It's a good time to be a craft beer drinker in New York City. Just a few years ago, the local brewery scene looked rather bleak, with Brooklyn, Kelso, and Sixpoint serving as the only major local options. But that's all changed—now, every borough has at least one local brewery, and the total for the entire city is closing in on 25. We still have a long way to go to reach 128, which is the number New York had before Prohibition, but things are looking up.
Here we present the must-try beer at all the local breweries, though it's worth pointing out that the brewery scene is changing so fast that by the time this is published, it's possible that even more new breweries (like the upcoming Wartega and Lineup Brewing) will be pouring suds. (Note that we've only included breweries that are producing their beer within the five boroughs, which is why Grimm Ales, Alphabet City, Evil Twin, etc. are not represented),
BIG ALICE BREWING COMPANY: White Stout This cheekily named beer is the perfect example of the unique, innovative offerings that tiny Big Alice is brewing. Stouts, of course, by definition use dark roasted malts, but here the blonde beer defies expectation by releasing a rich, creamy mouthfeel and a roasted coffee flavor. The beer is a collaboration with local LIC coffee roaster Native Coffee.
Honorable Mention: Galena Single Hop Blended Sour, a dry-hopped tart sour that showcases a single hop varietal.
Big Alice Brewing Company is located at 8-08 43rd Road between between 9th Street and Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, Queens (347-688-2337, bigalicebrewing.com).
BIRRERIA: Gina Thyme Pale Ale Up on Eataly's rooftop restaurant, the team from Dogfish Head makes complex and seasonal cask-conditioned ales for pairing with the dining room's rustic Italian fare. At any given time, you can find three rotating concoctions that feature surprising ingredients like fruits, vegetables, or herbs. One of their regular offerings is Gina, a fusion of an American-style pale ale with a bracing infusion of fresh thyme from the Italian country-side.
Honorable Mention: Giuseppina, a very unique, but appropriate NY-hopped IPA made with rigatoni pasta.
Birerria is located on the rooftop of Eataly at 200 Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets in Flatiron (212-937-8910, eataly.com/us_en/stores/new-york/nyc-baita).
BRONX BREWERY: American Pale Ale The northernmost borough's namesake brewery has been making phenomenal beers for a few years now, and they're available all over the city by can and on draft. But you can also visit their brewery for some foosball and drinking in the outdoor garden (when weather permits). We recommend starting with their flagship American pale ale, an approachable amber brew that features a potent grapefruit and floral hop quality mellowed by caramel and biscuit notes. It's also the base for all their pale ale variations, including their India, Winter, and Belgian Pale Ale.
Honorable Mention: Uptown Coffee Milk Stout, a seasonal dark creamy beer that will wake you up and calm you down.
Bronx Brewery is located at 856 East 136th Street between Willow and Walnut Avenue in Port Morris, The Bronx (718-402-1000, thebronxbrewery.com).
BROOKLYN BREWERY: Sorachi Ace Brooklyn is still the oldest and most well-known brewery in the five boroughs. They've remained a strong part of the community even as they outgrow their huge production facilities in both Williamsburg and Ithaca. If you have not visited their lively taproom on weekend afternoons, you owe it to yourself to stop by and sample some of their legendary beers. One that continues to wow beer fans is the Sorachi Ace, now available both on draft and in bottle. The unique farmhouse ale uses both an obscure Japanese hop (Sorachi Ace) and two strains of yeast (including a champagne yeast) and offers up bright, fresh flavors of lemongrass, white pepper, and dill.
Honorable Mention: Defender IPA, originally brewed for Comic Con but now available year-round, is a juicy West Coast-IPA with a red ale malt backbone
Brooklyn Brewery is located at 79 North 11th Street between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-7422, brooklynbrewery.com).
BRIDGE & TUNNEL BREWERY: 1642 Mespeatches Ale Last year, home-brewer Rich Castagna moved his tiny brewing facility from his own garage to a small commercial space in Ridgewood. And now, you can actually visit the brewery's taproom, get a good look at the equipment, and taste some of his unique and historical beers. Castagna has created this unusual ale based on ingredients the original Dutch colonists might have used—along with barley and hops, he adds in rye, wheat, corn, buckwheat, and a touch of honey. The surprising spicy earthiness comes from not only local hops but spruce tips that Castagna himself picks upstate.
