A night spent down the South Street Seaport is always a pleasant one. And this one was a Falstaffian affair befitting the Bard's birthday. For Dan, Kevin and I, the night actually began on Pier 17, at Pizzeria Uno's, where there was a fundraiser for my son's school. (Eat and drink and they'll donate 20% of your tab to the school—what could be easier?) Uno's even has a decent beer selection, including their Uno Amber made for them by the Boston Beer Company (of Sam Adams fame).
A short walk across South Street brought us to Heartland, where we were joined by Robert, David and "P." We took the obligatory beer tour: six of their regular brews and a seasonal quaff. DNO etiquette requires that we begin the tour with the lightest beer first and move toward the darkest, and finish with the seasonal. The Indian River Light was surprisingly complex: light a smooth, to be sure but with nice notes of orange and coriander. A great summer beer! Next was the Cornhusker Lager: nah. I guess if you like Bud or Heiney, you might like this, but I'm not a fan of using corn (maize) as a beer grain. The Harvest Wheat Beer also seemed kind of weak to me (and I'm a wheat beer fan!). Then we tried the Indiana Pale Ale. It had a grapefruit-y note, but at this point I was feeling that something was off at Heartland. Hard to pinpoint, but somehow the beer had changed.
The Red Rooster Ale was kinda bland. I was actually a little bit afraid to try the Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout, but I needn't have worried. This gold medal winner was great, as always! Dark as sin, and rich with espresso and chocolate notes from the toasted malt, it's a satisfying and chewy brew. The seasonal, the Grateful Red Lager, was also great! It's a malty amber that finshes really clean. Dan really liked this one.
Despite the cool Spring we've been having, we had a great hang. Robert told us about his new book project, which will no doubt have you soiling your pants. Several of the guys compared Orlando notes. Robert told us about a Drink Around the World beer tour at the Epcot Center and also passed on a solemn word of caution given to him by some dude that seemed like he'd already been there: "Don't pre-game on the bus, man!"
I suppose I should be happy—three out of seven ain't too shabby, but I couldn't avoid that nagging feeling that the quality had slipped somewhat. My concerns were confirmed two days later as I read the copy of Ale Street News that I picked up on our way out of Heartland: The brewery had changed nearly all of its beers! Thankfully, they mostly left Farmer Jon alone. I think the Indian River Light improved tremendously, and the Indiana Pale Ale may have as well. It's clear I will have to go back and try them again. ⇒
Post-Script: Heartland's South Street Seaport location sadly closed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, October 29th, 2012. There was extensive flooding in low-lying areas of New York City, including South Street, which was located directly across the street from Pier 17. At the time of this writing (June, 2014) there are still five Heartland locations, including Union Square and the Empire State Building, as well as Houston Hall, Flatiron Hall and the just-opened Port Chester Hall.