Friday, June 17, 2011

beer chronicles: birreria

Oh beer, how I love thee. Let me count the ways.
  1. I am one of those people who, at the end of a long and tough day, finds solace in an ice cold brewsky.
  2. After running 26.2 miles over the course of 5 hours last November, I stood for about 2 more so I could tip back a couple of the good stuff.
  3. I'm quite positive that the sight of a well-stocked beer aisle or a bar tap with a large variety of brews makes my eyes twinkle far more than the Barney's shoe sale rack.
  4. I was once the hostess at Loreley, a German beer garden in the Lower East Side. While it may have caused a bit of confusion among patrons who did not expect the hostess to look like an anime character, I had mad skills at handling highly inebriated folks. And I got to drink a lot of delicious German beer.
  5. I find it very difficult to take a man who doesn't drink beer seriously. The sight of a man sipping a fruity drink beside a girl chugging a beer (a tiny one at that) is just sad.
  6. At any given time, I will most likely have more questions for my server about the beer selection than today's specials.
  7. If I ever became filthy rich, the only thing I'm positive I'd want in my dream home is a wall full of taps with all my favorite brews.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. I love beer. So it recently struck me that it's been a serious oversight on my part that my beloved brewsky hasn't received some special love on my blog. Well, all that changes starting now with my new section, Beer Chronicles. With beer spots spreading in New York like an epidemic, I'll have lots of excuses opportunities to drink up and share my favorite finds with you.

To kick off this new section, let's start with the hottest, newest beer spot on the island: Birreria.
Birreria is the crown jewel of the Italian marketplace behemoth that is Eataly. I'd been wanting to try it but the first time we came to Eataly, it wasn't open yet. Last Monday, I was wandering past the Flat Iron building carrying a bag of groceries and thinking about what a beauty Manhattan is during the golden hour when I realized a friend of mine from Manila was standing right on the street corner. Paolo convinced me without too much arm twisting to join him and some friends for a brew and some chow at Birreria.

It was surprisingly busy considering it was a Monday night. We had to line up and check in with a host at the ground floor, who took down the size of our party and a cellphone number they could text us at once there was a table ready. We got the text about half an hour later and finally got on the elevator which would take us to the rooftop. Once there, it turned out our table still wasn't ready and we had to hang around a bit more. Finally we were seated and again, a bit more of a waiting game for a server ... for beer ... a long wait for beer.

But once the beer and food arrived, all memories of waiting seemed to vanish. We started with a delicious brew recommended by our server, a Belgian-style brown ale aptly named Raison d'Etre by Dogfish Brewery. For $20, we got a carafe of the good stuff, which fills four of their glasses up to ye high.
This was my first time to try a Dogfish Brew and I have to say, respect! It's a complex beer, with fruity notes and caramel-like sweetness coming from beet sugar and raisins, but with a shade of bitterness to round out the flavor. It also packed a pretty strong punch at 8%. I liked it a lot. As much as I love beer though, this plate utterly and completely stole the show ...
That, my friends, is the most succulent and flavorful piece of pork shoulder I have ever sunk my teeth into. Beautifully marbled with fat, braised in beer to tender perfection, sweetened with a dash of apricot jam and given an extra kick with the side of mustard, it is pure bliss in a bite. At first, I was taken aback that such a tiny plate was priced at $19 but after tasting that stuff, I'd say it's worth every penny. I would come back to Birreria over and over and over and over again just for this. Apparently, Birreria gets its pork from a farm in Iowa where pigs are raised in the wild and fed clovers, grass and herbs. If this is what happy pigs taste like, then run free my dears.

The cotechino sausage that we ordered was really yummy as well but nowhere near as transcendent of an experience as the pork shoulder. This, I think, is a tad overpriced at $19. I mean, come on.
We sampled a few other beers, one of the most memorable being the Palo Santo, which we had to order since it's practically named after our visiting friend. This beer is serious business with an alcohol content of 12%. Also a Dogfish brew, it is an intense, unfiltered brown ale swirling with flavors of caramel, vanilla and good old Paraguayan Palo Santo wood—the material used to create the wooden brewing vessels used for this beer. Good stuff but so strong that they will only serve you half a Teku at at time for $7. The boys liked it.
We finished the night off with the Baladin Al-Iksir, a solid Belgian-style brown ale primarily fermented using whiskey yeasts. Lighter than a Palo Santo but rich and intriguing, nonetheless, I found this to be a great introduction to Italian beer.
Overall, I really enjoyed my Birreria experience. And because I have absolutely no ability to stay away from life-changing pork and a beer selection with depths that need to be plumbed, I will surely come back. It's probably not for everyone. I would say don't come here if all you're after is the view (the Empire State building view is a tad obstructed by the mechanisms for a ). And it's probably not the place for you if what you're looking for is that communal, lager-sloshing, Oktoberfest-type beer garden experience. Birreria is definitely more of a restaurant with an impressive selection of beer than a beer garden that happens to serve food. But if the thought of savoring an exotic selection of craft beers and top notch food makes your heart skip a beat, then this place is for you. Take it from the sign below, which sums up what this place has to offer quite nicely:
I, for one, can't wait to get back on that roof! Thanks for the treat guys!
Birreria is located at Eataly, 200 5th Avenue (entrance on 23rd Street), New York, NY 10010. Reservations for parties of 6-12 persons will be accepted beginning July 1, 2011. Phone (212) 229 2560.

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