The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Beer Bars
New York

 

 

Binghamton

Buffalo

Cooperstown

Hammondsport

Ithaca

 

New York City

Oswego

Syracuse

Williamsville

 

The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn
30 Mechanic Street
Hammondsport, NY 14840

The Village Tavern is a full service restaurant in downtown Hammondsport, NY.
Although they have 20 taps (with several unique local beers) and over 125 differnt world wide bottles, they downplay the beer, emphasizing their food. And good food it is. Since the town is a wine destination, they also have a large variety of local wines.
There are no other places to sit down and enjoy a beer nearby.

 

Blind Tiger Ale House
281 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014-4106
(212) 462-4682

This is New York. Get there early. Grab a window seat so you can watch the Village People Sidewalk Show. "Early" means you're going to be foggy before the five o'clock news. This is the Blind Tiger Ale House. Lots of people say it is one of New York's best beer bars. It has two dozen taps, 3 casks, and a small-printed blackboard full of bottles, many of them over $20 each. This is an American beer bar. There may be a few imports but the focus is on a flavorful geographic variety of beers in a variety of styles.

I've become a beer snob. The Jay Vee back in Loudon Park Cemetery would be ashamed of me. I would be ashamed of me, eschewing Country Club Malt Liquor for these fancy beers and using words like eschewing! We heard the Blind Tiger was bar No. 1 in New York. I stood before their draft list black board unimpressed. Not by the selection, which had many nice beers, but by the fact that I had had them all and expected more from New York's best beer bar. So okay, maybe it is not "Number One", but it is a damn nice place to catch a daylight buzz in the Big Apple.

High wooden tables and enough floor space to tip you to the fact this becomes an SRO joint nightly, greet you when it opens. Operating hours in the Village are approximate. It is dark and woody-looking anchored by two customers' sides of a squarish bar. A comely blonde with Shirley Temple ringlets takes our first order in a friendly, unrushed manner that turns into an all- business attitude as the crowd builds through the afternoon.

The beers are good. The Village show outside our window is even better. Part Fellini movie, part runway, part freak show, part cross section of urban America or urban anywhere, the constant parade of New Yorkers and New Yorker wannabes constantly raise and dashes your hopes. I'll have another Left Hand Sawtooth.

The bomber bottles of Southern Tier, Great Divide and a lot of nice small brewers are available at a hefty price. Food is not the focus but the pork butt sandwich on focaccia bread is tasty. I'd like three of them but one will have to do. If your hometown has over 250,000 people, you should have a couple of bars with beer this good. But unless you live in New York, you ain't got a bar like this.

 

 

Cooperstown, NY

Supposing a Questor finds himself in America's Baseball Capital and is in search of a good tavern? A perusal of the internet yields nothing in the way of beer bars, but a little old fashioned footwork can turn up a few gems.

Cooley's Stone House Tavern is located on Pioneer St. just off Main. Knotty pine dominates, and the U-shaped bar seats about 20. The 10 taps included an Ommegang, Brooklyn, and the usual suspects.

Just across the street sits Sherman's Tavern. Sherman's offers 8 taps including two Ommegangs, Stella, Labatt's, and the usuals. Sherman's has no food, just drinks, and popcorn, darts, TV's, and lotsa photos of old Cooperstown.

We should mention the bar below the Tunnicliff Inn, located on Pioneer St. just north of Main. It was the bartender at Tunnicliff who helped us locate Cooley's and Sherman's. They had an Ommegang and a pale ale from nearby Cooperstown Brewing Company.

Still want more? The Doubleday Cafe on Main St. has more beers, good food, and may be the spot to wind up the evening.

They may not be great "beer bars" but they are great places to have beers while in Cooperstown...the drinking town with a baseball problem.

 

 

 

Pixel Lounge
107 1/2 Dryden Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 277-7529

Look in the alley behind the Subway in Collegetown, and you'll find Pixel...all 24 taps and about 18 bottles.
Pixel consists of one big room with a small 10-seat bar, chairs, tables, and sofas.
The tap selections cover all tastes, and 21 of them rotate.
Owner Jim Frenette was more than willing to talk beer and business, and informed us that the atmosphere is pretty relaxed until 11 PM or so, and then blossoms into a vibrant night scene with dancing on the weekends.
Pixel is a must-stop on your Ithaca Beer Tour.