Honorable Mention: Newtown Creek Oyster Stout, a rich creamy dark beer that nods to NYC's oyster past with a subtle briny finish.
Bridge & Tunnel Brewery is located at 15-35 Decatur Street between Wyckoff and Irving Avenues in Ridgewood, Queens (347-392-8593, bridgeandtunnelbrewery.com).
CHELSEA CRAFT BREWING COMPANY: Black Hole XXX Stout Chelsea Brewing Company would have been the oldest current brewery in the city, but it closed last year due to (surprise) rent issues. They bounched back and managed to open a new facility in the Bronx, and though the name doesn't quite fit anymore, the beer is mostly the same. The one to try is their pitch black roast-y stout that has memorable creamy chocolate notes and a smoky finish.
Honorable Mention: Checker Cab Blonde Ale, a crisp and easy drinking brew modeled after the classic German Kolsch style.
Chelsea Craft Brewing Company is located at 463 East 173rd Street between Washington and Park Avenues in Claremont, The Bronx (718-484-8850, chelseacraftbrewing.com).
CONEY ISLAND BREWING COMPANY: Hot Toddy Coney Island Brewery is back with a vengeance. After being destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and then changing ownership, the company has impressed craft beer drinkers with some of their swanky ales, including the best of the Hard Root Beer trend. But buying their beers in bottle is quite different than sampling the drafts at their small funky brewery on Surf Avenue. Most of the bottles are contract brewed upstate, but everything poured at the tap room is made fresh on premises. The tap room is also the only place you'll find their inventive and bold Hot Toddy, an ale inspired by the winter drink made with honey, cinnamon, lemon, and then aged on whiskey barrel staves—you can opt to try the toddy served hot or cold.
Honorable Mention: Hard Root Beer, a sweet beer that truly tastes like the childhood soda.
Coney Island Brewing Company is located at 1904 Surf Avenue at West 177th Street in Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-996-0019, coneyislandbeer.com).
CUZETT LIBATIONS: Grisette 2016 When 508 Gastrobrewery closed last year, it didn't take too long for head brewer Chris Cuzme to bounce back. He's a legend in the local beer scene - in addition to this current project, he also hosts the Fuhmentaboudit! podcast with partner Mary Izett. The Cuzett team don't have a physical brewery yet, but they use equipment at Greenpoint Beer Works for the time being. Their current release is a new take on their previous Belgian-style grisett (similar to a saison) this time bittered with New York state hops and fermented with a spicy Belle Saison yeast.
Honorable Mention: Smokin' Gold, a smooth yet potent smoked blonde ale.
DIRCK THE NORSEMAN/GREENPOINT BEER AND ALE CO: Milk and Honey This cozy, rustic bar on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint is actually two companies under one roof. Dirck the Norseman is the name of the restaurant and bar where they serve the beer being made on premises by Greenpoint Beer and Ale Co. Perhaps the most experimental of all the city's breweries, they are turning out both obscure historic styles and some really funky, imaginative ones. The Milk and Honey blonde ale walks the line between the two categories with a light honey sweetness and a surprising level of milky biscuit notes, making it perfect for day-drinking or to pair with dessert.
Honorable Mention: Enduro Coffee Berliner Weiss, a very unique beer for those looking for something totally different: wonderfully roasty and super tart.
Dirck the Norseman/Greenpoint Beer and Ale Co. is located at 7 North 15th Street at Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-389-2940, greenpointbeer.com).
FINBACK BREWERY: Double Sess(ion) Wit Sure, this refreshing wheat beer is available at great craft beer bars around the city, but it's worth trekking out to Finback's massive tap room in Glendale, Queens for a taste of their entire impressive line-up. Former homebrewers Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford create unique and innovative recipes. Their irresistibly delicious Double Sess is a bit of an oxymoron being both a sessionable (lower in alcohol) beer and a double (more intense in flavor). At 4.5% and with lots of bold ingredients like ginger, szechuan peppercorns, and chamomile, it works on both levels.
