Pizza and bagels might top travelers’ lists of things to consume in New York City, but here’s something else you shouldn’t miss: the beer. Sure, beer meccas like Portland and Denver might boast reputations as the hottest spots for hops, but New York City has some serious roots in brewing. After all, the first commercial brewery in America set up shop in lower Manhattan nearly 400 years ago. You just can’t beat heritage like that.
The five boroughs are now awash with more than 40 local breweries (and counting!), each of which puts its own unique stamp on Gotham with house-made suds that reflect the distinctive personalities of their home neighborhoods.
While you really can’t go wrong at any of the dozens of breweries that confetti this city, there are a few stand-outs you shouldn’t miss. Here are the 10 best breweries to visit in New York City.
We’re not sure whether the team at Other Half Brewing Company puts more effort into its artistically designed cans or the hoppy stuff that’s inside of them. Either way, the regular lines (often stretching around the block) of people waiting to pick up a six pack serve as proof that this Carroll Gardens brewery is doing something very, very right. Your patience to get into the taproom will be handsomely rewarded with tastings of some 20 beers on tap. While IPAs dominate the draft menu, Other Half also has some creative stouts, pilsners and lagers on draft that are just as tasty.
Some breweries have a slightly snooty air that can intimidate the average beer drinker—but that’s exactly the opposite of what you’ll experience at Gun Hill Brewing Company. The Bronx brewery exudes a welcoming atmosphere where both the neighborhood’s locals and beer geeks from outside the borough can enjoy a hand-crafted pint together in a no-frills joint. As for what to drink, the award-winning Void of Light stout is backed by rave reviews, while tasting flights are on offer in case you want to try a few different options from the 14 taps.
A fixture in the New York craft beer scene, Brooklyn Brewery has been churning out its flagship Brooklyn Lager since the 1980s. But this brewery goes far beyond the unmistakable green labeled lager (sold around the world) when it comes to making good beer. James Beard Award-winning brewmaster Garrett Oliver has finessed the art of brewing, most evident in rare cellar bottles like Brooklyn Local 1 (a Belgian strong golden ale) and Black Ops (a barrel-aged imperial stout). On draft at the taproom, you’ll also find a rotating selection of brews to satisfy just about any palate or preference. Take a tour of the earth-friendly facilities to learn why this brewery has become a favorite among New Yorkers.
Coney Island Brewery somehow manages to capture the heart and spirit of its quirky, beachside digs into every can, bottle and keg it produces. The Hard Root Beer promises to “bring you right back to the boardwalk” with its vanilla birch flavor, while the Mermaid Pilsner and Merman IPA pay tribute to Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade.
The real reasons to visit this brewery, though, are its experimental limited releases. It’s the only place you can try exclusives like Kettle Corn Cream Ale, Cotton Candy Kölsch or Tunnel of Love watermelon wheat beer. Those carnival-inspired brews will not only inspire you to scream your head off on the Cyclone, but they’ll give you the liquid courage you need to ride on the rickety 91-year-old coaster to begin with.
While you can enjoy a beer aboard the Staten Island Ferry, you might not be too impressed with what’s on offer. Fortunately, Flagship Brewing Company is ready to greet you with a pint of some of New York City’s finest beer just a short walk away from the ferry terminal. This brewery was the first to produce beer in the borough since the 1960s, and now offers eight beers on draft at its 4,000-square-foot tasting room. A fiver is enough to get you on one of Flagship’s fascinating brewery tours, where you can learn the secrets of what goes on behind the scenes (and what gives Flagship’s signature American-style pale ale its deep auburn color).
Whereas other breweries focus on only the essentials (what more could you need when you have a good beer in your hand?), Threes Brewing finds value in making its Gowanus brewery cool and polished. You’ll find a spacious bar with white-washed brick walls, lush plants, chic marble booths and warm wood paneling. The beers are just as thoughtful and delicious as you’d expect from a space like this. Sample a range of German lagers, traditional Belgian farmhouse ales and hoppy American beer.
After you’ve worked your way through your dozenth local IPA, you might start to wonder: what’s next? It's time to head to Queens for a tastebud refresh at Transmitter Brewing. The Long Island City brewery specializes in farmhouse ales that showcase its vast library of traditional yeasts from England, France, Belgium and the good ol’ US of A. Lively brews, like passionfruit sour ale, buckwheat biere de garde and oat grisette will add serve as fresh fuel for your burning passion for craft beer.
Extremely limited real estate means Manhattan suffers a drought of breweries. Fortunately, Death Ave., a Greek-American restaurant in Chelsea, has converted its lower level into a subterranean brewery that churns out some downright tasty drafts for the upstairs bar. Home brews like Mr. Refreshing (a kölsch with hop flower flavors that will intrigue your tastebuds) and Mr. Cloudy (a strong, bitter double IPA brewed using malted oats) pair perfectly with the restaurant’s blackened chicken sliders and skirt steak skewers.
There’s a place for experimental flavors in craft beers—and that place is decidedly not the Bronx Brewery. No, this Port Morris brewery gets back to the basics with classics like American IPA, pale ale, German pilsner and India session ale that reflect the brewing team’s true devotion to crafting no-nonsense beer. What Bronx Brewery lacks in innovation is made up for with its deep sense of community. It fills its events calendar with summer concerts, Latin dance parties, open-mic nights, movie screenings and tons of other activities that energize the industrial neighborhood.
Music and beer are a match made in heaven at SingleCut Beersmiths. Owner Rich Buceta reportedly cashed in on his collection of vintage guitars to come up with the money to open the brewery in 2012, and has since developed an assortment of rock-n-roll-inspired brews that have earned a cult following. The names of the beers here are just as interesting as their flavors. The Queen-inspired “Is This The Real Life? Double Dry-Hopped IPA” has a creamy consistency with a light malt flavor and notes of bright citrus. Platinum Wild Ale is fermented with one of SingleCut’s Brett strains for half a year and finished with tropical pineapple. And Kinky Boots of Lead Sour Imperial Stout is equal parts smooth and art, with a pleasant cherry kick. Check out the taps themselves—they’re shaped like the headstock of a guitar!