When I moved into the neighborhood in which NEW BEER DISTRIBUTORS is located, there was open drug dealing (hard drugs), rat infested filth, and palpable danger. A woman was murdered half a block away from my building on the street in an attempted mugging. And that was when the block was on the upswing in gentrification, horridly.
And when I was told that a few avenues west of me was a "great beer store", I just couldn't believe it. But -- OK -- I'll go look. The awning in front of the garage-like space of "New Beer Distributors", which could have been a truck repair shop, a lumber yard, a Chinatown rice distributor, read "Guiness - Heinekin" and whatever else. Great. Good tip, friend. Now I know where I can get a case of Amstel Light real cheap!
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I entered. Whoa. Unreal. Impossible. I'm dreaming. It was like seeing Cantillon on tap at the ESPN bar in Times Square. It was like finding an empty bottle of Rosé De Gabrinus on the tracks at the Bowery/Delancey J-Train station. Which, I guess, is actually now impossible, since New Beer is just a block away.
The fact is, New Beer is one of the BEST places in NYC to find esoteric, limited edition, impossible to find brews, even if their roots are in moving kegs and cases of Bud and Coors. You would have a hard time finding a greater variety of craft beer and finding it any cheaper anywhere in NYC.New Beer is a true NYC family operation. Brothers, sisters, a mom, loads of kids running around. This is the real New York that is now, sadly, rare and declining and will probably disappear before too long.
Harry took over for his dad, who founded the business in 1968. Imagine the lower east side in 1968. You'd have to be pretty tough to run a beer wholesaler in that neighborhood then, and really up until the early 90s. But Harry has a U.S. Marine Corps tattoo on his left forearm, so I'm guessing that he's tough enough!
|This stuff is kept WAY in the back, appropriately.|
New Beer is a kind of "one-stop" distributor. There are loads of them in NYC. They're unhampered by exclusive contracts that major distributors have, so they can carry anything they like. Most of their business is from neighborhood restaurants, clubs, delis, bodegas and the like, and most allow "cash-and-carry" sales to individuals as well as businesses. Most of these one-stops only carry mega-brew beers -- very few of them deal with anything more esoteric than Dos Equis. And unlike most other one-stops, New Beer sells single bottles in addition to six- and four-packs, cases, kegs and growlers.
Harry picked up on the craft beer revolution at its outset, noticing Sam Adams and Brooklyn Brewery, and he began to augment his Bud, Corona and Amstel Light with whatever interesting beers that he could get his hands on. He noticed the growing number of beer drinkers who were bored and dissatisfied with standard American light lager -- a group to which he himself belonged.
|Need a special glass for that special beer?|
When B.R. and I discovered New Beer sometime in the early to mid-90s, we were not only blown away by the selection, but by the prices. Because they were mainly selling to other businesses, there was no tax or deposit. That changed as they attracted a larger client base of individual consumers, but despite that, the prices are still amazing.
Harry said that this is the company's policy -- not to jack the prices, even when he knows that he can. It doesn't matter if a beer is in super short supply and crazy high demand, he applies the same reasonable mark up across the boards.
In addition to constantly updating and improving on the quality and variety of his inventory, five years ago the store put in draft lines to sell growlers to customers. A few times each month they have beer events highlighting a particular brewery or style. Often times reps from the breweries are on hand to talk to customers about the beers.
|Where have you seen more Mikkeller beers in one place? Probably not even in Copenhagen!|
Harry conservatively estimates that he's got over 800 different beers on offer in the store. I'd guess more like 1000. But Harry is a modest man. I've been there 1000 times, but, still, every time that I walk the aisles I'm filled with "Christmas morning" exhilaration. And despite the fact that I think that I know a lot about beer and breweries, I can always find a number of beers at New Beer that I've either never tried before or never even heard of.
True beer geeks and connoisseurs MUST make at least one pilgrimage in their lifetime to this shrine! And if you do end up taking our advice and go check out New Beer, mention that you heard about the store from BEER HEAR and they'll give you a customer card -- after you make 10 purchases of $10 or more, they'll give you a free growler of beer! (You provide the empty growler, they provide the beer, and the card can only be stamped once a day.) Mentioning BEER HEAR will get you your first stamp for FREE -- no purchase necessary!
This Labor Day weekend, New Beer is slated to have the following on tap for growler customers:
Founders Centennial IPA
Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale
As a bonus, listen to what Harry's rep from Union Beer Distributors has to say about New Beer.
|You're getting verrrry thirsty... verrrry thirsty....|
|The future of New Beer?|
|Apparently the recent earthquake spared these shelves!|