January 19, 2012

New York City was positively luminous on this January night. The first snow of the season was expected, but never materialized. The monthly ritual of taking the commuter rail into the city to tipple with the dads has made me appreciate how you'd be hard pressed to find a place with a greater variety of ways to find craft beer.

After Whole Foods Market's beer emporium began filling 64 oz. growlers a couple of years ago, Growler spots in Gotham City seem to be sprouting up all over the place! Now, a new crop of beer specialty stores, such as Good Beer NYC, are catering to the growler crowd. This week, we heard of two new ones: 8th Street Growler Station, and Top Hops Beer Shop.

Top Hops was brand new, less than a week old. A dozen stools at the bar—excuse me, the tasting area—and that's it. Walls were bare, and everything seemed freshly painted. There's two banks of refrigerator cases in the back filled with bottles and bombers of foreign and domestic craft goodness. For the cost of the beer and a $2 service charge you can taste the bottles on site. We were here for the dozen-plus taps, though.

I started with a Harpoon Black IPA, which was a medium body brew with strident hops. It's not really my style, but it wasn't bad at all. David opted for the Chicago's Goose Island Mild Winter brown ale, which was pleasantly fruity with a touch of hops. Dan went for a flight of brews that included Bear Republic's Double Aught Pilsener. Next up was a Leffe Brown that was fresh and fantastic! Sweet and spicy, with a bit of nutmeg and toffee, the sweetness was never cloying. Highly recommended!

One of the owners, Kevin, told us that he wanted a wider selection of beer to feed his growler habit, so he started this beer-store-with-a-tasting-area! Robert observed that the guys who work here talk about beer as though they were hiring applicants: "This one would be a good addition to the team!" Definitely, they were a knowledgable and experienced bunch of guys. David offered up this bit of advice: "When you buy a new fridge, be sure that a growler fits!"

Robert had a Greenport Harbor Chinook'red; I found this to be bitter and astringent—too strong on the hops for my tastes. A couple came in to fill their growler. They chose the Goose Island Fleur, but before the growler could be filled, the keg kicked. Instead, everyone at the bar—er, tasting area—got free tastes. This Belgian-style ale was... interesting... The predominant flavor is Hibiscus, with a hint of corn in there as well. We heard this brew has been discontinued; perhaps it's just a s well...

Robert moved on to the River Horse Special Amber Ale, a mildly hoppy beer with a very nice balance. David went for the Goose Island Matilda Belgian-style pale ale. I found this light and creamy, but something was off in the aroma. I finished up with the Argyle tap, Brewery Ommegang's Belgian Pale Ale (aka BPA). Simply Beertastic!

Though the crowd was kinda youngish, and they've yet to fully furnish the place, us old farts felt welcomed and at home here! It's definitely worth stopping in when you're down Delancey way. We're look forward to our next visit!

We finished the evening with a pop at Loreley, a German bar/wursthaus on Rivington. This place really hops in the summer; the lovely biergarten in the back lot is a big reason why, to be sure. Tonight, though, it's downright quiet here: there were two empty tables at the bar and several more tables in the restaurant. They guys mostly went for the Erdinger Dark, but I went for the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissen instead. Nothing wrong with that choice! All in all, it was an awesome night that makes me really look forward to the next "snow day!"

Top Hops
Beer Shop

94 Orchard St,
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-4577

Luminous NYC

R and D, doing a little R&D...

Dan gives it a Thumbs Up!

The Top Hops Crew


What, me?