Honorable Mention: Plumb and Proper, a complex dark and smoky sour beer with a hint of sweet plums.
Finback Brewery is located at 7801 77th Avenue at 78th Street in Glendale, Queens (718-628-8600, finbackbrewery.com).
FOLKSBIER: Morning Dew One of the harder-to-find breweries in the city, Folksbier is a commercial brewery located in Carroll Gardens and is not open to the public. But it's worth hunting down one of their three approachable historic beers. All are based on classic German lagers or ales that might have been produced in New York City in the 1800's. You can often sample one of the creations at Jimmy's No. 43, like the Morning Dew, a crisp, light ale with pleasant floral and lemon notes.
Honorable Mention: Helles Simple, another classic German-style, this time with a more prominent malt note
FLAGSHIP BREWING COMPANY: Dark Mild While some people seek out stronger and more bitter beers, Flagship is making accessible classic styles with proper ingredients. Case in point is their excellent Dark Mild that could replace your morning coffee. It has a very light body at 4.5% ABV with a mellow hop character and is a good sessionable choice when the weather is breezier. It's a perfect excuse to hop the Staten Island Ferry and make your way to the borough's first (and currently only) operating brewery.
Honorable Mention: Flagship IPA, an approachable juicy east coast style pale ale
Flagship Brewing Company is located at 40 Minthorne Street between Bay Street and Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville, Staten Island (718-448-5284, theflagshipbrewery.com).
GUN HILL BREWING COMPANY: Void of Light One of three active breweries in the Bronx, Gun Hill stands apart with its nods to history (the namesake street was also the site of a Revolutionary battle) and its Award-winning beers. The rustic, casual taproom is an ideal place to warm up with a Void of Light, their most acclaimed brew. This a serious yet approachable foreign-style stout featuring a thick, creamy body balanced by hints of roast coffee and a dry subtle hoppy finish.
Honorable Mention: Cherry Tree Red Ale, a subtle balanced fruit beer made with fresh cherry juice.
Gun Hill Brewing Company is located at 3227 Laconia Avenue between Boston Road and Duncan Street in Pelham Gardens, The Bronx (718-881-0010, gunhillbrewing.com).
HEARTLAND BREWERY: Red Rooster Ale Heartland Brewery has not brewed beer on their premises since the late '90s, when there was just the one location in Union Square. Sadly, that original brewpub is closed, but the beer for the other four locations is brewed at a commercial facility in Clinton Hill. You can now visit the Brooklyn tasting room or pair their beers with a burger and fries. Might we suggest their Red Rooster Ale, which features notes of toffee and a smooth nutty finish?
Honorable Mention: Indiana Pale Ale, a mild IPA with grapefruit notes and a spicy backbone
Heartland Brewery has four locations in Manhattan; visit their website at heartlandbrewery.com for details.
ICONNYC: High Ryse The newest brewery (as of this writing) in the five boroughs is a commercial facility that is not yet open to the public, but you can still find ICONYC's large-format bottles at some of the best craft beer shops around the city. They focus on farmhouse ales like their bold and chewy High Ryse. The golden rye ale is first fermented with the wild Brettanomyces yeast and then rounded out with a dose of saison yeast for a crisp, fruity, hoppy, and slightly funky experience.
Honorable Mention: Vexed, a unique farmhouse beer that dangerously marries the characteristics of a saison and an Imperial stout, at 12.8% ABV
KEG & LANTERN BREWING COMPANY: Green Eyes IPA Perhaps the unlikeliest brewery in the entire city is Keg & Lantern, which is a popular sports bar in the heart of Greenpoint. Last year, the owners decided to have a little fun and hired Patrick Allen to brew small-batch house beers on a nano-system in the basement. It ended up being a brilliant idea, since you can now shun the mass produced stuff in favor of fresh and ever-evolving selections. The Green Eyes IPA is double dry-hopped to be super aromatic, giving off ripe tropical fruit flavors and a creamy mouthfeel, and it's brewed every two weeks. If you don't want to hang out, you can take any of their beers to go in their unique crowlers (think a growler/can hybrid).
Honorable Mention: Golden Ale, a very drinkable ale that is reminiscent of a crisp American light lager.
Keg & Lantern Brewing Company is located at 97 Nassau Avenue between Manhattan Avenue and Leonard Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-389-5050, kegandlanternbrooklyn.com)
KELSO BEER: Pilsner For many years, Kelly Taylor's homegrown brand was only available in the best craft beer bars. But they've since teamed up with a rogue bottling line, allowing cans of their fresh classic beer styles to reach a larger market. My favorite is their extraordinary pilsner, a style of lager that has had a bad reputation for a long time thanks to all the watery-tasting American big beer. Thankfully, Kelso's pilsner is strong on fresh grains and sweet cereal finishing dry and complex. If only we had something like this at my college parties.
Honorable Mention: Nut Brown Lager, their other flagship that has light molasses notes and strong nutty malt flavors
KelSo is located at 529 Waverly Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (kelsobeer.com).
LIC BEER PROJECT: WonderLIC The most recent addition to a vibrant Long Island City beer scene, LIC Beer Project focuses on Belgian-inspired beers like saisons, sours, and pale ales, offering three at a time at their taproom. For those that like a little more body to their beer, check out their WonderLIC Belgian pale ale, a wonderful balance of malt, yeast, and hops. Bready, floral, and grassy are the main characteristics with a touch of fruit and funk.
Honorable Mention: Ardent Core, an expert combination of hops and yeast, with spicy earth saison notes and a crisp dry bitterness.
LIC Beer Project is located at 39-28 23rd Street between 39th and 40th Avenue in Long Island City, Queens (917-832-6840, licbeerproject.com).
OTHER HALF BREWING COMPANY: All Green Everything Considering its out-of-the-way unassuming location under the Gowanus Expressway, it's pretty amazing that Other Half draws more crowds and hype than any other brewery in the city. That's a testament to the quality of beers that hop masters Sam Richardson and Matt Monaghan are producing. With a strong focus on hoppy IPA's and funky sours, just about anything you choose will be quite impressive. If you can get your hands on this juicy triple IPA with a quadruple mixing of hops, drink it. It's boldly flavored and one sip will make you understand why people line up hours before the taproom opens for their can releases.
Honorable Mention: Doug Cascadian Dark Ale, another home run, is a black IPA showing off dark chocolatey malts and a subtle balance hoppiness.
Other Half Brewing Company is located at 195 Centre Street between Court and Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (otherhalfbrewing.com).
PAULANER BRAUHAUS: Hefeweizen Paulaner has been in the game a little longer than all the rookie craft brewers in this country. They were founded by monks in Munich in 1634 well before Samuel Adams was even a twinkle in his parents' eyes. The historic German brewery now operates many brewpubs around the world where the beer is brewed on premises, including one in the old Kleindeutschland neighborhood of the Bowery. That's where you can try the freshest Bavarian beers this side of the Atlantic. It's always smart to start with their tried and true Hefeweizen.
Honorable Mention: Munich Pale Ale, a refreshing German take on a juicy, fruity American IPA
Paulaner Brauhaus is located at 265 Bowery between Houston and Stanton Streets on the Lower East Side (212-780-0300, paulanernyc.com).
ROCKAWAY BREWING COMPANY: Nitro Black Gold Rockaway Brewing Company was born out in the Rockaways when two seasonal residents bonded over their love of craft brewing. After gaining a local following, they opened their facility in a more practical space in Long Island City. They've recently expanded, and the tasting room provides a relaxed and fun atmosphere in which to sample their accessible and traditional beer styles. Make sure to try their creamy, milky stout on nitro that has an underlying smokiness and a dangerous resemblance to chocolate milk.
Honorable Mention: Rockaway ESB, their flagship extra special bitter that leans on the malty and sweet side and is totally delicious.
