Get Your Freak On: A Coney Island Beer Trip

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When it comes to summertime daytrip destinations, I’ve always held Coney Island in the highest esteem–the rides are tall and rickety, the hot dogs are hot and steamy and the freaks are always the freakiest. But while the boardwalk is a veritable institution among us New Yorkers, it’s long been viewed as a craft beer dead zone. Frozen Pina Coladas? Sure thing. Sweaty bottles of MacroLite? No problem. But, I’ve heard, you’ll have to look long and hard to dig up a lone can of craft.

This summer, my mission was clear–hop on the Q, hit the beach and sniff out the best in local-ish beer Coney has to offer. Come on, I figured, it’s 2015! You can buy craft beer in any bodega, any corner market! There are more microbreweries in New York City than there have been in decades! Even Coney Island, one of the few remaining vestiges of old school New York, isn’t immune to the rising tide of better beer domination.

Thus, after much difficult and studious research (read: drinking), I present to you the Coney Island Crawl, a sudsy day well spent combing Brooklyn’s finest shore. After all, Fourth of July is upon us, my fellow Brooklynites, and how better to celebrate this great, great nation than to drink the pants off some cold American craft beer while basking in the gritty glow of one of NYC’s most beloved playgrounds, Coney Island?

Stop 1: Tap Beer Boutique (2081 East 19th Street)
If you’re feeling adventurous, hop off the train a few stops early at Avenue U and visit this unassuming little Sheepshead Bay growler shop. They feature a few dozen domestic and imported ales and lagers, ranging from European big timers like Duvel and Delirium to recognizable American brands like Lagunitas and Allagash, even tossing in some homebrewed Russian Kvass from time to time. These guys’ thing is filling plastic to-go bottles specially pressurized to last, so pick your tap, open up your backpack and stash away a few bottles of road soda for your next destination …

Stop 2: The Beach (W. 37 St., Boardwalk)
Is there a better place to brown bag it than the beach? Well, possibly a boat, of course, but this option is quite a bit cheaper. Break out the Solo cups and sip on your fresh Tap Beer Boutique brew while enjoying the sounds of the crashing waves mixed with the Cyclone’s rhythmic screams.

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Stop 3: Ruby’s Bar & Grill (1213 Boardwalk West)
Once you’re tapped out, head up to the beach-facing Ruby’s, a classic Coney Island dive with a lively local crowd and some solid craft options on draft like Sixpoint Sweet Action, Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale and the house beer, Ruby’s Amber Ale, a red ale with all the spice and character of the bar itself.

Stop 4: Coney Smorgasburg (1320 Bowery St)
Smorg came to Coney! If it’s up and running, you can enjoy a fancy snack and a tasty draft beer served out of a dope looking repurposed shipping container just steps from the boardwalk. May I suggest ordering up a half dozen traditional from Dan & John’s Wings and washing them down with a few aptly named Smorgasbeers, a crisp Pilsner brewed down the way by Clinton Hill’s own KelSo. Perfection.

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Stop 5: The Freak Bar (1208 Surf Ave)
Stretch your legs and let the grub settle on your walk over to Surf Ave, the area’s main non-boardwalk strip. One block down from Nathan’s, you’ll find The Freak Bar, a laid back and nicely decorated beer den with a super friendly bartender and a shockingly clean bathroom. Nothing on tap, but a fridge full of Lagunitas, Sixpoint, Smuttynose and a full lineup of Coney Island Brewing Co. bottles will do you just fine for the next hour or so. Also, it’s attached to Coney’s world famous Freak Show, so, you know, that’s always a good time.

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Stop 6: Pete’s Clam Stop (1320 Surf Ave)
Still hungry? Saunter down the street to Pete’s Clam Stop, a hole-in-the-wall beach joint where you can score a giant Brooklyn Summer Ale or Coney Island Lager and a dozen delicious little necks while watching the sun burt procession of revelers through the shop’s open storefront.

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Stop 7: MCU Park (1904 Surf Avenue)
The final destination! Schedule your crawl with the Cyclones in town and end your night right by watching Brooklyn’s boys of summer round the bases at Coney’s MCU Park. Tickets are outrageously cheap–last time I went, it was $17 full retail for three rows behind home plate–and the refreshment selection, dare I say, is a home run. Reasonably priced Brooklyn and Sixpoint offerings will get you through the seventh inning stretch, at least, and post-game fireworks cascading over the moonlit beach will really drive it home. Cheers to us.

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