Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Dark" from McSorley's

My husband and I recently visited friends in New York. Well, they actually live across the river in Teaneck, New Jersey, but we spent most of our time in The City. I was hoping to try several different kinds of beer while I was there, but most of the places we went to serve the standard Stella, Guinness, Blue Moon, and the typical light American lagers.
One exception to this rule was McSorley's Old Ale House. Even if you've never heard of it before, you'll know walking in that it's the oldest continuously running bar in New York City - because it says as much on the front: "This is our 156 year and ale is well," plus "We were here before you were born." If this place hasn't been used as a set for a period piece, it probably wasn't from lacking of effort on the director's part. I'm pretty sure the decor hasn't changed since it opened - simply added to. It's basically one big room, with a bar up front and big, family-sized tables in the back (along with a fireplace). I couldn't tell you much more because the place was PACKED to the gills with people. But the walls are covered with memorabilia - photos, articles about the bar, art (including several prints of the bar by noted artists and illustrators); you could barely see the walls. This must be from where Applebee's and Chili's stole their interior design aesthetic.
We were lucky to get four seats at a table with some friendly young men (who later would lead us in some sort of raucous soccer cheer/song). A rather grizzled, middle-aged man walks up:
"Dark or light?"
That's it - those are your choices at McSorley's. Nothing but ale. They are house beers, brewed for the bar by ... someone. The bar's web site says Pabst, Beer Advocate says it's no longer brewed. It was originally brewed by a local brewery, Fidelio, up until World War II. The McSorley beer was then made by several more breweries, each getting bought out by a larger one, the last being Pabst, states the web site.
But anyway. There's a light lager-looking beer and the dark-ish ale we ordered. A very dark amber color; hold it up to the light, and it's almost purple. They serve beer in small glass mugs, two at a time. And they only take cash. I suppose when you've been around for over a century, you pretty much get to make up the rules.
The dark ale is very good - lighter than a stout, but with nice flavor. And it goes down easy (probably too easy). Did I mention they just keep bringing them, un-asked, until you holler uncle?
I loved the place - loud, cheerful, I felt at home. And the history is undeniably alluring. Being a drinking establishment, and thus a man's retreat from the world, women were not allowed in McSorley's. Even when ownership fell to the adult daughter of the third owner (and first non-McSorley) in 1939 - she never entered the bar except on Sundays when it was closed. She handed day-to-day management to her husband. It wasn't until 1970 that women were permitted entrance, thanks to Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow, attorneys for the National Organization for Women, who sued for sexual discrimination in 1969 and won.
I, for one, am thankful for that.


Posted via email from Scurrilous Tosh

No comments: