Tag Archives: heavy metal

Metal Bars

Just as New York City is not a craft beer destination—yet—it ain’t much of a Metal town either. All bands play here but rarely call it home, for similar reasons that microbreweries have struggled in the city since Prohibition: too much hardware, too little practice space at a very high premium. If you’ve ever carried a heavy rig on the subway or apartment brewed, you know exactly what I mean. As a result, we get stripped down forms of music like folk, ‘art rock’, punk, not to mention mass-produced lager (domestic and imported). Occasionally the roots of some super group will form in Manhattan as did the idea of contract brewing. Anthrax, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t drink. Lou Reed, RIP, deserves mention despite his collaboration with Metallica. One can only imagine Rob Zombie at Parsons and I haven’t completely forgotten about Helmet. Nevertheless, taste in music and beer remains much the same in New York as it did circa 1985. Case in point:


Here we have one of the first guitar straps made by Heavy Leather NYC, based in Greenpoint since 2008. Don’t get me wrong—my own strap along with Tony Iommi’s are products of the same company and most definitely Metal, but they should try partnering with some craft brewers. Imagine slinging an Arrogant Bastard over your shoulder. If the strap above was embossed with Pabst Blue Ribbon, we’d brand this dude a hipster (his shoes are velcro). As it stands, the strings on that Jackson are probably thin as Budweiser anyway.

While in Brooklyn, let’s begin our crawl. There are three commonly known Metal Bars in NYC, established for disciples of the True Music. Duff’s Bar in south Williamsburg, Three of Cups lounge and Otto’s Shrunken Head in the East Village. Duff’s is all horror show and taxidermy. Jesus Christ competes for wall space with Kerry King. The interior reminds me of 3 Floyds Brewpub with one crucial exception; no beer on tap. Duff’s Bar serves the MillerCoors equivalent of Duff’s Beer.


$1 PBR for happy hour is $1 too much. The bartender was legitimately surprised when I asked what else and their beer menu remains divided between domestic/import with token offerings like Brooklyn and Boston lager. Reminds me again why the term *craft* is necessary, despite all buzz within Billyburg’s lexicon. Duff’s either doesn’t understand the connection between heavy metal and craft beer, the metalheads behind microbrews, or more likely just doesn’t care. This is where you do shots, and I still wonder whether Jack Daniels or Lemmy came first. Good news is, rather than wait for a JMZ train, one can walk the Williamsburg Bridge back to Manhattan.

Give me fuel. We didn’t drink anything at Duff’s so why start with an empty stomach? Thankfully, Orchard Street between Stanton and Houston is the most Metal pit stop in the city. Georgia’s Eastside serves heavy metal home cooking and BBQ by the carcass. Cash only, no bathroom, nothing on draft, but you also have the option of Metallica-ritas at Taqueria LES next door. Both are decorated floor to ceiling with band merch. A general word about food in NYC: it sucks. Much like craft beer, most of it’s imported, rarely fresh and always overpriced. Quite unusual to find authentic barbecue or Mexican fare, much less on the same block with the same playlist. Georgia’s and Taqueria LES will nurse, prevent or provoke any hangover. Pick your poison.


Heading up 1st Ave…what Three of Cups has going for it is the element of surprise, like Chris Cornell’s falsetto in Beyond The Wheel (if you don’t think Soundgarden is Metal neither are you). The unassuming Italian restaurant upstairs promises good wine—not metal—while the downstairs is illuminated only by a neon sign marked ‘Lounge’. It’s a descent to where all rock stars go when they die. Three of Cups pours similar swill as Duff’s with the notable exception of Anchor Steam. At $4 a pint, I haven’t been as happy to pound this beer since my first time, and how many of us get to enjoy our first time again? Ladies drink free some nights, but it’s dark enough that with the right amount of hair and spandex bartenders probably can’t tell the difference.


Last stop, Otto’s Shrunken Head, 14th St. Not a metal bar per se, more of a rockabilly club from hell. Too bad this place wasn’t around for White Zombie to go inspiration shopping when they lived in Alphabet City. Otto’s outdoes Duff’s as well as Three of Cups with Pabst on tap, but they also have Harpoon IPA and no shame in Yuengling. Try ordering one in a tiki mug. There’s performance space in the back with customized drumheads, a photo booth where you might prefer to squat rather than sit, and freebasing in the bathroom. I didn’t know what freebasing is either though now is not the time; this is about beer.


Recently deceased Lower East Side rock and roll bars worth salute: Motor City went bankrupt like Detroit, St. Jerome’s is dead as Lady Gaga’s career. However, Idle Hands is pairing microbrews with Black Sabbath on Avenue B so there is hope. The number of taps downtown is booming. All these places give me some weird faith in NYC, that you don’t have to be a corporation to survive here. Maybe an industry as unconventional as craft beer can help to reclaim part of this island from bankers and brokers. Less suits and heels, more “dreamers in sneakers” to quote Tom Acitelli’s Audacity of Hops. Or combat boots. \m/

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Q&A with BeerAndTheCity

Who are you?

It may not look like it, but my roots are German.


New York left me in a dry spell last year, drinking nothing but Yuengling and Heineken in bulk from Rite Aide. I moved to Los Angeles trying my luck as an actor, realized how much I hate casinos, and saddled-up to the bar. Fortunately, that bar belonged to The Brewery at Abigaile. The spice of life in their West Coast IPA was just the inspiration I needed to volunteer an extra hand on brew day. Milling grain at sunrise over the Pacific and listening to King Diamond during mash-in was probably the first honest day’s work in my life. I learned that good beer is as simple as quality and quantity ingredients. Instead of chasing auditions, I began to chase beer all over California.

Why are you here?

The west is best but NYC is home. Let’s face it—life is competition and there are few industries where competitors support each other like craft beer. That said, there is a gulf of taste between east coast and west, big as the difference between lagers and ales. California boasts double, triple, dry-hopped everything and created a distinctly American industry in the process. I found a shared vision and spirit in Colorado, south to midwest, but New York is comparatively dry.

BeerAndTheCity began as a travel blog to document my time on the road. The purpose is now to answer why NY beer is rooted in more traditional, conservative recipes and identify local brewers changing the grid and challenging their audience. With IPA as the benchmark, we hope to crown a definitive East Coast India Pale Ale. My goal is to support the critical, cultural rise of microbrew in a macro-city. And, just to keep things interesting, we’ll do it all to a soundtrack of heavy metal.

Metal—what’s that all about?

Metal or not metal, that is the question. Metal is an all-encompassing term of approval, like the way women use *cute* but so much more hardcore. Wink. It’s no secret that I consider hops a magical desert island fruit, but instead of getting stranded in sensory analysis, I keep my rating simple. If a beer is Metal, it holds weight; a solid backbone with distinct voicing overhead. And just like hops, not all metal is bitter without imagination. In my experience, where there is good beer, there is heavy music and a brewmaster that plays guitar. I’m convinced working at a craft brewery is the only practical job for would-be rock stars. If beer is not metal, well, chances are it signed with a major label but kept the PO Box in Williamsburg.

So many potshots at Brooklyn; why all the hate?

Again—Williamsburg. And by Williamsburg, I mean hipsters. By hipsters, I mean PBR (though Modelo seems to be the next big thing). Pabst Blue Ribbon is a corporate product endlessly marketed with nostalgia, just like North Brooklyn these days. To my surprise, I recently complimented a guy waiting for the L train and wearing a t-shirt from Stone Brewing Company. Perhaps Bedford Avenue had finally swilled enough fizzy yellow beer. He scoffed thanks and explained to his friend it was one of the few shirts that didn’t look made for middle-aged brewers. If civilization can be judged by the beer it drinks, Billyburg has it coming.

OK…do you really believe beer is better than sex?

I’m glad you asked. So far, the strongest objection to my blog has been from a 76 year old radical (possibly 77 now), claiming that even the worst sex he ever had was pretty good and certainly better than beer. You’ll be happy to know he’s still virile. Please understand: the tagline is meant to be read as Beer is better than Sex [and the City], to undo any harm done by the ladies who lunch. As the microbrew movement began to pick-up speed elsewhere in the 90’s, ‘Sex and the City’ submerged New York in wine and cocktail culture. Doubtful that Carrie Bradshaw ever slummed it, but if she did I’m sure it was with the champagne of beers.

On a side note, I will say that sex is all the better now that my fiancé and I can talk craft beer to each other before…during…after…

Gross. Safe to say you’re a beer snob?

Yes. Not all beer is created equal. It’s amusing when commercial brands are praised for consistency even though what they do is consistently bad. So long as Pabst is cool, Blue Moon is craft, Sam Adams is anything more than a gateway beer and New York brewers stick to flagship lagers and blondes, murky/dirty IPA’s, the term beer snob is necessary. Every season is not meant to be sessionable.

I’ll probably regret asking, but what’s in all this for you?

I fully believe that beer will save my life, and hope to be writing you this time next year from the Great American Beer Festival.

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This is beer as god intended (or the devil). Before Stone, I didn’t fully understand what people meant by not liking hoppy brews; now I don’t understand why. If you’ve been paying attention since my first post, that fourth thing I value–first and foremost–is my fiancé. I proposed on 11.11.11 and started to notice a bottle on the shelves with the same date. To honor the Polish woman in my life and her lucky number, we embarked upon Stone’s Vertical Epic. Our stories are now intertwined. This was a sharp/aggressive/challenging beer, unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. Perhaps you’re thinking Stone Brew Co. was founded in 1996, why so late to the party? Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this. Well, I didn’t hear Master Of Puppets start to finish until my mid-twenties either. Some of us are late bloomers, I suppose…


While we’re on the subject, Stone is undeniably Metal. Power Metal. It wasn’t long after 11.11.11 that I began to recognize their logo among other devilry at concerts. Stone’s Gargoyle can compete with anything the merch stand has to offer. Visiting the brewery is like a stadium tour with better beer; how can you resist buying the t-shirt? We all know that Greg Koch first met Steve Wagner by renting rehearsal space to his band. Greg’s even been photographed with a Flying V and writes about heavy metal in their coffee table book on liquid lore, epic recipes and unabashed arrogance: “yes, I think you can wax poetically about metal music, especially with a good beer in hand.” Agreed. And yes, I do have a coffee table; to repeat, I’m engaged.


All signs point to Escondido and the independent republic of Stonelandia. Between the brewery, bistro, gardens, farm, proprietary distribution network and 5 company stores, they are remarkably self-sustained. Mitch Steele’s handiwork will soon be a rite of passage at San Diego airport. I’ve made three distinct pilgrimages to Stone since landing in Los Angeles: the first to visit, the second for strategy on 12.21.12–what better place if the Mayans had it right?–and a third to further my education at Beer University with small batch manager Steve Gonzalez. Both the tour and barrel aging course at Beer U were hosted by Ken Wright, Stone’s Minister of Indoctrination. Ken and I attended the same college (which shall remain nameless) and there were several others touring Stone that day from the same city as said college (which shall also remain nameless). For the first time ever, my liberal arts degree felt relevant.


True to their foundation, the copper and wood of more traditional brewhouses are replaced by steel, iron and stone. As with all micro-breweries I’ve visited in California to date, it’s impressive to see how far their facilities reach; you know the kettles are boiling round the clock. Of course, if the industrial strength of a brewery isn’t your thing, you can always gorge in the gardens and bistro. The menu and scenery complement every style of beer. Perhaps it’s the democratic draft list, or sweet smell of malt and hops in the air, but I’ll overlook the fact that one can also order wine here.


I have played every standard in Stone’s catalogue many times over with a few special releases. The Pale Ale pictured above is my desert island beer. After getting to know the bastard behind the arrogance, I’m proud to say his bark is bad as his bite. Have you seen my gravatar? That’s the Enjoy By 11.09.12 Double IPA, a worthy successor to Pliny (also distributed by Stone in SoCal) and, if 05.17.13 is any indication, getting better still. Since today is my anniversary–depending when you read this–let’s celebrate with a tasting. Call me sentimental, but we have Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11 Quingenti Millilitre series, aged in white wine barrels. I will also introduce a new segment entitled the woman’s point of view. The things we do for love…


11.11.11: Finally a good use for wine barrels. White grapes heighten alcohol, lighten body, mellow the spice and return this Vertical Epic to its Belgian roots. There’s a little something wild on the nose but no rogue yeast in flavor; a potpourri of cinnamon and chili shines through. Sugar and Spice and, of course, Metal. I still have an original bottle of 11.11.11 but, after so many climate changes, it might be ‘Belgian’ now as well. As for the woman’s point of view: “It’s like grapefruit and white grapes, I think. No wait! Orange.” And she’s right; not a heavy hop content from the company that deals in triple digit IBU’s.

What does the future hold for Stone? Quality and Quantity. I predict further expansion east like any great superpower. With Lagunitas setting-up shop in Chicago, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium in North Carolina, New York could use another arrogant bastard. I recently saw an interview with the heads of Shmaltz, Kelso and Bronx Brewing for NY beer week and it was, for lack of a nicer word, boring. Granted, they were on Fox news, but all I could think is tri-state beer needs a personality like Greg Koch. NYC claims to have the best drinking water in the free world; they just need someone to spice it up a bit.


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