Twenty one years ago the chances having a choice of more than three beers on tap in the pubs, bars and taverns of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY was not good. That was a time when Brooklyn was a place to leave, not a destination. And then, twenty years ago Ed Berestecki opened Mugs Alehouse with 34 taps and two “cask engines” and a menu that was a step-up from the usual “bar food”.
Recently I stopped in on a between-the-holidays afternoon for a quick one… and ended up staying for two and a hearty serving of interesting conversation. (Unfortunately the kitchen was three hours from turning out what looked like a more-than-interesting menu.)
Bartender Scott Johnson served up a well-poured pint of Anchor Liberty and kept an eye on the glasses of half a dozen afternoon quaffers sitting at the bar. Two groups of British tourists stopped in for Cider and Lucky Bastards. All the while Scott did some emergency repairs on the rinse sink, poured pints and talked sports and old movies with the bar folk.
Before diving into the Anchor Liberty, after a subway trek on both the “A” train and “L” train, a visit to the WC was in order. A pleasant WC tells me that this is a place with a sense of respect for food, beer and customers that is often sadly lacking. Returning to my seat at the bar I knew that the work Scott was doing behind the bar reflected that as well. My modus operandi is that my first beer is a well-known brew paid for in cash. If there is a two-finger head a comfort point is made. Friendly bar folk and a bartender who is friendly but not pushy increase the comfort points. Finally I drop a bit of jargon or a name or two and catch the attention of the bartender. Then I get down to the working part of the visit…
Halfway through my Liberty I asked about the “Mugs 20th Anniversary” posted on the beer list. Scott told me the story of the place. The story behind the brewing of the beer was not only interesting as a celebration (not too few restaurants have commissioned one-off celebration beers) but more importantly, in its success as a house-beer. Not just a one-off, this brew is going into a second thirty barrel production run. “Mugs 20th Anniversary” is called a Red I.P.A. I can report that the liberal use of Citra hops and Vienna roasted malt masks the hefty 8% abv.
As for the essence of the place, I spent half of the “Anniversary” scribbling notes and not getting very far. Then Scott suggested the following when I asked him to describe Mugs… “It’s a regular joint where you can watch old movies on one TV and the latest sports on another with a menu that serves good American pub food at a piece that won’t whump you…” And don’t forget the 34 taps and two engines of good beer.
Address: 125 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211