Could there be a better dude bar than Barcade in Williamsburg? Not only is it filled with vintage video games, it also boasts 25 beers on tap and the official Good Beer Seal for carrying quality American craft beers. If you’re not a beer geek, don’t worry, the staff here is very nonjudgmental, including four-year Barcade veteran Joe Stickney. We talk to Joe about what it’s like working in one of the neighborhood’s most beloved beer bars.
First, I have to ask you what your favorite video game here is.
You know, I don’t play most of these games anymore, but I love Berzerk. What I like about it is that you travel from level to level and most of the action happens in the first three seconds of each level. So, for the rest of the time you can kind of cruise through it and take a sip. It’s a good beer-drinking game. I like Q*bert, too, because you can play that one-handed while drinking.
What kind of crowd do you get here? It seems that with the beer and video games, you’d get quite the mix.
It’s definitely a hybrid. It’s for people who just want to play video games, it’s for people who just want to get drunk off high-alcohol beer, it’s for people who really appreciate good beer. It runs the gamut. We’ve got a pretty relaxed crowd. We had some fights in the past when we had a pool table, so we took that out.
Oh, yeah, what’s the craziest thing anyone has ever done on your watch?
We had a night in here once where it was just me and like three customers and there was this one guy, he was playing Ms. Pac-Man, and out of nowhere he just turned around and threw his pint glass across the room. The weird thing is that he then turned around and started playing Ms. Pac-Man again like nothing happened.
Was he mad that he was losing at Ms. Pac-Man?
No, he didn’t seem mad or anything. I think maybe he was just on drugs. We walked over and were like “What the fuck, man, you’ve got to go!” As he was leaving he kept on saying that he was Miss America over and over again. I have no idea what that was about.
For such a well-regarded beer bar, you get a lot of people in here that aren’t necessarily beer geeks. How do you steer them toward ordering a good beer?
I ask them what kind of beer that they like and if they say they like anything from Coors Light to Bud Light, I give them the simplest, most palatable beer we have on tap. If they seem like they’re a little more into beer, I just give them one my personal favorites, as long as it’s in the style that they seem to like.
What are you liking right now?
On tap right now, I like the Crossroads IPA. It’s really nice for the summer; it’s just a nice dry, hoppy IPA. The Anderson Valley Gatlin Damnosis is also really tasty — very sour and complex.
What do most people who come in here order?
As a blanket rule, most people who come in here either love the IPAs or the wheat beers. As soon as people start getting accustomed to the hops, it’s a flavor that they start to crave all of the time. Most of the people who come here are beer people. On the weekends, there are more cocktails being made. We make our fair share of Long Island Iced Teas on the weekends.
You seem to be in all of the guidebooks. Do you get a lot of tourists?
We get a lot of French people. I’ve been noticing a lot of Swedes in here lately. Lots of Australians, too; I’m convinced that Australians just travel more than anyone else in the world. We also get a lot of U.S. tourists, people from the Midwest who say they’ve heard about this place somehow.
How did this place become so popular?
It’s a combination of the beer and the video games; I mean, there are a lot of other good beer bars in New York City. The owners did a good job of combining two niche interests that are taking off. Interest in craft beer is really exploding right now; bars that I used to work at that used to carry only Guinness and Anheuser Busch all of a sudden have four taps devoted solely to craft beer. I live in Bed-Stuy and every bodega around me has a bunch of beers from Smuttynose and Victory.
How has working at this bar been different from the other bars you’ve worked at in the past?
Well, I don’t ever open any bottles or cans here. I don’t make many mixed drinks. It’s mostly just slinging pints. I wasn’t really versed in American craft beers when I started working at this place, but now I certainly know a lot about them and appreciate them more. We have 25 taps including the cask. We kick probably between one to four kegs a day. We have about three or four beers that stay the same every night, but the rest of them rotate and change. When I leave the country, I find that I’m not able to find these quality beers in other places and I really start craving them.
388 Union Avenue, Williamsburg