When I was a kid I feverishly collected baseball cards, spending my allowance on Donruss, Topps and Upper Deck packs in search of, say, a Ken Griffey, Jr., rookie. As the years disappeared, my accumulations switched to CDs and buttons, before settling on today's primary fixation: beer. My days are spent seeking out novel new flavors, maybe a beer flavored with mustard seeds or oysters—even the Rocky Mountain variant.
Though I do savor trying new flavors, I don't want to dedicate all my waking hours (and income) to acquiring lusted-after ales such as Three Floyds' Dark Lord Imperial Stout or the Alchemist's Heady Topper. After all, there's plenty of unusual, singular beer awaiting at bars and restaurants around New York City.
To both facilitate finely tuned food pairings and set themselves apart, haunts around New York have partnered with breweries to craft exclusive, one-of-a-kind beers. Head to Shake Shack, and you can have Brooklyn Brewery's biscuity ShackMeister amber ale, while Astoria's Strand Smokehouse has Hank, a juniper berry–spiced lager developed by SingleCut Beersmiths.
Still, perhaps New York's biggest proponents of proprietary beer are restaurateur Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield, who helm some of the city's hottest restaurants: gastropub trailblazer the Spotted Pig, the carnivore-focused Breslin, seafood-centric John Dory Oyster Bar and madcap Mexican Salvation Taco. Though all the cuisines and concepts are distinct, the common thread is a commitment to offering a specially designed house beer.
"For us, it's a nice way to provide guests with something different," says Bill Brooks, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room's beer manager. "I really like going to craft beer bars and seeing what's new."
If you head to the Breslin and Spotted Pig, you can sample Brooklyn Brewery's British-inspired Spotted Pig Bitter. (The Breslin also serves the aromatic, Captain Lawrence–crafted Revolutionary Sweetheart.) At the John Dory you'll find Sixpoint's Oyster Stout, which is made with plenty of the restaurant's leftover bivalve shells (they add an appealing minerality), as a well a refreshing blonde ale brewed in conjunction with Syracuse's Empire.
But with summer weather settling into the city, methinks you'll want to beeline to Salvation Taco's rooftop to try the restaurant group's latest proprietary beer: Greenport Harbor's Devil's Plaything, a citrusy IPA flavored with limes, oranges, dried Haitian bitter orange segments and chiles. "Instead of going the historical route, we thought about taking a style of beer that we really like and tweak it," says Brooks, who worked on the beer with ST's beverage director Sam Anderson.
The project was born out of admiration. Brooks had long been a fan of Greenport's hoppy ales, such as the Black IPA, Citrus IPA and bright, balanced Otherside IPA. So when Brooks was batting around ideas with Anderson about making an IPA syrup for cocktails with Serrano chiles, the right brewery for the project was a no-brainer.
"I called up John [Liegey, Greenport Harbor's cofouder and -owner) and said, 'We’ve got a crazy idea for a beer at the rooftop of the Taco,'" Brooks recalls. Greenport Harbor was game to fashion its first proprietary beer, cranking out a 60-barrel batch (enough to ensure a steady supply deep into the summer). At the end of May, Devil'sPlaything debuted at Salvation Taco's sky-scraping lounge atop the Pod 39 Hotel.
While the sessionable IPA (5.2 percent ABV) is an ideal thirst-quencher on a mercury-spiking afternoon (like, say, today), it pulls double duty in the dining department, going divinely with tacos. The devil, they say, is in the details.
Devil's Plaything is available for $8 at Salvation Taco. You can also found it on tap at Greenport Harbor's tasting room. This story originally appeared on my Craft Beer New York app.