Rockaway Brewing Company is located at 46-01 5th Street between 46th Avenue and 46th Road in Long Island City, Queens (718-482-6528, rockawaybrewco.com).
SINGLECUT BEERSMITHS: Dean Pacific NW Mahogany Ale You may notice that most of the beers at Astoria's Singlecut are bestowed with guitarists first names. That's because owner and brewmaster Rich Buceta is also a huge music fan and even sold his collection of antique guitars to fund the brewery when they opened in 2012. The lively tap room is the perfect place to sample their housemade brews, like this tribute to the Pacific Northwest, where some of the best hops are grown. The malty nutty amber (or mahogany) ale has a surprising herbal, citrus hop bitterness.
Honorable Mention: Billy Full Stack Double IPA, a fully-loaded hop bomb with bitter pine, citrus, and floral characteristics
Singlecut Beersmiths is located at 19-33 37th Street between 19th and 20th Avenue in Astoria, Queens (718-606-0788, singlecutbeer.com).
SIXPOINT BREWERY: Diesel It might come as a shock to many people who aren't immersed in the NYC beer world that most of Sixpoint's major canned beers (like the Sweet Action and the Crisp) are not actually produced at their Red Hook facility, but are contract-brewed out of state. Luckily, the ones that are brewed in town include draft-only experimental beers like their Mad Scientist series. A locally-made offering that's still available is their formerly-canned Diesel, an American stout that also has characteristics of a black IPA with both roasted chocolatey notes and a substantial pine hop component.
Honorable Mention: Low Brow Brilliant, a golden sour made specifically for New York Beer Week; get it while it lasts.
STRONG ROPE BREWERY: Falling Squirrel Project Series One of the newest breweries on the NYC scene does not plan on keeping a regular line-up of beer. Instead brewmaster/owner Jason Sahler makes whatever he feels like making on his small two-barrel system. The rotating line-up at the tasting room in Gowanus features a diverse selection of ales, but you can always expect to see something under the Falling Squirrel Project Series. It could be a sessionable IPA or a Vienna-style malty ale, but whatever it is, it will focus on using a single malt and a single hop from New York State.
Honorable Mention: Fat Man, Little Stout, a perfect light dry stout, with roasted notes of coffee and ash
Strong Rope Brewery is located at 574A President Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in Gowanus, Brooklyn (929-337-8699, strongropebrewery.com).
THREES BREWING: Superf*ckingyawn Between the food pop-ups, the coffee shop, and the live music, there's so much to do at Threes Brewing that you may actually forget that they also brew great beer. While they have a knack for making great saison beers, this Imperial IPA shows their range when it comes to brewing big, bold offerings. Their breakout beer is this well-rounded seasonal quaff, with bracing grapefruit and tropical fruit notes mellowed out by a hint of pine.
Honorable Mention: Positive Selection, a one-time brew that is a unique oatmeal stout with oaty, malty subtleties underneath a fruity, spicy character
Threes Brewing is located at 333 Douglass Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue in Gowanus, Brooklyn (718-522-2110, threesbrewing.com).
TRANSMITTER: F1 Brett Farmhouse Ale Rob Kolb and Anthony Accardi certainly think outside the box. The two cycling pals bonded over homebrewing and run a diminutive tasting room and brewery inside a garage under the Pulaski Bridge. Their masterful creations have taken the city by storm, with a rotating line-up comprised of coded yeast-forward beers that are available at bars, high-end restaurants, or through a shared. Their series of farmhouse ales have been a highlight, including the currently available F1, a brett-fermented golden ale with a ton of hops and a funky strong body.
Honorable Mention: S4 Classic French Saison Ale, a super effervescent, clean, dry yeasty seasonal beer.
Transmitter Brewing is located at 53-02 11th Street at 53rd Avenue in Long Island City, Queens (646-378-8529, transmitterbrewing.com).
Brian Hoffman searches for iconic New York dishes and makes comedy food videos on his site Eat This NY. He also writes for Midtown Lunch and gives food and drink walking tours around NY.