Bar Spotlights Grub/Spirits — 07 November 2011
Alewife: A Bar Spotlight

5-14 51st Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
718-937-7494Getting There: 7 to Vernon Blvd – Jackson Ave

Alewife Queens

While the name Long Island City implies a traffic-laden ride up the Expressway, the actual Queens, New York location is literally just a stone’s throw from Manhattan. The five minute travel time from Grand Central rivals the short wait to a stop on the 4 or 5 train. The reason for our first foray out to LIC was the opening of the new restaurant/craft beer haven, Alewife- the next great beer hall celebrating excellent, hard to find brews.

The concept behind Alewife is simple- bring good beer into second tier cities with growing populations. The team behind the new bar has proven adept at finding location diamonds like this one in the proverbial rough- the Baltimore location of Alewife and its Cambridge, Massachusetts sister bar, Lord Hobo are both doing quite well. Says operating partner Michael Bewley, “the location really just fell into our laps, and then we did the research on the neighborhood and the demographics and it all worked. We don’t believe we’re going to be the reason that this neighborhood is going to blow up, but we want to be here when it does.” And blow up it might, with a solid and growing collection of small bars and restaurants immediately surrounding the subway stops following the aforementioned short ride from the city.

But nestled in, around that corner on a very suburban block, sits Alewife- the two floor, modern bar/restaurant that gives a nod to the traditional beer hall. With an extended bar and a large centralized communal table fit for beer lovers to get to know each other, there is plenty of room to setup to taste some of the 28 different draughts on tap (most of which we haven’t heard of and cannot pronounce) of the 75-100 bottled varieties. We were especially fond of the “Weissenohe Monks Fest” and the “Mikkeller Single Hop Centennial IPA,” which were flavorful and complimentary, when paired with the newly chilly weather. Upstairs sits a comfortable couch/lounge area, a bevy of dinner tables, and a fun little outdoor patio for drinking when the weather improves. What’s nice about Alewife is that because they do not expect you to necessarily have a beer of choice when you enter, they offer small beer samples of any draught before you order. Long gone are the days where you sit in your seat, stewing over a bad craft beer selection, and it’s an excellent touch to an already excellent place.

Pairing food with these tasty suds is no easy task, and accordingly, Alewife has a flurry of menu items set to satiate you- be it with small plates or large entrees. Dropping by for a pre-dinner preview we ordered up the “soft pretzel bites” ($8), salty and delicious, albeit a bit hard, served with a squeeze tube filled with house prepared horseradish infused grain mustard, and the “pickle pot” ($4), a small selection of house pickled vegetables- pickles, carrots, and beets pickled to perfection. They’ve also got the customary charcuterie and cheese plates, meatballs, and some salads for starters. We also ordered the “pork belly” ($14) appetizer, which was a huge portion. Served over a deliciously buttery pork broth, and a bed of mustard glazed vegetables, the cut was in the size and shape of a napoleon pastry- thick and perfectly cooked, and when doused in the salty broth, exploded with juicy flavor. Although Alewife is a craft beer bar first and foremost, it is also a restaurant that seeks to be your destination rather than your pre-game party outlet. In that regard, dishes like the “short ribs” ($27) and the “lamb steak” ($29) highlight the remaining menu items.

Alewife is a neighborhood bar that began because of an intense love of beer. The restaurant wants everything inside its walls to be the very best- from their chef selection to the beers they serve, to the expertly trained wait staff, happy to suggest different beers to the naïve drinker. The place even shrink wraps lids on 32 ounce beer quarts for you to take some suds with you to go. Amongst a city loaded with terrific beer bars, the short trip from Grand Central to Alewife is certainly worth going out of your way for.

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