The Best Beer Bars in New York City

New York

The Best Beer Bars in New York City
The Best Beer Bars in New York City

ABC Beer Company | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
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ABC Beer Company | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The modern definition of what makes the best beer bar is, at best, a moving target. It’s an even more formidable task in New York City, where modern beer-focused bars and restaurants seem to be as ubiquitous as your favorite corner bodega (which are, sadly, vanishing). While there’s a widespread belief that the rarity of offerings is the only valid qualification for a great beer bar, there’s really so much more that goes into it. Factoring in a great (and well-maintained) beer list, relaxed atmosphere, menu (snacks are a must-have at your best beer bars in 2016, with a few notable exceptions), and that certain je ne sais quoi that makes a great beer bar so appealing, we’ve compiled our take on the best beer bars in New York City. Brace your livers.

Drew Swantak/Thrillist

Blind Tiger

West Village

Arguably the epitome of a New York City craft beer bar and a true pioneer in the NYC craft scene, Blind Tiger’s been doling out a fine selection of the top tier libations since it opened in 1995. It’s the go-to spot to meet folks from your favorite breweries who happen to be swinging through town, and the tap takeovers are legendary to say the least. Top it off with a knowledgeable and approachable staff, great music, and tastefully worn wood surfaces, and the beer at the Tiger just seems to taste better than it does at other places.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

ABC Beer Co.

Alphabet City

Part-bottle shop, part-beer bar (a trend that’s been taking off recently), this Avenue C haunt is perfect for when you want to grab an interesting six-pack to go from the cooler or belly up to the bar and order one of the 12 rotating drafts on the menu (full disclosure: owner Zach Mack is our contributing beer writer). There’s also a laundry list of excellent bar bites -- including some tasty meat and cheese platters and toasted sandwiches that pair perfectly with that saison you’re drinking -- plus super-cushy seating, a long wooden table perfect for groups, and free Wi-Fi. It’s the kind of place you can stroll into any night of the week and leave all pretense behind.

Signe Birke

Torst

Williamsburg

It goes without saying that Torst is trendy, but the staff here still keeps it refreshingly simple in their approach to a great beer bar. Opened and run by the owners of Evil Twin Brewing, those crazy Danish alchemists of fantastically creative beer, Torst eschews the bullshit nicely, and instead keeps your focus squarely on the beer. With over 20 seasonally focused drafts from all over the world, the beer is always “ekstremt” fresh and unique (we didn’t find half of the beers on draft anywhere else in New York). Plus, and we love this from a tasting perspective, they’re all offered in three different sizes so you don’t have to commit to a pint if you’re aiming for more variety during your visit.

George Keeley

Upper West Side

Keeley’s is a mainstay and a gem in a neighborhood distinctly lacking in quality beer-focused bars and restaurants. A relative underdog on our list, Keeley’s is more than deserving of some love. Quality pub food, nicely positioned TVs, unlimited salty popcorn, and an absolutely inspired tap list with a local focus make it a friendly hangout for anyone looking for a great pint, a football game, and an even better conversation. If you’re adventurous, join George Keeley’s beer club by consuming 100 different types of beer and immortalize yourself on the wall of fame... if you dare.

Covenhoven

Prospect Heights

Really crispy grilled cheese. Fresh and oh-so-soft pretzels. We would normally end it there on the hard sell for any bar sporting a great beer selection, but Covenhoven deserves more. A relative newcomer on the Brooklyn beer scene in the past few years, what Covenhoven lacks in front-of-the-house seating, it more than makes up for in amazing tap takeovers (think seriously rare stuff, like a relatively recent takeover from The Bruery featuring more than 20 of its barrel-aged and experimental offerings) and one of the most eclectic draft towers in the city. It’s also got a nice backyard hangout that’s perfect for warmer days.

Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist

Proletariat

East Village

This tiny little beer bar has quickly made a name for itself amongst NYC’s craft beer elite... if such a thing exists. Tucked away, speakeasy-style, on St. Marks, Proletariat might be the most amount of fun you can have in such a small space here in the city. It’s known for its incredibly informed and entertaining bar staff, and a draft and bottle list that’s always fresh and interesting, with a great combination of local and national beers. A well run-beer bar speaks volumes, and the folks at Proletariat clearly love great beer.

Bar Great Harry

Carroll Gardens

This is the sort of bar that feels way bigger than it actually is, and that’s especially true on a beautiful spring day when all the doors are open. Wander into Bar Great Harry and you’ll find one of the most relaxed beer bars in Brooklyn, coupled with a superb draft list that rotates on a very consistent basis, making every visit a unique experience. Plus, and we can’t emphasize this enough, it’s got several pinball machines. Pinball and beer is a combination that can’t be denied.

Mission Dolores

Park Slope/Gowanus

Located inside a former tire shop, Mission Dolores (from the Bar Great Harry team) kills it with an excellent, and usually very local, beer selection in what is arguably the most unique atmosphere on this list, considering you’re drinking your beer inside a garage. The front of this 4th Ave bar still maintains its industrial setting, and whether you’re a tried and true hophead or a newly minted parent looking to escape diaper duty, it’s about as neighborhood friendly as it comes in Brooklyn’s burgeoning beer scene.

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Valhalla

Hell’s Kitchen

Whether you’re catching some drinks before a concert at Terminal 5, or just dropping in for a burger and beer around lunch, Valhalla holds it down as one of the West Side’s best beer bars. Not for nothing, but 48 nicely curated, mostly local draught choices puts beer geeks and aspiring craft enthusiasts on the same page, and keeps the conversation flowing. In fact, we’ve never been to Valhalla and not geeked out with our fellow barfly during the visit.

Judy & Punch

Astoria

Queens is absolutely bursting at the seems with beer bars and taco trucks these days, which is just fine with us (after all, it’s science that tacos are the best tasting food after a night out), and Judy & Punch hits all the right buttons. It’s got an outstanding draft list and a staff that’s armed with all the geeky beer knowledge you could hope for, plus a chill vibe, the occasional trivia night, and one of the best happy hours in the whole city (4-8pm all drafts are five bucks!).

Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist

Jimmy’s No. 43

East Village

New York City publican and craft beer maven Jimmy Carbone’s signature bar carries his name for a reason. Jimmy’s No. 43, a downstairs joint in one of the most bar-heavy neighborhoods in the whole country, has a perfectly sized and approachable craft beer selection without the pretense of being too exclusive. The staff insist that you sample a sip of beer first before committing, and the cozy environment and upscale food cap it off to make Jimmy’s a neighborhood mainstay.

Crescent & Vine

Astoria

This place is probably tied with Proletariat for being the most diminutive bar on our list, but it punches way above its weight class with a unique and interesting beer selection for the area, a fun atmosphere, and seriously delicious paninis. Situated slightly off the beaten path and nestled amongst the townhomes of Astoria, Crescent & Vine has an almost Chicago-ish neighborhood vibe to it, with a simple and inviting appeal that makes it a sleeper in the NYC craft beer scene.

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Chris McClellan is a contributing beer writer at Thrillist, the founder of The Brew Enthusiast, and a consummate lover of great tales, pale ales, and a really solid deli sandwich. Follow him: @brewenthusiast
 

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1. The Blind Tiger 281 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Arguably the epitome of a New York City craft beer bar and a true pioneer in the NYC craft scene, Blind Tiger’s been doling out a fine selection of the top tier libations since it opened in 1995. It’s the go-to spot to meet folks from your favorite breweries who happen to be swinging through town, and the tap takeovers are legendary to say the least. Sip from 28 taps, two casks and a staggering list of microbrew bottles.

