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Beer Lover's Guide to a New York Christmas

The movies and made-for-television specials make a New York Christmas out to be a magical experience filled with the joy of the season, good cheer,and warm memories that will last a lifetime and beyond.

The reality is that New York during Christmastime is a cold and crowded place where tourists in bulky parkas cram into Rockefeller Plaza for a glimpse at a four-story tall Christmas tree and line up for hours to get a few minutes on the ice rink below. Broadway shows will be sold out or outrageously expensive, the department store windows along 5th Avenue are decked out in elaborate displays that you’ll no doubt enjoy seeing if you can break through the throngs of fellow onlookers. Yes, Santa is at the Macy’s on 34th Street, but the miracle will be whether or not you can make it through the line to see him in less than two hours.


While it may be true that Santa can be found at the Macy's on 34th street (above), the miracle will be whether or not you can make it through the line to see him in less than two hours.

Photo Courtesy Flick/John Wisniewski


Midtown is where the holiday action is, and in the final month of the year, also has what the city calls “gridlock alert days” where it’s virtually impossible to get where you want to go by car. Now, if crowds and jostling is your thing, then by all means go for it and have a holly, jolly good time, because I’m not here to be Scrooge and dissuade you from snapping selfies with the Santa hat-wearing Elmos in Times Square.

However, since you’re reading a beer-themed publication let’s assume you are looking to find your cheer in a pint glass among fellow beer enthusiasts. Your options in midtown are few and far between. Sure, there’s standards like the Ginger Man on 36th Street or Treadwell Park on 42nd  Street, but to get a real experience of the city during the magical time of year, get on a subway, cross the East River, and go exploring the neighborhoods. That’s where you’ll find most of the breweries. (Although you can find Death Ave Brewing on 10th Avenue and the soon-to-open Torch & Crown Brewing Company in Manhattan.)

Pro-tip: If you do want to see the tree and all the other outdoor spectacles, plan to go in the pre-dawn hours of the morning or well into the night. The lights will be on, but the crowds will be thinned and there’s a certain thrill that comes with seeing these landmarks on off-hours in the city that never sleeps.

No matter what, be ready for the weather. Because even though you’re leaving the tourists and day trippers behind, the harsh winter winds that swoop down the concrete canyons of New York streets will find a way to penetrate all of your layers and chill you to the bone.


No matter what, be ready for the weather. The harsh winter winds that swoop down the concrete canyons of New York streets will find a way to penetrate all of your layers and chill you to the bone.


Finding a place where you can get respite from winter is paramount, and there is perhaps no better place for the beer lover than the Blind Tiger on Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. There’s a literal warmth that exudes from the cozy corner bar thanks to a working fireplace that ads a cheery glow to the room and warms your appendages.

It’s true that just within the last few years New York has become a better beer city than it was. There are breweries in every borough, bars and restaurants have upped their tap and bottle list to match the fine cuisine and even the corner bodegas have at least a few craft options available for to-go purchases.

Long before all of that happened, the Blind Tiger was the oasis for hop lovers, stout drinkers and enthusiasts looking for relief from the bland light lagers that dominated the city’s beer scene. Given their place on the calendar and as much as the winter holidays are a time of celebration, they are also a time of reflection and traditions. Maybe that’s why so many of the breweries in the city create special cask ales or hold real ale festivals during this time of year.


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