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Bar Review: Spuyten Duyvil

Submitted by on November 13, 2009 – 4:10 PMNo Comment
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Spuyten Duyvil
359 Metropolitan Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Hours: Mon-Fri – Open 5PM
Sat, Sun – Open 1PM

One of the first things you see when you walk into Spuyten Duyvil, a small, unassuming Williamsburg bar, is a large chart hanging on the wall that highlights the development of a human fetus. Spuyten DuyvilAround the rest of the bar you’ll find a smattering of different styles that’s part turn of the century Moldovan school house, part dead woman’s estate sale. A local favorite for its massive collection of rare European microbrews, specialty meat and cheese trays and large open garden, Spuyten Duyvil feels like a master’s class in obscure beers with little to no concessions for those not up to speed on the Wallonian brewery scene.

Really enjoying Spuyten Duyil requires one of two options. One, you genuinely love obscure foreign beers. The bar may be one of a handful of places in the city where you can sit and enjoy a beer brewed on a farm somewhere in the Netherlands 30 years ago. It offers a variety of fresh, new flavors that are a rarity amongst even solid beer bars. The second option is likely the most common; you have to pretend to know what any of the scrawl on their beer menu means. A massive list of beers should be beautiful and welcoming at a bar; the beer list at Spuyten Duyvil feels akin to staring at the Rosetta Stone.

Beer can get complicated, especially rare European imports, so to accommodate the less informed, most large beer halls provide The Book. The Book is the thick guide to a bar’s beer selection, with brief blurbs about each beer that highlights where they’re from, what they taste like and what to expect. Having a list of Spuyten Duyvil’s depth exclusively written on a chalk board above the bar comes across as a cruel jab to entry level beer drinkers. Because the bartenders are obviously harried with the burden of having to recommend and explain everything to practically every patron, their aid comes across as curt and half-hearted. The board also forces customers to attempt pronouncing things like “Hemel Niew Light Gran Cru” instead of the better two options of starting with the first word and then trailing off, or the preferred method of just pointing and grunting.

Price complicates matters further. When it comes to drinking foreign imports, a heavy price tag is to be expected, but browsing the prices for Duyvil’s dense menu is enough to set you on your heels. For every $9 beer offered, there are at least five $27 beers to punch you in the gut. An expensive beer isn’t all that uncommon in a bar like Spuyten Duyvil, but the sheer number of $27-$30 brews heavily outnumbers more affordable options and it reeks of price inflation.

The owners of Spuyten Duyvil also own Fette Sau, a barbecue restaurant and bar across the street. Sau’s beer list is smaller, but more affordable and accessible, and they have an amazing array of barbecue that can be bought by the pound. Sau retains Duyvil’s pleasant atmosphere but dispenses with its crippling pretense, making it the better choice between the two. Spuyten Duyvil has the potential to be a nice bar for a night of sipping on adventurous brew, but between the staggering prices and the too hip for comfort atmosphere it all becomes too much to bear.

Pros: Funky décor, eclectic juke box, back garden, gigantic beer list

Cons: Expensive, crowded, inaccessible and pretentious

Rating: 2 out of 5