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In The East Village, A Craft Beer Hub

IMG_0405Spencer Magloff A selection of the 900 beer varieties that are offered at Good Beer, a Ninth Street shop that opened Tuesday, which specializes in craft beer.

Once a niche drink, craft beers are tapping new devoted drinkers, especially in the East Village. At last month’s NY Craft Beer Week, the East Village had more participating bars than any other neighborhood in the city.

Good Beer on 422 East Ninth Street became the latest craft beer purveyor when it opened its doors on Tuesday. The shop stocks more than 400 chilled craft beers, and David Cichowicz, the store’s manager, said he hopes to have about 900 unique beers once all shipments are received from his six distributors. The beers are organized geographically from East to West coast in refrigeration flanking the entire right-side wall along with 12 growler-ready taps.

Besides their quintessentially quirky names—Ommegang, DogFish Head, Smuttynose, Allagash, Pretty Things—a beer is designated “craft” so long as it is brewed by traditional methods and lacks adjuncts like rice or corn that often lower production costs but dilute flavor. While craft beer often costs a few more dollars, many aficionados say the more flavorful taste and heftier alcohol content are well worth the price.

IMG_0403Spencer Magloff Taps (top) and bottles at Good Beer.

As U.S. beer sales declined in the first half of 2010, the craft brewing industry grew in both volume and retail dollars, according to the Brewers Association. While this is indicative of a national trend, Chris O’Leary, writer of the beer blog, Brew York, New York, said the trend has gained a particularly strong foothold in the East Village for several reasons.

For one, the neighborhood is less pricey and the demographic is generally younger. Also many The East Village restaurateurs believe food can pair as well with craft beer as with wine.

“There is just as much complexity to beer as wine, and people are becoming convinced they can couple craft beer with good food,” Mr. O’Leary said while sipping a pint of Shipyard Pumpkin Head at Destination Bar on Avenue A. Price is another consideration. “A lot of people can’t justify spending $40 for a bottle of wine, but $12 for a good six-pack is doable.”

The East Village also has a storied history of craft brewing tradition. Standings Bar on East Seventh Street, formerly known as Brewsky’s, was one of the first bars in all New York City to serve a selection of craft beers. This was 20 years ago when, as Mr. O’Leary said, “The holy grail was just to find a Samuel Adams.”