 

The Ithaca Ale House
111 N. Aurora St, Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 256-7977

The Ithaca Ale House is located in bustling Restaurant Row of downtown Ithaca.
They offer 20 drafts, carefully composed of local and American micros, and imports. There are also about 30 or so bottles, making sure all bases are covered. They offer flights for those who want to sample as many of their drafts as possible.
The long angular bar seats about 20, with booths and tables, too.
Although the place was jumping on a Monday night in the summer, our barmaid Emma was friendly and helpful in answering questions about the beers and our visit to Ithaca in general.
Questors will want to put Ithaca on their list of beer towns in the Finger Lakes area, and underscore the Ale House as a definite stop while in town.


 

The Chapter House
400 Stewart Ave
Ithaca, NY 14850-4559
(607) 277-9782

The Chapter House has the feel of a frat house...in a good way.
They have 48 well-selected taps leaning heavily towards New York beers, with some other U.S. micros and imports.
Corey, our bartender, was knowledgeable and very helpful in filling us in on the local beer scene. The rooms had a comfortable and well-worn feel to them.
The time between this beer and your next beer could be filled playing pool or other games.
The Chapter House is just one of the great bars in Ithaca, a landmark college town and beer Mecca that should not be missed by any Questor in the Finger Lakes area.


 

 

 

Ulrich's 1868 Tavern
674 Ellicott Street, at Virginia Street
Buffalo, New York 14203
(716) 855-8409

Ulrich's Tavern bills itself as "the German restaurant with an Irish pub", and "Buffalo's oldest documented continuously operating tavern restaurant having been established in the fall of 1868".
I can verify the first claim, and trust them on the second given that the place probably still looks pretty close to its original self.
The bar has a small but impressive set of taps that included Spaten Mai Bock, Yuengling Bock, and local favorite Flying Bison Spring Bock on two recent visits (bock fetish, here).
You won't have trouble finding something worth drinking, albeit more German than Irish (the Guinness tap notwithstanding).
The restaurant serves lunch on Monday - Friday and dinner on Thursday - Saturday, and its truly a reason to visit Ulrich's. My over-sized potato pancake came wrapped around a fresh sausage with red cabbage, spatzel and applesauce. Wash that down with a Spaten and your talkin' about a quality old country experience. Ulrich's is a very local place so don't order anything like a spritzer and you'll be OK.
Comfort food, great beer, and occasional live music;
drink and eat here when in Buffalo.
Ulrich's closed in 2012, but reopened in 2014 under new management.

 

 

Anchor Bar
1047 Main Street (at North Street)
Buffalo, New York 14209
716-886-8920

If you ever shuffle off to Buffalo, there is a city ordinance requiring that anyone who spends a night in the city must visit the
Anchor Bar.
If you have ever had a buffalo wing you will know why. Mother Teressa gave birth to them late one evening in 1964. Before that time humans had to somehow live without buffalo wings. Some people could not do it (live without them), my grandfather was one of them dying in 1963 before they arrived In Baltimore.

Nestled on a street corner it looks modest from any one direction of approach, but when you enter the parking lot its hidden mass is surprising. It is bigger than it looks. Or maybe it looks smaller than it is. This is a delightful conundrum to mull over with a nice beer.
Unfortunately, that is not easy to do at the Anchor Bar, where there are not really many nice beers, but to offset that shortcoming there are tacky decorations. Don't think this a negative review, it is a fun place if your expectations are right-sized.

You have seen bars that decorate the walls and ceiling with unusual things? The Anchor Bar has full size motorcycles arranged around the ceiling perimeter of the bar area. Why? Because cycles and buffalo wings go together.
The wings come in four shades of heat and cost about $11 for 10 $18 for 20. You can buy as many as you like. They are served with a bowl for the bones and lots of blue cheese dressing. The best part is they taste just like buffalo wings.

Why so much emphasis on the wings you might ask, if you did not catch this earlier, this is where they were invented!
Here is another reason...McSorley's on tap. That is the only beer reason to go to the Anchor Bar...a tasty session beer brewed in the Big Apple.

You can get a pitcher of Gene (pronounced jennie) Cream Ale here as well. You need to buy beer by the pitcher if you eat wings. I fell for Genesee Cream in Wilkes Barre, PA in an elsewhen long ago. Gene and McSorley's are both pedestrian beers made interesting by their limited distribution. There are some Canadian pedestrians as well, Labatt and Molson by name. The other beers are mostly macros and mostly suitable for little more than washing down wings or telling your mouth you are sorry for the suicidal wings you damaged it with.

Despite the uninteresting beer choices it is a fun stop.
Dark, woody, lots of stuff on the walls besides cycles.
Beer and wings is a pretty good meal, but beer and wings in the birthplace of wings, well that is a stop worth making.


