ICONYC Brewing Company

 

I recently stumbled upon a new microbrewery in Astoria, Queens, and I must say that this one immediately became one of my favorites. Named ICONYC Brewing Company, it’s owned by three friends who grew up together in the nearby neighborhood. The beer is brewed down the street, but there’s a tasting room on 34th Avenue.

First, let’s talk about the tasting room itself. It isn’t particularly large, but it’s comfortable and the tap wall is creative and fun. There’s a nice bar, and bar-level seating continues across the front of the space as well, allowing visitors to watch the world pass by outside. It’s a great place to hang out with friends.

Now for the beer.

We chose to order samplers, which allowed us to each choose 4 beers (5 ounces each) to sample. Kristy chose Uptown Haze (described as a “juicy, hazy, New England IPA”), Resonance (“rotating hop IPA, dry hopped with vic secret”), Never Settle (“white IPA, brewed with Moteuka and Centenial hops”), and a bottle pour – High Ryse (“rye saison fermented with Brett and Saison yeasts”). I went in a different direction: Steamline Lager (“California Common-style lager with 5 different specialty malts”), Spaaz (“Kolsch dry hopped with Spatz and Saaz”), Witbier (“tradition Belgian wheat beer), and the Sour Cherry Stout (“stout aged on sour cherries”). (Note: Two of my glasses are larger because they temporarily ran out of the tasting glasses – I’m not complaining.)

All of the beers were delicious – and it’s rare to say that when tasting such a variety of beers. The brewery is turning out high quality beers, and there’s something to please pretty much any beer lover’s preferences. (Not tasted this time: a grapefruit sour; a saison brewed with hibiscus, rose hips, and lemon grass; a cucumber saison; and a dry-hopped blonde ale.) In fact, ICONYC was so good that we returned the following weekend, and this time I ordered a full glass of my favorite, the Sour Cherry Stout. It has the coffee and chocolate notes of a traditional stout without being too heavy. The sour cherry hints are subtle, but somehow give the beer a hint of freshness. It’s so good that it will be my beer of choice any time I can find it.

ICONYC doesn’t have a kitchen, but they offer takeout menus for nearby restaurants. As a result, we discovered Homemade Taqueria next door. Their tacos, made with fresh corn tortillas, were absolutely delicious. We’ve been talking about them ever since and plan to make another visit soon.

Want to visit the ICONYC Brewing Company’s taproom and taste their beer? They are located at nue in Astoria. If taking the subway, take the R train to the 46th Street station. Walk one block south/southwest down 46th Avenue to 34 Street and then turn right. The tasting room is only a short distance away.

LIC Beer Project

There are 4 microbreweries in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan – they make for a nice walking tour, if the weather is nice. We’ve previously explored 3: Transmitter Brewing, Rockaway Brewing Company, and Big Alice Brewing. Today, I’m going to introduce you to the fourth and final one: LIC Beer Project.

IMG_0252

Located on the opposite side of the Queensborough Bridge from the other microbreweries, LIC Beer Project offers a taproom and brewery space that is architecturally interesting.There’s a small bar area and a few high tables with bar stool seating, as well as a large area where visitors were playing a beanbag game called “cornhole.” You can also check out the brewing area.

IMG_0253

IMG_0259

Unlike the other microbreweries in Long Island City, visitors currently cannot order tasting flights at LIC Beer Project, but they do offer full glasses of beer. On the day that we visited, the taproom offered 6 LIC beers as well as 2 guest taps. I tried a Belgian-style stout called Evening’s Empire, which was very good.

IMG_0255

LIC Beer Project is located at 39-28 23rd Street in Long Island City. The closest subway station is approximately three blocks away – take the F train to the 21st Street – Queensbridge station. Make sure that you check the brewery’s website before you go, as it is only open for limited hours.

Tasting Unique Brews at Big Alice Brewing

Wanting to try some of New York City’s most unique (and delicious) beers? If so, you should head to Big Alice Brewing in Long Island City, Queens. Located just across the East River from Manhattan, it’s not too far to travel from anywhere in the city. Big Alice gets its name from the Big Allis electric power generator, also located in Long Island City. The founders of Big Alice changed the spelling to incorporate the initials for Long Island City: aLICe!

The brewery and taproom are located in a neighborhood with a distinct industrial feel – it’s situated in a brick building with an understated entrance. As you can see from the photo below, some people actually bike to the brewery. But it’s only a short walk from the subway as well.