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2. Tørst 615 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Started by a consortium of "hardcore beer and food" types (including a Momofuku research lab chef, a former beer sommelier from DBGB, and the guy behind Evil Twin Brewing), this temple to all things brew is dedicated to bringing you some of the tastiest and rarest suds. Torst is a Danish bar boasting over 20 carefully-selected beers, which are all kept fresh through a high-tech, temperature-regulating system.

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3. George Keeley NYC 485 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 (Upper West Side)

Keeley’s is a mainstay and a gem in a neighborhood distinctly lacking in quality beer-focused bars and restaurants. Quality pub food, nicely positioned TVs, unlimited salty popcorn, and an absolutely inspired tap list with a local focus make it a friendly hangout for anyone looking for a great pint, a football game, and an even better conversation. If you’re adventurous, join George Keeley’s beer club by consuming 100 different types of beer and immortalize yourself on their wall of fame.

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4. Covenhoven 730 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238 (Crown Heights)

Hardcore beer geeks probably already know and love Covenhoven for its awesome themed bottle nights, subway proximity, trivia throwdowns, and appearances by local beer makers, but these guys -- and their sweet back garden -- have remained a best-kept secret for casual beer drinkers who live outside of Crown Heights.

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5. Proletariat 102 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

This East Village bar is a craft beer hideaway from the, uh, hustle and bustle of St. Mark's. The bartenders are well-versed in the world of rare and unusual brews, so tell them what you like and let them decide the rest. The small and narrow space isn't great for groups, but it's definitely a place to catch up with a friend, take a super-casual date, or have a solo sip to take the day off.

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6. Bar Great Harry 280 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

This is the sort of bar that feels way bigger than it actually is, and that’s especially true on a beautiful spring day when all the doors are open. Wander into Bar Great Harry and you’ll find one of the most relaxed beer bars in Brooklyn, coupled with a superb draft list that rotates on a very consistent basis, making every visit a unique experience. Plus, and we can’t emphasize this enough, it’s got an Iron Man Pinball game. Iron Man and beer is a combination that can’t be denied.

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7. Mission Dolores 249 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Located inside a former tire shop, Mission Dolores (from the Bar Great Harry team) kills it with an excellent, and usually very local, beer selection. The front of the 4th Ave bar maintains its industrial garage look, and whether you’re a tried and true hophead or a newly minted Park Slope parent looking to escape diaper duty, it’s about as neighborhood friendly as it comes in Brooklyn’s beer scene.

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8. Valhalla 815 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019 (Hells Kitchen)

Whether you’re catching some drinks before a concert at Terminal 5, or just dropping in for a burger and beer around lunch, Valhalla holds it down as one of the West Side’s best beer bars. This unfussy, urban bar boasts 48 carefully-curated draught microbrews, along with a small menu of bar bites that include panko-fried chicken, beer-battered pickles, and housemade spinach and artichoke dip.

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9. Judy & Punch 34-08 30th Ave, Astoria, NY 11103 (Astoria)

Judy & Punch has an outstanding draft list and a staff that’s armed with all the geeky beer knowledge you could hope for, plus a chill vibe, the occasional trivia night, and one of the best happy hours in the whole city (from 4-8pm, all drafts are five bucks!).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Jimmy's No. 43 43 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

A downstairs joint in one of the most bar-heavy neighborhoods in the whole country, Jimmy's No. 43 has a perfectly sized and approachable craft beer selection without the pretense of being too exclusive. The staff insist that you sample a sip of beer first before committing, and the cozy environment and upscale food cap it off to make Jimmy’s a neighborhood mainstay. It differentiates itself from other beer bars with an Asian-fusion menu featuring Filipino-inspired dishes like chicken wings adobo and pork belly tacos.

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11. Crescent & Vine 25-03 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY 11105

This bar punches way above its weight class with a unique and interesting beer selection for the area, a fun atmosphere, and seriously delicious paninis. Situated slightly off the beaten path, Crescent & Vine has an almost Chicago-ish neighborhood vibe to it, with a simple and inviting appeal that makes it a sleeper in the NYC craft beer scene.

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