"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall" takes on a whole new meaning at Pony Bar East, as the Upper East Side bar changes its craft beer offerings multiple times a day. Zagat editor James Mulcahy filed the following report.
Craft beer is everywhere at Pony Bar East on the Upper East Side. Like at the original Pony Bar in Hell's Kitchen, the focus here is on American craft beer, which represents a larger trend that's happening at bars and restaurants citywide.
The public's palate has expanded, and they are looking for a range of flavors beyond what conventional brewers can provide. Pony Bar East owner Dan McLaughlin thinks that the smaller brewers have a lot to offer.
"With smaller breweries, there's a lot more care, a lot more love, a lot more time and a lot more patience," says McLaughlin. "You're not pigeon-holed into doing one style, they can do seasonals, one-offs, limited releases and things like that."
Visitors might find a vanilla porter or a pumpkin ale among the 20 draft lines. Labels rotate in and out multiple times a day and are displayed on an electronic board. Details like alcohol content and the location of the brewery are provided, and novices can sample brews before they order a full pour.
"The board is kind of unique. We change anywhere from six to 12 beers a day," explains McLaughlin. "As kegs kick, they're replaced with new kegs. We ring a small boxing bell three times and everyone yells 'new beer,' and then on the screen it's illuminated and the new beer pops up."
To go with the beer, the bar has concocted a menu of brew-friendly dishes like an oyster BLT and duck sliders. Everything is served in a casual space complete with beer barrels that double as tables.
"We try to do things that are accessible, but with a small twist on them to keep them interesting for people. Everything we sell here goes really well with beer," says McLaughlin.
With a thirst for knowledge and a detailed appreciation of what's in their glass, the patrons at spots like Pony show that the craft beer bar is truly New York's new wine bar, a trend that McLaughlin is surprised didn't catch on earlier.
"I think it's definitely an extension of the wine bar. The wine bar phase that popped up a while back is still popular, but I think this is a concept that should have been around for longer," he says.
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