IMG_0125

Inside, the taproom is cozy yet comfortable. In addition to the area near the taps, there is another seating area near the brew tanks. That’s one of the things I love about visiting microbreweries like Big Alice – I have the opportunity to see where the beers are brewed as well.

IMG_0133

IMG_0132

At Big Alice, you can choose a tasting flight (either 4 or 6 beers), or you can purchase beers individually by the glass. One of the benefits of visiting a place like Big Alice with a friend – you can try more beers if you share them! We started with a 6-beer tasting flight and then ordered a few more samples as well.

IMG_0127

During our visit we tried the following beers:

  • Peppermint Stout
  • LIC Native White Stout
  • Galena Single Hop Blended Sour
  • Jalepeño Rye
  • Gunpowder Tea Rye Ale
  • Sour One with Kiwi Cask
  • Sweet Potato Farmhouse Ale
  • “Date Night, Bro? (coffee and doughnut stout)

Everything was delicious! Among our favorites: the Sour One with Kiwi was a truly excellent sour ale, for those who love sours. And the Jalepeño Rye, which always gets positive reviews online, was also really good (much better than I had expected, actually!). I enjoyed the Sweet Potato Farmhouse Ale, and surprisingly – that coffee and doughnut stout! And yes, it really was brewed with doughnuts! It looked a bit like chocolate milk, but it tasted like a seriously tasty stout. The bitterness of the coffee balanced the sweetness of the doughnuts. There actually wasn’t a beer that we regretted tasting, a rare feat for any beer tasting.

Big Alice constantly adds to beers to their repertoire, so you may not find every one of these beers on tap when you visit. But, based upon our experience tasting their beers, you will not go away disappointed. And Big Alice is classified as a farm brewery, meaning that they source their ingredients from farms in New York State.

How do you get to Big Alice Brewing? It’s located at 8-08 43rd Road, between 9th Street and Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. The closest subway station is the Court Square-23rd Street Station, where you can catch the E, 7, or G (and the M on weekdays). While you’re in the area, check out the Top to Bottom Mural Project, which is only a short walk from the brewery.

Dinner at Upstate, Craft Beer and Oyster Bar

Not too long ago I heard about Upstate, a craft beer and oyster bar frequented by locals in Manhattan’s East Village. Loving both craft beer and seafood, I knew we had to check it out. The restaurant is narrow and cozy. If you don’t get there early, you’ll likely have a wait, but it will definitely be worth it.

Upstate exterior 3

One of the things that Upstate is known for is their Happy Hour. For $12 dollars, you can get 6 oysters and a New York craft beer. Upstate carries a variety of oysters, based on what’s fresh and available on any given day. Not all of the oysters are part of the happy hour special, but we were able to try several varieties with our beer. They were all delicious, and expertly prepared. Upstate features New York craft beers, with a beer menu that changes weekly. There’s always something new to try (and there are wine options for those who don’t love beer).

Upstate photo4-edited

Upstate is proud that they don’t have freezers in their kitchen, and no freezers mean that everything is fresh and the menu changes regularly to reflect what’s available and in-season. We tried the bay scallop ceviche, which was served with cherry tomatoes and microgreens. The ceviche was bright and refreshing.

Upstate bay scallop ceviche

For our main course, I had the linguine with clams. The dish was rich and satisfying, with a generous portion of steamed clams and a flavorful broth. My dining partner ordered the seafood cioppino. There were large portions of fish, sea scallops, mussels, clams, and head-on shrimp, all served in a tomato broth and beautifully prepared. The broth was delicious, and we sopped it up with the accompanying bread. Both dishes came in covered stainless steel bowls, and our server removed the lids after placing our food in front of us – it made for a great presentation, and the lids then served as a depository for our empty shells.

IMG_5818-edited

At the end of our meal, our server brought thin slices of whiskey cake, a moist, delicious end to our dinner. It was the perfect finish – not too sweet, but something I’d never had before. (I’d say it’s worth coming here for the whiskey cake alone!)

IMG_5821-edited

Want to check out Upstate yourself? The restaurant is located at 95 E. 1st Avenue in the East Village. If traveling by subway, you can take the F train to the 2nd Avenue station, or the 4 or 6 trains to Astor Place. If your a fan of street art, keep your eyes open as you walk from the station to the restaurant, as this is an area with a variety of painted murals.

Sampling Farmhouse Ales at Transmitter Brewing

DSC05076

A trip to Transmitter Brewing takes a little more effort, but it’s definitely worth it. If you are a fan of traditional farmhouse ales, a visit to Transmitter Brewing is a must. Theirs are some of the best I’ve had in a long time.

