This past Thursday I had just ordered my first round and was chatting with my friends when I heard a billowy english accent call “Ah! You’re drinking my beer!”
I guess my first thought was “um, no…this is mine” because I’m
cruel and impatient so tolerant and polite, but I quickly figured out that the man who was now towering over me was none other than David Walker, aka the “The Lion,” from Firestone Walker Brewing Company. Okay. Pretty cool. I’m less annoyed now.
I was at Fraunces Tavern in the Financial District of New York City (forgive me but I’m combining my Venue and Craft Beer features this week – they go hand in hand…just keep reading). It’s one of my favorite places in the whole city, and if you’ve never been I suggest you drop what you’re doing and go eat brunch there right now. I don’t even like french toast, but theirs is completely mind blowing. Run, do not walk. Not kidding. But I digress… Fraunces Tavern’s name is quite deceiving. This isn’t your typical pub with Guinness on tap and a red-faced bar tender who has probably consumed too much of said Guinness by 1pm. This place has history, charm, and about 17 rooms to explore.
The land the current building sits on dates back to 1671 when then New York Mayor, Stephanus van Cortlandt built his home there. Today’s structure was erected in 1719 by Cortlandt’s son-in-law, Etienne “Stephen” DeLancey, to be used as his home. It was then sold in 1762 to Samuel Fraunces who turned the home into a tavern. The tavern famously hosted George Washington (apparently the man and beer have lots of history together) as he bade farewell to his officers in 1783 after the British troops withdrew from New York. There’s a lot more history to it as well, of which you can brush up on in the Museum located on the 2nd floor (details below).
So back to my interruption. Fraunces Tavern just happened to be hosting an event this past week for Firestone Walker Brewing Company. The brewery is owned and operated by two brothers-in-law, David Walker, the British ex-pat, and Adam “The Bear” Firestone, as in that Firestone that makes tires. Adam grew up with his families vineyard, took those techniques and applied them to beer brewing. After convincing his brother-in-law to join him, the two started the company in Paso Robles, California. They utilize a system that ferments their beer in oaken barrels, giving them a distinct, “oaky” flavor. They are one of only two brewers in the world to maintain such an operation.
I was only about two sips into my Velvet Merlin, a delightful oatmeal stout, when Mr. Walker ascended upon my group. He was very friendly and implored us to try the Krieky Bones next, which we did. To be honest, I’m still developing my taste for sours and right now they sort of freak me out. But I’m working on it, among other things. The evening was short but sweet as we hung out in the back bar of the tavern known as Lafayette’s Hideout.
The oatmeal stout was my favorite of the night, probably because I’m a
wimp novice when it comes to these things still. It also seemed to go with the whole atmosphere of Fraunces. It’s wintery and cozy, warms you from within, and has a perfect balance of dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavors. I’m really trying to get into the sour craze, but beer being super sweet is something I’m struggling with comprehending. Kreiky Bones was definitely sweet and offered a seltzer-like, fizzy, carbonation. It is made with sour Montmorency cherries and supposed to give off the aroma of cherry pie. If you’re into dessert beer, go for it! I’m apparently still gravitating to brews that stick to your ribs a bit more.
This weekend I fully dedicated myself to trying a variety of beers from Firestone Walker, even another sour from their Barrelworks program, and enjoyed all of them thoroughly. You can find them on my Instagram feed. If you haven’t tried any of them yet I would definitely add this brewery to your list! You won’t be disappointed. And better yet, enjoy one down at Fraunces Tavern. Nothing goes better with a great beer than a good bar, and genuine friends. Cheers!
Fraunces Tavern Museum:
54 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10004
Sat & Sun 11am-5pm
Free guided tours every Friday at 2pm and Sat/Sun at 1 and 2pm!