I don’t spend enough time in the Bronx. A couple Yankee games a year, maybe a trip to the zoo or the Botanical Garden on a nice day, the odd visit to Fordham, but that’s pretty much it. The rest is all Manhattan and Brooklyn. But the Bronx is cool, and I’ll soon have another excellent reason to hop on the 6 and cruise up to Cypress Ave: The Bronx Brewery is building a new brewery at 856 E. 136th Street, and they’ll have a tasting room for visitors. I plan to be one of the first. They’re still working on it, but in the meantime, they just made it easier than ever to enjoy their flagship beer wherever you (I) happen to be, as Bronx Pale Ale is now available in 16-ounce cans, commonly known to beer enthusiasts as "tall boys." I recently got my hands on a four-pack and cracked one open last night.
I didn’t have a proper ale glass in my freezer, so I decided to do the crazy thing and pour it into one of those new-fangled Spiegelau IPA glasses (get me to a psych ward). But the IPA glass is suitable for a regular pale ale of the non-India variety, because the bowl shape of the glass concentrates the aromas so you can get a good whiff of it before imbibing. And so I relaxed in my living room, lifted the glass, and brought it to my nose. The aromas are rather subtle, but it’s classic beer all the way, with caramel notes from the barley malt and floral notes from the hops.
But if all you want to do is sniff something that smells nice, get a bouquet of petunias. Beer is for drinking, and Bronx Pale Ale is satisfying in all the best ways. I hesitate to call it heavy, because it’s not like some porter or barleywine, but it’s the opposite of light beer. Whereas light beer is, well, lightly flavored and kind of watery, Bronx Pale Ale is deeply flavorful and complex. And while light beer tends to have a lower alcohol content, in the 4.2% – 4.5% ballpark, Bronx Pale Ale has a robust 6.3% ABV. (For comparison, Budweiser is 5.0%.) But as smart as it is, I enjoyed Bronx Pale Ale as a "regular" beer, tipping back the glass and savoring every sip without having to analyze the interplay between a zillion different flavors.
I did tap out a few notes while I was drinking it, though: "Bold and flavorful, but still respectful of what beer should be. Big, beery, and satisfying. Well-balanced but not overly hoppy, which I like." And it somehow tasted like a draft beer, even though it was from a can. The draft version must be sublime.
So it’s a brew that delivers the goods without getting too smart alecky. There’s plenty under the hood, though. I like the straightforward, non-B.S. description printed on the can: "This deep amber, American pale ale is brewed with five different barley malts, generous additions of Cascade and Centennial hops, and a unique strain of yeast. The British, German, and American malts used provide a complex blend of caramel, biscuit, and nutty malt flavors. The kettle and dry hops provide a gentle, pleasant bitterness with an intense floral and citrus aroma."
All of those descriptors are true, but the the real enjoyment of this beer is its true, authentic character. Sometimes, after a hell of a day at the end of a hell of a week, you just want a damn beer. This is the beer you want.
The new brewery and tasting room is slated to open at the end of this year. In the meantime, you can buy cans of Bronx Pale Ale at stores like Whole Foods and Fairway, and get it on draft at spots like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and the Ginger Man.
[Photo: Doug Schneider Photography]
[For more great spots to drink beer in New York, check out BlackBook’s New York Guide. Keep up with new openings by subscribing to the free BlackBook Happenings newsletters. More by Victor Ozols. Follow me on Twitter.]