By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Readers of food and nightlife websites breathlessly track the openings and closings of restaurants and bars as though they were following pro-baseball players; now, as you're preparing to unveil a new brew pub, you can start a blog and get people talking months before your doors even open. That's what the owners of Bar Great Harry (280 Smith Street, Brooklyn) have done. They started blogging in early spring at bargreatharry.com, and they've kept it up since their opening three months ago.
BGH has taken over the spot previously occupied by the concisely named Bar, a place notable mainly for its complete lack of any defining qualities other than a prime corner location. The new owners, Ben and Mike, gave the space a good scrubbing-up and replaced the weirdly tall bar with a handsome walnut number at a more elbow-friendly height. They've also wisely held onto the glass doors that make up the exterior walls and open onto the sidewalk. By far their greatest improvement, however, is the beer selection: They've brought in suds by the truckload. The bottle/can list alone runs to 70 choices, from a lowly PBR ($4) to a mammoth bottle of Lindeman's Cuvée René ($25), clearly the Johnny Walker Blue of beers.
The draft list is a changing list of 12 optionsfanatics can track it through the blog. Feeling a little overwhelmed, I ordered the exact same thing as the patron before me: the Aventinus Wheat ($8); it was tasty, but I preferred my friend's Weihenstephan ($6). (She declared it appropriately Germanic. We have to take her word for it.) Later, I trusted in the affable bartender's guidance as he steered me towards a Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter ($6). He said it had been described as tasting "like a Virginia ham." It didn't, but that's probably for the best.
Floyd's owners named the place after Floyd, Iowa, and the easy Midwestern charm here is disarming. Down a few cans of Old Milwaukee or munch on "beer cheese" spread on Keebler crackers while you watch people play bocce ball on the bar's indoor courtóit's beyond comical to see Brooklynites attempt a game after their third glass of bourbon. 131 Atlantic Ave, 718-858-5810
Last Exit Bar & Lounge
A neighborhood bar with a bizarre but pleasing mix of second-hand couches, American flags, and sangria. Serious winner-take-all trivia contests on the first and third Mondays of every month. No conversations permitted during game times. 136 Atlantic Ave, 718-222-9198
Waterfront Ale House
It's not located on the waterfront, but as we're not Marlon Brando, we really don't care. The chill atmosphere lends itself to drinking beer and eating burgers, but those with a bent for taking risksóand who don't mind morning-after headachesóshould definitely throw back a few homemade liqueurs, such as "apple pie vodka." 155 Atlantic Ave, 718-522-3794
Maintaining proper bar etiquette in a low-key place like this is crucial. There is a jukebox, but we don't want to hear three Sublime songs in a row, sorry. Engage in your favorite childhood board games, but avoid Boggle: too noisy. Also, ridiculous orderslike grown men requesting Malibu and pineapple juicewill be noted and roundly mocked. In the past, these transgressions might have earned you nothing more than a scornful look, but not any longer. The bartenders at BGH are not only silently judging your behavior, but they're posting it online. A perusal of the blog turns up myriad offenders, including a woman who monkeyed with a pint of pilsner by topping it off with Sprite and a guy who shamefully corrupted his Dogfish Head by drinking it over ice. And woe to the swaggering nimrod who eschews proper glassware in favor of swilling straight from the bottle. Beer consumption is taken seriously here, so show some respect.