Liquid Courage – Beer Table
Room at The Table: Dedication, benevolence, and tasty brews in Brooklyn’s Park Slope
Walking along a dusty 7th Avenue sunset, you probably wouldn’t notice the place. No loud sign above the doorway, just a stencil on the glass door reading “Beer Table,” and the inviting din of chatting patrons inside. Mason-jar fixtures around bare bulbs cast a soft light over the high wood tables, just barely revealing shelves upon shelves of beers in large bottles with names you have to pronounce phonetically. Beer Table hides its treasures, but accommodates the exploring palate—owner Justin Philips and his wife Tricia have arranged the beer list in a descending manner of “lighter at the top, heady at the bottom” for the not-so-beer-savvy. They source the specialty foods of local artisans to pair with their beer offerings. They use fine beers in the preparation of dishes. The promise of fine food and beer variety tempts the satisfaction of both geeks and newbies alike.
So how does Beer Table fare for events and tastings? Walk by at 9 o’clock on a Monday night—atypical imbibing hours for a hardworking city—and the vibe will tell you everything you need to know. Though elbowroom is sometimes at a premium, Beer Table is fast becoming a hot spot for New York’s local brewers to get face to face with fellow beer drinkers and satisfied customers. Last month, owner and head brewer Scott Vaccaro of the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company of Pleasantville, NY showed up strong with half a dozen expressive and boundary-pushing beers. Their Smoke-From-The-Oak Porter is a dark beer brewed with smoked malt, fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria, and aged in bourbon and red wine barrels. It’s galaxies away from anything that ever came out of a can with the word ‘drinkability’ on it, and has a barely smoky, barely sour, barely vanilla taste. Their Captain’s Reserve IPA was a super-fresh 12 hours old before it found its hoppy way into this writer’s stemware at the Table. And of course, with Scott there to tell the story of the fledgling brewery and his own adventures in the world of craft beer, the stage was positively set for a fantastic evening of craft beer.
It all came together yet again on Monday, when the folks from New York and San Francisco-based Shmaltz Brewing Company arrived at Beer Table, with requisite knockout brews on tap. Their narrative flowed through owner Jeremy Cowan, art director Matt Polacheck, and New York sales point man Sean Lynch. On a holy mission to show the world just what lager yeast can do, Shmaltz’s dual brands of Coney Island and He’Brew merge Jewish heritage and Brooklyn fortitude with delicious result. Pomegranates, rye malt, multiple yeast strains and the blending of style guidelines—Shmaltz beers are a story in a bottle, and proof that taste buds trump marketing campaigns. Their story is grounded in the melting pot of New York and the forward thinking of the West Coast. In the words of Jeremy, “if we could successfully sell Jewish beer with a Palestinian refugee to a Yemeni Muslim in Hell’s Kitchen, maybe the beer had something going on.” Highly recommended offerings are the Rejewvenator (half German Dopplebock and half Belgian Dubbel, so you know that war’s over) and Bittersweet Lenny’s Rye IPA (a powerful 10% alcohol tribute to the late Lenny Bruce).
The effect of good beers and good company was not lost by the end of the night. Sitting on a stool at Beer Table, sipping and munching away to the easy flow of conversation among New Yorkers, it’s easy to miss the magic of what this place achieves and represents. When you see owner Justin moving among his establishment’s patrons, removing glassware, serving beer and dishes, explaining the nuances of style and taste, you can’t help but be drawn into the level of craft Beer Table embodies. Yes, it’s an opportunity for local grocers and brewers, but the victory is all yours. Beer benevolence is contagious, and Justin and wife Tricia’s dedication is to your enjoyment and experience. Looking to break onto the scene? Pull up a stool at the Table—there’s plenty of room.
“Liquid Courage” is a series of blogs written by Home Brewer Matt Sanders. Join him each week as he discovers unique beers and meets interesting brewers along the East Coast.
Photo by Eric Arnstein