T.J. Finley’s

Friday night we went out for barbecue, as we have been apt to do for the past month or so.  Usually we head out to a place in Smithtown called Famous Dave’s, and last week we went out to BobbiQue ( a joint that will get it’s own post here one of these days).  This week, however, we tried Smokin’ Al’s in Bayshore for a change.

As far as BBQ goes, we like Famous Dave’s a whole bunch.  Nothing extraordinary, but everything tastes really good.  BobbiQue has decent ribs, but I’m not a fan of their brisket and the smoked sausage has been up and down.  The big difference between both of those two places is the atmosphere and the beer.  Dave’s is a national chain and it feels like a TGIF.  And the beer selection sucks.  Standard run of the mill crap.  BobbiQue, on the other hand, is all about the beer.  Check out the beer menu on their site…it’s awesome!  And it helps make up for their slightly inferior BBQ.

So we wanted BBQ and good beer Friday, but we had just been to BobbiQue and we didn’t feel like driving all the way to Patchogue.  So we settled on Smokin’ Al’s in Bayshore instead.  As soon as we got there we realized we may have made a mistake.  The beer selection was roughly the same as Famous Dave’s.  Crap, in other words.  The BBQ was hit and miss.  The hits were the spare ribs and smoked sausage.  The misses were the beef ribs (too much work for not enough meat), baby back ribs (the sauce was too sweet) and the chopped brisket (same sauce as the baby backs).

So while our tummys were full, our experience was just so-so.  We really needed a good beer or two.

Good thing that T.J. Finley’s is only about a block away.  T.J. Finley’s is a part of Drew Dvorkin’s growing empire of good beer bars that includes The Dead Poet and George Keeley in Manhattan.  It’s doesn’t have quite the selection that George Keeley boasts, but it’s pretty damn good.  Especially for Long Island.

Gia started with an Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout on cask while I went with a Lucky lager in the funky bottle. Felt like something light after that big meal and we love the kids over at Lucky.  The Imperial Stout was a bit heavy for me (duh), but Gia loved it’s smoky flavor.  Nothing on the draft board really inspired me and I was really in the mood for an IPA next so I went with a safe choice, Magic Hat’s Lucky Kat.

The atmosphere of the joint was decent.  The place looked great and there was a nice, young-ish crowd there.  The music, however, was a bit loud for my liking.  Good beer is best accompanied by good conversation.  Loud music can sometimes hinder that, but at least they were playing good stuff.

Overall, I would highly recommend the joint.  And not only because we personally know Drew (who is a great guy, by the way).  If you happen to be hanging out on the South Shore of Long Island, you probably won’t find a better beer bar west of Patchogue.  Give it a go.


Super Baladin

I’ve been a bad boy and I haven’t posted in quite a while.

Doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking beer.  Far from it.  It’s just that I haven’t really been trying any new beers.  Or very many at least.  I’ve got a few that I’ve built up a folder on, so let’s start with Italy and Super Baladin from Birrifico Le Baladin.

The best way to describe it would be to compare it to a Belgian triple.  It’s a bit strong, carrying an ABV of 8.0% and it is sold in an ultra-large 25.4oz bottle.  It is actually an amalgam of English yeast used in the first fermentation process and Belgian yeast used for the bottle fermentation.  The result is just plain delicious.

A whole array of different aromas arise from the initial pour of the brew.  Banana, pineapple, pear?  I dunno, I’ve never been really good at identifying that kind of thing.  All I know is that it smelled fruity and wonderful.  The taste followed suit deliciously.  A delicious caramel malt with strong spice and yeasty flavors.  I’ve seen a few reviews on beer advocate that talk about a strong sour flavor, but I haven’t noticed it.  It’s definitely got some tang, but nothing like a true sour ale.

I think it would go great with some strong cheeses and some olives.   But I pretty much think that just about everything goes well with cheese and some olives.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Croxley Ales – Farmingdale

This past weekend we decided to pop in to the new Croxley Ales offering in Farmingdale which just opened up a couple of months ago.  There was a street fair going on in the afternoon, so traffic was a bit heavy going through town, but parking behind Croxley’s was ample.

I used to live in Farmingdale and I was a semi-regular at The Downtown.  That was the name of the joint prior to Croxley’s moving in.  I remember when it was a smaller joint and when it expanded next door to become the huge open space that it is now.  And that is exactly what it is…a huge open space.  Big garage door openings onto Main Street gives the place an even bigger feel than it had before.

As for the beers…I wasn’t extremely impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a another beer pub on Long Island, but I just couldn’t help but think that they could take a few more chances with their offerings. They had four “seasonal” beers to compliment their effective regular draught beer selection of 68 beers.  But the four seasonals were Post Road Pumpkin, Blue Moon Harvest Moon, Sam Adams Octoberfest and Hacker Pschorr Octoberfest.  All decent or semi-decent choices, but nothing truly inspiring.

I had a Green Flash Hop Head Red to start with.  I had tried it earlier this month in the bottle and just wanted to taste any differences in the draught version.  It was delicious and slightly more hoppy.  Then I asked for the Grimbergen Double, but it had just kicked.  Rather than wait for them to put a new keg on, I ordered the Double Platinum Blonde from Ramstein.  Also delicious.

But looking at that menu once again, there isn’t a whole lot there that I would make a point to go there to try out anytime in the future.  It would be great if I still lived around the corner, but to  make the trek from where we live I need a bit more incentive.  Maybe something on cask.  I dunno, but it would have to be more exciting that the menu that Croxley Ales has.

Contrast that with the beers on tap at a bar we just happened to stumble into in NYC this past week.  It is called Marshall Stack.   We had the Lagunitas Censored (Kronic) Copper Ale and Hitachino Nest White Ale on tap on our first visit to the joint.  And it was Happy Hour so each draught was a $1 off.  OK…that might not be worth the trip over to Rivington, but it had less than a third of the taps of Croxley’s and afforded more unique choices.  In my opinion. 

As always, take that with a grain of salt.  Cheers! – Earl

The River – NYC

Went to a nice bar and met an interesting character in NYC on Thursday.

The place was called The River (or Hell’s Kitchen River…not sure) over on 10th Ave. by 43rd Street, and the character I am referring to is the new manager of the joint.  He desperately wants to change the atmosphere of the bar into a place that locals and tourists alike will go to for either a great beer, great whiskey/whisky or glass of wine.  Maybe a little food too.  The nearest  bars are either sports bars or the kind of neighborhood pub that is difficult to distinguish yourself from.  And there aren’t any great beer bars in the area, so it seems to be a good fit.

So we talked beer for about two hours with him, and if he only makes half of the changes that he wants to then it might become a destination bar for me and other beer enthusiasts in the NYC area.  I would post a website, but they are in the midst of creating one.  What I will do is post any updates here as they try to morph into a craft beer bar.

With this guy in charge, I don’t foresee any problems with that.

Afterwards, we stopped into another neighborhood bar in that area called Conker Hill.  Decent selection of taps, but nothing extraordinary.  The crew, especially the bartender Jeff, is extraordinary.  Super nice and a great bar crowd.  I recommend it if you are looking for a fun night out in Hell’s Kitchen.