“We are beer nerds, not beer snobs. ” That is how Bo Bogle, the general manager of Gebhard’s Beer Culture, and Peter Malfatti, its beverage director, would describe the wood-furnished, cozy bar and restaurant that they opened in the summer of 2016, featuring various local and foreign artisanal beers on tap. The people behind Gebhard’s Beer Culture - the sister restaurant to Beer Culture on 45th Street - are as enthusiastic about beer as they are about educating customers. Because many of the beers that they offer are unknown to the general public, Gebhard’s will always work to find the draught that best suits each customer’s palate. If one feels like tasting several selections, the beer flight - a tray of four small glasses - is a good choice. Along with the continuously changing list of beers, the kitchen offers an ample menu of munchies, many from Belgium, as this is where owner Matt Gebhard spent time as a foreign exchange student. I was enchanted to discover how playful the space is: Upstairs, there is a games room, complete with a dartboard, shuffleboard, Hacky Sacks, and BulziBucket. The decorations throughout the bar and restaurant are eclectic, with various beer signs and novelty items covering the walls. At the front, I discovered a nook full of records, as well as a well-loved bicycle helmet. Bo and Ryan, the bartenders on duty, matched the vibe of the restaurant with their jovial nature as they poured beers for the Manhattan Sideways team. They set out glasses of citrusy TarTan Ale, a Central Waters Brewing Co beer, and a fresh, hoppy Southern Tier 2x Tangier. The two men knew exactly what to select for a hot day in the city and enjoyed tag-teaming descriptions of each beer and brand. Bo explained to us that the motivation behind Gebhard's Beer Culture is essentially a “passion for the local beer market. ” With the recent proliferation of local breweries around the city and in the rest of the country, Bo feels that “individuals are making great beers and that should be acknowledged. ” However, he believes it is not enough to simply have them on tap, but rather, the bartenders should teach customers about the local beer scene. Beer Culture’s objective is as much educational as it is to host many good nights with friends. When asked about the one thing that he would like customers to know about their new bar, Bo grinned and said: “the second beer always tastes better than the first. ”
Beer Run, after being open for just six months during the summer of 2019, is already a destination spot for beer nerds, a haven for newcomers interested in entering the world of craft beer, and a bustling neighborhood joint. And, we might add, a great place to sit with a computer and get work done. We met people doing just that. They have given up the coffee shops, preferring the "chill" atmosphere at Beer Run, and a cold beer rather than a cup of joe. Co-Created by John Hyun and Larry Good, Beer Run is narrow with black painted brick walls, with its interior mostly taken up by a sizable beer refrigerator and bar. Elements such as its menu, which is marker drawn directly onto a mirror, skull-themed art, and a tiny metal bicycle further characterize the space. John first realized his passion for beer when he tried out home brewing and quickly became obsessed. He was noticed by the head brewer at Peekskill Brewery, who took him under his wing and taught him a great deal about beer over the year and a half that he worked there. John knew that he wanted to run his own business someday, and the idea for Beer Run began when he started a “partnership and friendship” with Larry, who was already involved in the restaurant world. John prides himself on switching his beer list - which is sourced both locally and from around the world - almost every other day. While describing Beer Run as a “super geeky craft beer bar” due to its “obscure menu” stocked with rare beers, he emphasized that “we’re not snobby, we don’t look down on anyone who doesn’t know the different styles, we’re all just trying to have a good time! I always want people to feel that they are welcome. ” With its cozy bar, upbeat music, and dedication towards navigating anyone interested through its great beer selection, Beer Run has truly succeeded in becoming the kind of craft beer destination spot where “people can just hang out and have a beer while munching on a warm, giant Sigmund pretzel. ”
City Swiggers, which opened in 2011, is where casual and professional overlap. The atmosphere of the beer shop / tasting room is neighborly and homey, but each staff member is an encyclopedia of beer information and each bottle has been chosen with the utmost care. The eclectic space, which contains both bar stools and tables, can seat a few dozen people, while the shop experiences the majority of its business from clients grabbing beer to-go. We heard an all too familiar story from owner, Alan Rice, who left the world of finance in order to further explore his passion for beer. Alan said simply, "I loved beer" and then corrected himself: "I still love beer. A little too much, maybe. " The shop, which carries over 900 beers, always has samples of new varieties. Regulars often come in and try the new brews with the staff. Alan believes that he may have the largest selection in the city. The taps are constantly being swapped out, to the point where after two weeks, the beers provided at City Swiggers have completely changed over. In addition to selling bottles, cans, flights, and pints, Alan mentioned that City Swiggers will fill any growler, even those that are not their own. Alan's wife, Pam, has a lot to do with the cozy atmosphere at City Swiggers. She has created most of the artwork - often made from recycled items - that adorns the store. When Manhattan Sideways visited during the winter, we noticed the snowflakes made from six-pack plastic on the front doors, as well as the beer can mobile