DSC05079

It’s a small location, tucked under the Pulaski Bridge in Long Island City, Queens. There’s no taproom, but there is a small tasting room where you can taste some delicious beer. Behind the garage door next to the tasting room entrance is the actual brewing facility. You can take a peek at where the beer is brew, and there is also a small seating area if you are with other people and want to purchase beer to drink on site. Transmitter brews their beer in larger, corked bottles – perfect for sharing. You can also purchase bottles to take home for later consumption.

DSC05080

We sampled three beers during our visit: the G1 Golden Ale, the F4 Brett Farmhouse Ale, and the H4 Italian Plum Sour Farmhouse Ale. My favorites were the G1 and F4, as I’m not a fan of sours, but another taster who really enjoys sours said that the H4 was also delicious. If you’ve never tried one before, farmhouse ales generally have a fruity note, with a little more body to it – some have an earthier, slightly funky taste. The yeast is usually suspended in the beer, making it a little cloudy. (I’ve been told that the yeast in the beer is actually healthy for you, although I’ve never confirmed that!) They are very drinkable beers, but robust and a little rustic. There’s a lot of flavor packed in the bottle. Transmitter regularly brews new beers, so there’s likely to be something different every time that you visit.

Here’s a display in the tasting room that shows some of the previous beers that have been brewed.

DSC05083

How can you get to Transmitter Brewing? If traveling by subway, take the 7 train to the Vernon Blvd./Jackson Ave. station. When you get off the train, walk south along Vernon Boulevard, crossing both 51st Avenue and Borden Avenue. Turn left on Borden and then right on 11st Street. You will walk parallel to Pulaski Bride. After you cross 53rd Avenue, Transmitter Brewing is on the right. You can also get to Transmitter Brewing by way of the Long Island Railroad, getting off at the Long Island City station. The tasting room is only open limited hours at this time: Fridays from 5:00 – 8:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5:00 pm. (But check Transmitter’s website to verify times before you go.)

DSC05077

Dinner with New Friends at Pies ‘n’ Thighs

One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people, particularly the locals. Through my travels, I’ve made new friends, discovered out-of-the-way destinations that weren’t in any of the guidebooks, and genuinely had a great time – all because I tried to talk to local people during my stay. So when Marion, an English travel blogger, commented on a couple of my posts and said that she was going to be visiting New York City for the first time in January, I decided it was my chance. I reached out to Marion, asking if she and her travel companion would like to meet up at some point during their visit and offered to show them a bit of the city from a local perspective. Although I was afraid Marion might be put off by my boldness – after all, we had never met! – she agreed to my plan. I suggested that we meet up at a subway station in Long Island City in Queens at 3:00 pm one afternoon, and that is exactly what we did!

It was a fairly blustery afternoon, so I proposed that we start off our time at the Rockaway Brewing Company, which was only a few blocks away and had just opened for the afternoon. I knew it would be a great place to sit and talk and get to know each other better, and Rockaway’s tasting flights meant that we could sample a variety of craft beers. It turned out to be a perfect option! (I previously described our visit to Rockaway Brewing Company here.) It was so fun hearing about their adventures in New York City during the preceding days as well. (Wondering what Marion and her travel companion did during those previous days? She’s described them here!)

Knowing the sun would set about 5:00 pm that day, I next suggested that we walk a couple of blocks to Gantry Plaza State Park, where we could look across the East River and watch the sun set over Manhattan. It was cold and windy, but there was a beautiful sunset. As the sky grew darker, the skyscraper lights twinkled like diamonds. (I’ve previously blogged about this sunset location here. I think it really is one of the best views of the city, featuring the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the United Nations, and Roosevelt Island. In fact, one of those sunset photos is the header photo for my blog.)

vmacocsoak_2097663589183-1-IMG_5721

Needing to warm up, and wanting to introduce my new friends to some quintessential American food, I suggested that we travel back to Manhattan to eat at Pies ‘n’ Thighs. Pies ‘n’ Thighs has two locations; one in Brooklyn, and the other on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We went to the Manhattan location, which was easy to reach by subway from Long Island City. It was the perfect way to end our visit, as the restaurant is cozy and warm. Pies ‘n’ Thighs is known for its fried chicken, pies, and doughnuts, among other delicious things. It’s Southern-style comfort food at its best.

