135 North 5th Street, Williamsburg
On Fulton Street near Washington, where the Notorious B.I.G. used to make loot and knock boots, there is now less chance of running into a freestyle session on the corner than an organic grocery store. Or, say, a bar specializing in craft beer. And so we find Hops Hill, a bar so new that it almost feels unfair to pass judgment—like a just-born kitten, you want to give it some time to find its legs, grow into those oversized ears. How new is it? Well, two sheets of computer paper tacked up on the window serve as a makeshift sign and curious Clinton Hill residents stop to press their noses on the glass door on their way home from the A/C stop.
Hops Hill, as its name implies, will eventually serve as a makeshift temple to craft beers, but while the bar’s potential is clear, it’s still coming into its own. The whole operation is squeezed into a space formerly occupied by a bakery. A large refrigerator in the back will eventually hold a selection of 300 beers. On the evening I went, a young family—the father cheerily bouncing a baby on his knee as he sipped a beer—occupied the only table. In a far corner, a TV tuned to SportsCenter happily hummed away at a low volume. Most of the real estate is devoted to a long, wraparound marble counter with no-nonsense stools parked around it, the visible and evenly-spaced outlets suggesting hopes that the bar will eventually be one where the neighborhood workaholics and freelancers will come to plug in and drink.
A chalkboard at the entrance announces a solid selection for the twelve beers on tap, from the Andean Kuka Tripel to Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde. As of now, all the beers run you $6, affordable compared to similar beer joints in Manhattan and many other parts of Brooklyn. The bartender, an affable gent in a Cigar City Brewing T-shirt, recommended the Ninkasi Total Domination IPA, a bright, hoppy number from Oregon that recently made its debut on the East Coast. After I confirmed that it was indeed delicious, he nodded. “I know, right? It was a surprise for us, too,” before turning to consult about the merits of a stout. A man at the bar ordered an $18 hamburger from a nearby restaurant, and complained about the price. “Juicy” started blaring from the speakers, as if