in the back. Though there is a set of prints on one wall that Pam designed, the larger paintings lining the walls were created by a friend. Pam is also the inspiration behind the small bites offered at the bar. She is the leader of the Veggie Pride Parade and the head of a Vegan newsletter, so City Swiggers offers vegan empanadas from V-Spot. In addition, there are soft pretzels from Schaller and Weber, a German cafe. And for those of us who are not fond of drinking beer, City Swiggers offers wine by the glass and a large array of ciders. Samantha, the extremely knowledgeable bartender who began working at City Swiggers in 2014, was discovered by Alan while she was working at a nearby cafe. He was impressed with all the facts that she was able to rattle off about beer. He invited her to join him and she started that week. Samantha began educating us as she explained that to "tap" a beer is to attach a hose to a keg, but to "pour" a beer is to fill a glass from the tap. She went on to say that one of the most important things to think about in choosing a beer is the freshness of the hops, and that the definition of "cider" differs not only from country to country but from region to region. She also informed us that she had just taken her test to become a cicerone, which is essentially a sommelier for beer. The first master cicerone, we learned, was a woman from the UK. Whereas Samantha admitted that she liked sour beers and super fresh IPAs, Alan stated that he has "always liked variety, " which explains why his store contains such a diverse array. Samantha poured a flight for us so that the team could see just how varied the stock could be. They tried a light melon Gose (a German beer that was cooling and fruity), a tart Wild Ale with red-currents, a red double IPA that was especially hoppy, and an imperial stout with a chocolaty finish. The Manhattan Sideways Team left City Swiggers with their bellies warmed, their thirst quenched, and their heads bursting with beer knowledge.
After celebrating the one-year anniversary of its opening in June of 2019, Santiago’s Beer Garden has quickly propelled to one of the most popular and hearty eateries in El Barrio, or East Harlem. As the Manhattan Sideways team sat down to interview Matt, the restaurant’s twenty-eight-year old owner, a customer assured us, with great enthusiasm, that we were in “the best spot in the whole area, on everything! ” For such a young business owner with little experience owning his own restaurant, Matt has excelled in every direction, allowing Santiago’s to become a distinctive community staple. We discovered Santiago’s Beer Garden as we were walking through El Barrio, cross-checking the Sideways website for updates. Our eyes were instantly caught by the wide open gates on 120th St that led to two colorful murals and a large garden terrace. We entered, introduced ourselves to Matt, and two days later we were licking our fingers after a frank, lively interview and a full and authentic Dominican meal. From the Bronx, and having worked “everywhere but the kitchen” in the restaurant business since age seventeen, Matt recently moved on from managing and bartending at various restaurants to return to “what [he] knows”: Dominican food. He climbed up the chain of the restaurant and bar industry quickly after he graduated from college, landing gigs at the W Hotel and, eventually, sports bar Tonic East, where he became a manager. He partnered with two other co-workers to invest in the space that is now Santiago’s Beer Garden and was originally a well-reviewed Brazilian restaurant called Vidigal. It closed in 2018, and Matt bought it and took over, making it his “house. ” He pushed through a tiresome initial setback; he was unable to work to his full abilities as a bartender as the restaurant was opening due to his being rear-ended by a drunk driver and injuring his back. Surviving financial difficulties and allowing himself to heal properly, Matt successfully transformed Vidigal into Santiago’s, keeping the “earthy, spiritual” murals on the wall and innovating with respect to his personal and professional background. Not a huge fan of hard liquor, Matt decided to utilize the outdoor space as a beer garden and center his drink menu on a variety of different beers. As Santiago is both a popular name and a Dominican city, he found it a perfect fit to complete the name of his restaurant brand. Describing his favorite drink on the menu, the Belgian Duchesse, as “sour” and sometimes tasting “like wine, ” Matt happily demonstrated a passion and love for quality beer. “You can only get it here, ” he exclaimed about the Duchesse, stating that it went well with red meat, while recognizing that most typically eat Dominican food along with a Presidente, a classic Pilsner. Matt created the menu himself, collaborating with his two chefs, sixty-two year-old José and sixty-three year-old Isabel, “focusing on the meats... and the rices. ” He highlighted popular menu items like yellow rice, coconut rice, ox tails, and beef and chicken stews. We were served a shrimp cocktail, fried plantains, steak and onions, and fried chicken, along with various rice and beans. The portions were great and surely filling, the steak pre-marinated for days, and the rice and beans rich. Matt proudly claimed his chicken better than the chicken bites at popular burger chain Shake Shack, and the food walked the talk. Matt offered honest and reflective advice to young entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry, emphasizing the importance of saving money and gaining experience in a variety of restaurant settings. Down-to-earth and funny, Matt showed us the livelihood and struggle that goes into founding a business that often goes overlooked. With his day-one, Rafa, by his side, Matt has effectively opened a community-oriented and trend-setting restaurant to which he is inspirationally dedicated.