Hanging pennants and pitchers of Bud are out, bro. The new breed of sports bars in Brooklyn has a decidedly less fratty feel to them. Not that I mind the occasional high five or plate of spicy chicken wings; it's just that usually I'd prefer to watch the game without having to deal with backwards-hatted undergrads sloshing tequila on me.
Banter certainly fits the new mold. Too bad it specializes in a sport I only watch every four years—soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, football. If I was obsessed with the fate of Real Madrid or Arsenal, this Williamsburg bar would be a fine place to sit and watch a match. On many afternoons you'll find crowds of Europeans doing just that, eyes glued to the three flat-screen TVs perched above. When there isn't a match on, the place is much quieter—maybe too quiet. While it's nice that Banter isn't a hormone-fueled clusterfuck, a few more people to liven up the atmosphere wouldn't hurt.
Still, if you're looking to down good beer in relative quiet, you could do worse. The bar features 24 beers on tap, including classic European brews like Old Speckled Hen and Hofbrau along with local craft beers like Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold and Sixpoint Sweet Action. They also have more than 30 beers by the bottle, plus an impressive selection of bourbons and single-malt scotches.
Drinks might be relatively cheap (pints will usually run you $5, imperial pints $6) but the décor looks like the owners didn't spare a penny. The long copper bar blends beautifully with the handsome wood moldings and hardwood floors. Large windows look out onto tree-lined Havemeyer Street, perfect for letting in light on warm mornings and afternoons when crowds start to filter in during game-time. On the white walls hang canvases painted by artist David Hollier; on the stereo, music from LCD Soundsystem and its New Wave predecessors plays at a reasonable volume.
All in all, a pretty classy affair. No, it doesn't have the Old World charm of nearby Iona (where all of the owners have experience working), but if I was into football, I'd definitely make it a regular stop. And if you can't tell a free kick from a free throw? It's still a fairly spacious spot with a long beer list, friendly bartenders, gourmet panini and a relaxed vibe. Not a bad place to stop in for a drink when all of the other bars in the neighborhood become unbearably crowded.