As we continued our visit, we ate some delicious food. Marion’s travel companion ordered chicken and waffles, a traditional Southern dish. If you’ve not had it before, it’s exactly how it sounds: a large waffle, topped with pieces of fried chicken. It’s always served with maple syrup, and this version also came with some luscious stewed cranberries to balance the sweetness of the syrup.

DSC04726-edited

Marion and I both ordered the chicken biscuit. It’s a chicken sandwich, made with a large buttermilk biscuit. The boneless chicken breast was fried, creating a crispy exterior and juicy interior. The chef spreads honey butter on the biscuit and drizzles a spicy hot sauce over the chicken breast. The combination is perfect – hot and spicy, crispy and tender, sweet and salty! We also ordered baked beans, Pies ‘n’ Thighs’ own special recipe, made with bits of smoked brisket and barbecue sauce. It was a delicious meal, made all the better by the company I was keeping.

DSC04725

It was a great experience to meet new friends, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to travel to England and see a few of Marion’s favorite spots from her perspective in the future! I always enjoy seeing any location – even my own city – from someone else’s perspective.

Wondering what Marion thought of our visit together? Head over to her blog and read about the 6th day of her New York City adventure! (It’s located here.)

Visiting Rockaway Brewing Company

I recently learned that an English travel blogger I’ve been corresponding with, Marion, was traveling to New York City for the first time with her son Mark. (You can find Marion’s blog, Love Travelling, here.) We arranged to meet in person while Marion was here. I wanted to take them somewhere beyond the usual tourist destinations in the city and decided that Long Island City would be our starting point. The plan was to taste some beer at Rockaway Brewing Company’s taproom before walking the short distance to Gantry Plaza State Park, by the East River, and watching the sunset over Manhattan.

Rockaway Brewing Company is located in an old brick manufacturing building that has some great murals painted on the side.

DSC05058

Here are a couple of photos of the murals on the side of the building.

DSC05049

DSC05053

A sign painted on the side of the building appears to explain the bicycle theme:

DSC05051

Because we arrived at the taproom at 3:00 pm on a Thursday, right after it opened, we had the place to ourselves for a little while. We took advantage of the intimate atmosphere, talking about Marion and Mark’s adventures in New York City to that point and learning more about the beer. Rockaway offers 8 beers on tap, as well as a couple of special beers, as demonstrated by their chalkboard. Some of the beers are always available, while others are seasonal. Here’s the list of what was on tap during our visit. (They also serve draft cider from Descendant Cider, a local cider maker – a great option if you are with someone who doesn’t like beer.)

DSC04723

The brewery has two set tasting flights: the “classic” flight, which consists of beers that are regularly available, and the “other” flight, which are the seasonal beers. You can also choose to mix and match. On this occasion, I decided to create my own flight, as seen in the photo below. From left to right, we have the Helles, the Winter Whistler, the Extra Stout, and the Nitro Black Gold Stout.

DSC04722

All four beers were delicious. Rockaway makes very drinkable beers. As you can probably tell from the tasting flight I selected, I have a soft spot for stouts. Both of these stouts were absolutely delicious and still distinctly different from each other. They had a smoothness, with the Extra Stout having more distinct chocolate notes, and the Black Gold having a lovely suggestion of coffee so often present in a good stout. I would definitely order any of the beers I tried again. The bar manager also gave us bags of Cape Cod kettle chips to snack on, which was a nice touch.

It was a cold day out, and the tap room was nice and cozy. There’s nice seating in the bar area, but there is also another space upstairs which is perfect if you come with a small group of people. Another fun thing about Rockaway – they often host pop-up dining options that change regularly. The food is usually available on weekends only, so we didn’t get to sample anything during our Thursday visit – but that just provides an excuse to come back again! Check the brewery’s events calendar if you’re interested in one of Rockaway Brewing’s pop-up food events.

On the weekend, the brewery also offers tours of their brewing room. I actually went back last weekend to take the tour since it wasn’t offered during our Thursday visit. (The second visit also gave me the chance to try beers I didn’t try the first time! They were all delicious too.) The tour was interesting and informative, and I was left with a new appreciation for the process of putting beers into cans! Here are a couple of photos I took from the tour.

DSC05064

DSC05068

Rockaway Brewing is one of my favorite places to go in Long Island City, and a great destination to take visitors. If traveling by subway, take the E or the M to the Court Square-23rd Street Station (the M train only runs Monday through Friday), the G to the 21st Street-Van Alst Station, or the 7 train to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Avenue.