5.7% ABV on tap
I’m an egomaniac and a clinical narcissist and one reason I started this site is because I knew I would have a better beer blog than most of the other crap out there. And now, I will write a better bar review than those written by the unpaid freelancing hacks at Shecky’s, et al.
THE PONY BAR
W. 45th and Tenth Avenue
After a soft opening two Thursdays ago, I decided to pay my first visit to Hell’s Kitchen’s newest bar exactly one week later. A great drinking neighborhood, that is unquestionable, but the part of town westerly of Touristville is severely lacking in craft beer spots with only the two House of Brews to its name as well as Valhalla.* The Houses of Brew (if I am to correctly pluralize) usually have a respectable enough beer lineup, but it’s not exactly a place I like to hang out as the ceilings are too low, the lighting too bright, the women too loud, the beer geeks too geeky, the food too beer-battered. Valhalla is criminally underrated though, even if it is exceedingly dark in there and the bartenders are slobbering fools.
Upon first entering The Pony Bar I was impressed with the ambiance. It’s quite unique with upturned barrels in the middle of the floor acting as little tables and all sorts of other faux-old-timey wood furnishings like an off-the-interstate Cracker Barrel. It was also kinda like Al Swearengen’s Gem Saloon though I saw no canned peaches available for purchase. Then again, the kitchen is not open just yet, though the menu on the wall looked respectable and economical.
I was quickly turned off by the bar’s paucity of pissing space with just a single commode for both men and women. When I own a bar, there will be more places to piss than the number of dicks the Fire Marshall will allow in the building.
I’d been greatly anticipating my first visit to The Pony Bar as their website listed them as having The Bruery’s Orchard White and Black Orchard on tap. One of America’s newest and brightest craft brewers, I’d yet to see these beers in Manhattan and was stoked to try them. The Pony Bar’s nicely-designed website claims to offer “real time” updates about what is on their twenty taps at that very second, but by the time I had reached the watering hole, Black Orchard was no more. So, unless that tap got changed out during my five minute walk, The Pony Bar are biliously lying to the bibulous.
Luckily, Orchard White was on tap and I ordered one post-haste. I was disappointed to see it come in a mere 8 ounce glass but later learned that since literally every single beer at The Pony Bar is $5, some of the brews are served in smaller glasses. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason though to what was served in these 8 ouncers. It certainly wasn’t just high ABV stuff as Allagash’s sublime 7.5% Black was in a wee glass while Stone’s snotbox-punching 7.7% Ruination came in a full pint. Nor, did it appear to be a rarity thing as some simple-to-find taps were in the itsy bitsy glasses as well. But I quibble.
I found the Orchard White to be a quite fascinating witbier. Spicy and medicinal, full of oranginess and a biting flowery lavender taste which overpowered me to a certain extent. The prickly carbonation got to me as well. Truth be told, I was somewhat glad this was served in a 8 ounce glass as I was ready for something else by about ounce 6. A good beer, or at least an interesting one no question, I’m curious to try The Bruery’s other stuff.
It was easy to monitor the beers on tap and their ABVs and serving size as The Pony Bar has a splendid and large chalkboard covering the entire wall behind the bar. One of my top bar pet peeves is when you enter a bar and ask a standard, “So what do you have on tap?” and the bartender gives an enormous eye roll followed by an abracadabra wave of her upturned palm as if to say, “The taps run the length of the bar, you can check them out for yourself.” No one wants to run up and down the length of a bar, jutting their head between couples trying to ogle each tap, recognize ones you’ve never seen before, cull weird names from the askew heads. Or, what about bars that list their beers on a dirty chalkboard, the various brews written in awkward pink or powder blue chalked atop the smudged black, made impossible to read by the dim lights of the bar. It really irks me when bars don’t just have beer menus to peruse, and updated ones at that.
If only every bar would just do what The Pony Bar does with their amazingly easy to see beer wall which could be read despite the darkness of the establishment. The on-the-wall ABVs are also great for a stat geek like me as it enables me to keep accurate tabs on my intoxication levels (”I’ve currently had 124 ounces of beer at an average of 7.1%! Any one know a good massage parlor around here?”)
The lights were dark and the atmosphere jovial. Though there was a gorgeous flatscreen TV in each corner, none were on, something I am not sure whether it had to do with the fact that the bar had yet to have the cable guy arrive–”Bars, they’re just like us!”–or whether it was to maintain a conversational atmosphere. I will assume it is the former. But a conversational atmosphere was certainly generated and the bar was packed to the gills with hot, hot women, all forced to order Ommegang Witte as it was the only “light” and “girly” beer on the current menu. There’s hard liquor too, ladies, do not fret.
I’m the kind of guy that upon arriving at a beer bar immediately composes a “batting lineup” for my evening’s consumption. No, I don’t go all the way 1 through 9 but I usually make it well past the clean-up spot. I’d led off with Orchard White, slotted Stone Ruination in the two-hole in order to calibrate my IPA tastes before I planned on giving Blue Point Rastafar Rye a whirl. Unfortunately, just as I was finishing my Ruination pint the bartender started hammering a boxing ring-type bell as if the judges’ decision was about to be announced by a Buffer brother. I quickly learned that this bell was to alert a tap change. I said to my drinking buddy, “Please say it ain’t the Rastafar Rye.” It was and thus my batting lineup method lost in a unanimous decision. Should have batted the Rastafar Rye higher. Oh well. The Pony Bar would change taps four more times that night, something I love. True, they could just have five to ten more taps at all times, but just like you I’m a sucker and it excites me to watch thing change right in front of my very eyes.
The bartenders at The Pony Bar are friendly, though they don’t exactly seem to be fermented beverage experts.
AARON: “So, how’s that Chelsea Hop Angel IPA?”
BARTENDER: “Now that’s what we call an ‘IPA’ which stands for India. Pale. Ale…”
BARTENDER: “…which means it will be quite…uh…’hoppy.’”
Finally, The Pony Bar offers growlers for sale of any and all beers they have on tap. This seems to be a new “fad” in New York as in the last year or so at least a dozen bars have started offering this service. Obviously, this is something I absolutely adore as I’m all for encouraging people to make impetuous purchases when lit up. And, believe me, it’s quite easy to say, as you’re tabbing out your credit card:
“You know, could you just throw a growler of Double Bastard on their while you’re at it?”
Next thing you know you’re stumbling down 11th Avenue swigging straight from the 64 oz glass, stuck between the moon and New York City.
*Seriously, Valhalla, it’s 2009, get a fucking website. My mom even has one for God’s sake, and she’s a public school teacher.