 

 

Frank & Teressa's Anchor Bar
1047 Main Street (at North Street)
Buffalo, New York 14209
716-886-8920

You're here for the wings. Sure, the pizza is great too, but you can get great pizza anywhere in Buffalo . Back to the wings. Anchor Bar's secret is butter; I can say no more. Order 'em hot and crispy. And drink locally. That would mean Genesee Cream Ale, Labatts Blue, or McSorley's Irish Pale Ale...all on tap and local in the spiritual sense. There are a few other taps and maybe twenty or so other beers in the bottle, but try a pitcher of McSorley's with a couple of large orders of wings - a longtime family favorite. Be prepared for a wait mingling with tourists and locals, but it's worth it. And don't miss the gift shop where you can pick up an Anchor Bar souvenir pint glass or a genuine chicken wing hat for that someone special. Or not.

 

 

Scharf's Schiller Park Restaurant
34 South Crossman Street
Buffalo , New York 14211
716-895-7249

I'm in Buffalo . It's almost Easter. And its 38 freakin degrees. But inside Scharf's Schiller Park Restaurant it's as warm as grandma's fresh babka from the oven.
Scharf's is one of Buffalo's few remaining German restaurants, an oasis of brown and white food in the land of pizza and wings, and another great place to drink beer. On tap during my visit were Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Marzen, Warsteiner, Paulaner
Hefe Weissbier, and Franziskaner Dunkel. Bottles include more from Spaten and Franziskaner – even Optimator. You say you can get those at your local really good beer store, huh? What you can't get there is outstanding home-cooked German food to go with it. Ask for extra gravy. You, my friend, have gone to brown and white food/beer heaven. Finish it off with a “German coffee.” You can play pool or darts or watch the Sabers.
Sure, it's in the hood. Sure, it's hard to get to. Maybe you'll have trouble parking. But you will go and you will like it.

 

 

 

 

Pizza Plant
7770 Transit Road
Williamsville , New York
716-632-0800

The Pizza Plant is nestled in a small plaza in the suburbs north of Buffalo; parking is a breeze. Inside you'll find a bar frequented by beer geeks, a boothed dining area for families, and weather permitting (meaning summer), outside tables with a delightful highway view.
There are about 30 rotating taps, including one for cask conditioned ale, and a similar number of bottles. Beers are largely American craft brews with a few Belgians.
Local beers and regional beers on tap during our visit included Aviator Red from Buffalo's own Flying Bison Brewery and Nosferatu from Cleveland 's Great Lakes Brewing Company.
Pizzas and pods (a cross between a calzone and a sub sandwich) dominate the menu – where else can you find those little hand cut pepperonis, much less raisins, walnuts, tofu and sunflower seeds, among the toppings?
Hey, I thought this was Buffalo for crissake.
The restaurant offers periodic beer tastings, beer parties, music on the weekends, and kids eat free on Mondays.
Overall, if you can tolerate less than helpful wait staff (observation based on numerous visits…) this is a good place to catch a Sabers game and drink better- than-average beer.
There is also a Pizza Plant on Main Street.
Lookit the website.

 

 

Ale House 'The Beer Joint of Your Dreams'

3744 Vestal Parkway E.
Vestal (Binghamton) , NY 13850
(607) 729-9053

The Ale House is a small bar in a small strip mall amongst auto dealerships near the University at Binghamton. There are 12 stools at the bar and 10 small tables. A fiery grill is next to the liquor display. They have 36 taps, and no macros. But they have near-macros such as Blue Moon, Guinness, Harp, and LaBatt's. Almost all the rest are regionals. They have several Blue Point, as well as several Cooperstown, Otter Creek and Brooklyn. The ladies tending the bar were pretty friendly, somehow we ended up staying an hour and a half.

 

The Raven Pub
39 West Bridge Street
Oswego, NY 13126
(315) 343-1968

The Raven offers 24 drafts and depending on the season, about 70 bottles. One customer described the bar as, " a friendly University crowd with a big beer selection and rock n roll jukebox." Chris, the proprietor, takes suggestions from his beer-loving clientele. "When people request something, I try to pick it up." Or, as one customer put it, "The dude abides."

 

 

Blue Tusk

165 Walton St.
Armory Square
Syracuse, NY

Blue Tusk is located in Syracuse's beer haven known as Armory Square. With one of the area's biggest beer selections, Blue Tusk offers about 65 drafts, most of which are served in 20-oz. imperial pints...23-oz. on Monday and Tuesday! For a complete run-down of the brews, visit the website. This lively establishment can get crowded, especially in the winter, so get there early.