The beers center around a French and Belgian farmhouse style as well as some barrel-aged sours. The list is constantly rotating, but you won’t be let down with whatever you end up with. Be sure to try the Hibiscus Wit if you see it. Location.
Kings County Brewers Collective: If you travel deep into the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, you’ll find the gem that is KCBC. There’s something for everything here, and the taproom is more than inviting. Make sure you try Komputer Phone 2.0. Location.
Thirsty for more
If you’ve got the time to hit up additional breweries, we recommend these spots throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Gun Hill Brewing Company: The Bronx’s oldest surviving microbrewery is pumping out innovative beers and features a rotating list of seasonals form sours to saisons. It’s worth a trip up to the top of the Bronx to see the latest beer the brewers are working on. Location.
Circa: One of the newest editions to the New York brewing scene, Circa is a combination pizza restaurant and brewery. The brewing operations are by Danny Bruckert, who used to work at Sixpoint, and his twin brother Luke runs the food operation. Try the New England IPA and the Peach Berliner Weisse. Location.
Bronx Brewery: Bronx Brewery opened in 2011, and debuted its large open taproom in an old ironworks showroom in 2014. It has a solid list of core beers as well as a rotation of seasonal brews. Be sure to try the Slow Your Roll IPA and the Bronx Banner Golden Ale. Location.
Greenpoint: Greenpoint’s well-designed Brooklyn location can get crowded, but taste the beer and you’ll see why. Greenpoint focuses on small-batch beers that hark back to European brewing traditions all made on a five barrel system. The beer list is constantly changing, so it’s a place you can go now and go often. Location.
Strong Rope Brewery: A Brooklyn small brewery with a knowledgable staff and inviting atmosphere. A great place to grab a beer flight with friends and play some board games. Bonus: There’s also a brewery dog that sometimes makes an appearance. Location.
LIC Beer Project: The industrial part of Queens’ Long Island City neighborhood is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in the five boroughs. “In five years, when the dust settles on the NYC brewery scene, they are going to be the one everyone is talking about as being the best,” Lamonaca says.
LIC specializes in Belgians and wild-fermented beers, as well as some killer IPAs. Location.
Big Alice Brewing: When Big Alice started in 2013, it only produced one-offs. Now it makes a solid list of beers that can be found around the city as well as beers on draft. The heart of the brewery still resides with small-batch beers, so try whatever you can as well as the award-winning Lemongrass Kölsh. Location.
Finback Brewery: On the outskirts of Queens, amidst the cemeteries, you’ll find a lineup of innovative beers that are worth the trip. Finback Brewery has a constantly rotating lineup of beers and collaborations. Be sure to try the Oscillation IPA. Location.
Interboro Spirits and Ales: Situated in East Williamsburg, Interboro is Brooklyn’s only craft brewery and distillery combo. Consider it emblematic of what the combination of grain, yeast, and water can do. Sip on some of the brewery’s big IPAs or chill on a session beer — you won’t be disappointed with either. Location.
Complete Your New York Brewery Tour
Chelsea Craft Brewing Company: This operation used to be located in Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers but moved to the Bronx in 2015. There’s live music on Saturdays. Be sure to try the Flagship Checker Cab Blonde Ale and the Black Hole XXX Stout. Location.
Five Boroughs Brewing Company: One of the newest breweries in New York, this large space opened in August 2017 and has tables, games, and a communal atmosphere. The gose and the double IPA are favorites. Location.
Birreria: Next to the restaurant on the roof of the Italian food mecca Eataly, this small brewing operation runs in partnership with Dogfish Head. Production is limited to cask ales and specialty beers served at the bar. Location.
Fifth Hammer Brewing Company: A small brewery in terms of output but large in terms of taproom and personality. Located in the heart of Long Island City, Fifth Hammer is open seven days a week. Location.
These NYC all-stars don’t have taprooms, but the labels are based in the five boroughs and available at select spots throughout the city.
Sixpoint: While the company is based in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, it doesn’t actually do pours on site. It does, however, distribute special releases from its brewery and has an app to make sure the special releases go smoothly. Be sure to try Resin and Köld Shauer Kölsch.
Dyckman Beer Company: On the upper reaches of Manhattan in the Inwood and Washington Heights neighborhoods, you’ll find a beer that speaks to its location. Seek it out any time you venture north.
Harlem Brewing Company: Stellar flavors pulled from the heart and soul of Harlem.
Alphabet City Brewing Company: Beers from this nanobrewery can be hard to find, but when you do, you’ll keep searching for more. The label launched in 2012, and a taproom is allegedly in the works. Be sure to try the Village IPA and the Alpha Male IPA.
Evil Twin Brewing: A cult brewery that makes some of the hottest, most sought-after beers. A taproom will be opening in the summer of 2018.
Braven Brewing Company: On draft throughout the city, Braven can also be found in some of the city’s best beer bars. What started as a small operation in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood has become something to keep an eye on. Be sure to try the White IPA.
KelSo: These solid beers can be found around the city. Be sure to try the KelSo Nut Brown Lager.