The Best Places to Buy Craft Beer in New York City | Updated
Back in November 2011 I wrote a piece entitled The Best Places to Buy Craft Beer in New York City, which to this day remains the post that brings more people to this site than any other. Given the ever-evolving and expanding craft beer landscape in New York City, along with a deeper knowledge repository that has refined my own purchasing habits — not to mention having recently completed the “State of the NYC Craft Beer Scene” panel — it seemed time for an update.
With apologies to the likes of The Pony Bar (the best beer bar in New York City, for my money) and the borough of Brooklyn, for simplicity’s sake I’m limiting this list to stores that would identify as retail first and on-premise consumption second, and to Manhattan-only, as I’m just not familiar enough with the Brooklyn bottle shops to author knowledgeable recommendations (though I hear great things about Bierkraft, Beer Street and Breukelen Bier Merchants, among others). By the way, all of the locations in the post have been collected into a custom map I made on Foursquare. Enjoy.
The Crème de la Crème
Good Beer (422 East 9th Street). Good Beer was the first of the Manhattan bottle shops, and it remains the bottles-to-go/drafts-to-stay hybrid by which all others will be judged. Owner David Cichowicz is one of the nicest guys in the business, and his shop has everything a craft beer connoisseur could want — a selection of bottles and cans as far as the eye can see, with superb customer service and an amazing staff helping cultivate a warm, inviting vibe that has made it an ideal spot to imbibe the latest and greatest. Good Beer’s prices are eminently reasonable; beer flights of anything from the bar’s 11 taps available (for only $8!); and growlers and grumblers from any establishment fillable. Good Beer should be any beer lover’s first stop when it comes to bottle shopping in Manhattan.
Top Hops Beer Shop (94 Orchard Street). Ted Kenny’s offering on the Lower East Side is everything Good Beer is, but in reverse, as the drinking-on-premises component takes center stage thanks to a huge 20-tap-deep bar greeting patrons the moment they walk in, with the beer-to-go in the rear of the store. Ted’s commitment to beer freshness might be unparalleled, as almost everything for sale sits in unlighted refrigerators, not to mention the fact that the huge chalkboard behind the bar not only tells you when a given beer was tapped, but the last time the tapline was cleaned. Top Hops offers well-priced beer flights, an assortment of meat/cheese snack plates (and free pretzels), the ability to drink a beer from the refrigerator on premises for a $2 capping fee, and of course, growler/grumbler fills.
Alphabet City Beer Co. (96 Avenue C). The most recent entrant into the bottle shop scene, Zach Mack’s paean to craft beer strikes perhaps the moodiest (in a good way) chord, with somber lighting, a huge wooden communal table in the back and old-fashioned leather couches and chairs lending a more traditional Alphabet City bar-like feel — it just also happens to sell beer to go. ABC Beer Co.’s modest number of refrigerators means it has fewer to-go offerings than its brethren, but the tap list is always excellent and offers half-pours for those looking to try a few different things in one sitting without getting overly tipsy.
City Swiggers (320 East 86th Street). By virtue of location I’ve spent more time here than at any of the other shops, and City Swiggers truly is a craft beer diamond in the rough Upper East Side sea — while some craft beer is available at Fairway up the block, there’s no other store within miles of City Swiggers offering the beer-to-go-and-stay concept that owner Alan Rice has nurtured since November 2011. Swiggers has a tremendous selection to choose from; offers beer flights made up of any four of its 16 rotating taps; fills growlers/grumblers; and allows bottle consumption on premises, for a $4 capping fee. Like the previous three stores, there’s little cause for concern when it comes to beer freshness; anything worth drinking isn’t going to sit on the shelves for very long.
Best of the Rest
The Beer Room at Whole Foods on the Bowery (95 East Houston Street). One of the most robust craft beer selections in the city, this place has pretty much everything. The only reason I don’t have it in the upper echelon is that customization is a bit more limited. There is a certain selection of 12-ouncers that can be bought on an individual basis, but you can’t make a custom six out of anything you want.
New Beer Distributors (167 Chrystie Street). Once upon a time, I thought New Beer might be the best beer store in the city, due primarily to sheer volume — the place has almost literally everything, and at prices that are hard to beat. However, this is probably not the best place to do your IPA shopping. For other, less hop-forward beers, it’s still worth your while.
Beer Table Pantry (87 East 42nd Street, inside Grand Central Terminal). Superb selection for such a small store, but the pricing can be a tough pill to swallow at times. However, it’s totally understandable given the location, and there’s really no other bottle shop in the general vicinity. They also have four rotating taps for growlers.
Best Yet Market (2187 Frederick Douglass Boulevard). A store that claims to have “the largest craft beer selection in Manhattan,” I’ll admit I was seduced by Best Yet the first time I went. They certainly have an impressive selection; however, they could probably stand to upgrade in the quality control department (cough cough, six-pack of Ruination with an enjoy-by date of August 3 still sitting on the shelf in mid-November, cough cough). Still, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another store with a comparable selection within miles of Best Yet.
Growler Station (26 West 8th Street). I’ve somehow never been here, but have kept tabs on their rotating tap list, and they certainly seem to know what they’re doing.
Malt & Mold (221 East Broadway). I’ve only been once, and it doesn’t have a monster bottle selection, but it has enough interesting offerings both in glass and on tap to be a worthwhile stop on anyone’s NYC craft beer tour.
Other Places to Buy Craft Beer in Manhattan
Duane Reade Brew York City Growler Bar (52 East 14th Street)
Duane Reade Brew York City Growler Bar (2069 Broadway)
Duane Reade Brew York City Growler Bar (2148 Broadway)
Fairway (240 East 86th Street)
Fairway (2127 Broadway)
Fairway (2328 12th Avenue)
Flair Beverages Beer Distributor (3857 9th Avenue)
On Tap at Whole Foods (10 Columbus Circle)
Whole Foods Upper West Side (808 Columbus Avenue)