Brews You Can Use

01/20/2010 5:35 AM |

Amity Hall
80 W 3rd St.

Rating: 3 out of 5 L’s

Welcome to “Beer for Beginners.” That’s not meant to be derogatory: everyone, even the most accomplished of drunks, can always use a refresher course. The curriculum here is beer, and lots of it: 20 brews on tap with more than a hundred more by the bottle. Look, all of your favorites! Brooklyn Lager, Ommegang, Chimay… and Bud Light? [Insert sound of record screeching to a halt.] So maybe this isn’t beer nerd heaven—more like a place where beer nerds can bring their parents and friends who still wear cargo shorts. The bar’s selection of draft beers is especially unadventurous. Beers like Hoegaarden and Bluepoint might be exotic to tourists, but in a city with so many great beer bars, like nearby Blind Tiger, they’re pretty pedestrian. The good stuff is on the bottle list, which is full of helpful tidbits to beer novices. (Lesson: Ales use yeasts that ferment for short periods of time at high temperatures, lagers use yeasts that ferment for long periods at low temperatures.) My reasonably priced Orval was poured competently into a Leffe glass, the use of which I don’t fault them for; for me, it’s the glass’ size, not label, that counts when it comes to taste. Brooklyn Local 1, Hofbrau and Westmalle Dubbel are just a few more of the excellent beers available.

Of course, a bar is more than its booze. The atmosphere here is upscale Irish pub: Gently lit exposed brick, a warm fireplace, slick wooden accents, a friendly bartender with a subtle and charming Irish brogue. The crowd is a bit more grown-up than the frat pack that usually roams these parts. Think corporate casual, like the banker you know who has the Arcade Fire on his iPod next to U2 and Coldplay (which, come to think of it, describes the bar’s soundtrack as well). It’s all, in a word, inoffensive. If you couldn’t care less about beer and you know who Carles is, consider this your seventh circle of hell, somewhere between a high school football game and a Jimmy Buffet concert. If you track IBUs and don’t mind flat-screen TVs flickering in the background, this is a great alternative to the Bleecker Street bro-fest.

The mood changes depending on the time: flirtier during weekend DJ nights, high five happy during football Sunday. The pub grub is foodie friendly, consisting of hearty fare like gourmet stuffed burgers, Berkshire pulled pork sliders and a cheese plate from neighborhood staple Murray’s. Like its sister bars The Half Pint and Stout, Amity Hall‘s handsome blandness plays to its advantage. For hophead hipsters and Blackberry businessmen alike, there is something to like and nothing to really hate about this place, which, sometimes, is all you really need in a bar.