Alewife isn’t a misnomer. It is about the beer. The bar has 28 drafts available; all craft, all specially chosen by owner Patrick Donagher.
The attention to quality and unique offerings led the brew geeks at RateBeer.com in January to dub Alewife the best beer bar in the entire city. It’s something the staff takes pride in, and the bar itself places beer at the heart of everything it does.
The system, as explained by chefs Gregorio Pedroza and Travis Yuen, goes something like this: They cook up a dish and pass along the flavor profile to Donagher, who picks the appropriate beer to accompany it.
It causes something of a stir and admitted challenge for Alewife’s Craft Beer Week, which featured six beer dinners.
“The belief is that beer has more complexity than wine does,” Yuen said. “We try to cook with the beer in mind.”
To that end, the foods are designed to keep you sated but not stuffed — and just thirsty enough to keep you drinking.
“We’re not a turn-and-burn,” Pedroza said. “We don’t serve you then kick you out.”
Still, the chefs said to leave your beer-snob tendencies at the door. Pedroza said many of the connoisseurs keep to themselves (though Yuen said a few amateur homebrewers have been known to glibly pipe up).
Things changed for Long Island City’s Alewife at the end of October. A cruel mistress named Sandy swept across the borough, leaving the Long Island City gastro pub’s first floor in ankle-deep waters.
It came at a time of flux for the neighborhood watering hole, with a new menu brought on by a change in the kitchen, tossed into the usual roving beer menu.
Mother Nature and the MTA had other plans.
The joint, at 5-14 51 Ave., shut down for a week and a half after Hurricane Sandy. A backup generator fed a tiny pump cranking a 6-foot pool of water out of the basement. The wood floor once lining the place was scrapped.
It reopened to little fanfare and a tough go.
“We were limited to serving burgers and pizza,” Yuen said.
Then came the seemingly ritualistic shutdown of the No. 7 train on weekends.
Then came RateBeer.com’s designation.
It’s no surprise then, following the success of the recent aPORKalypse, upcoming events such as the Green Flash Tap Takeoever and a changing menu, that Yuen and Pedroza have a positive outlook.
“This neighborhood isn’t a bunch of dolts,” Pedroza said in the blunt elegance one comes to expect from a restaurant’s back-of-house staff.
It doesn’t hurt to be known for beer either.
The duo expects the kitchen’s churn to truly kick up as the months grow warmer and the 7 line returns to full service. But they know their bread and butter rests with the locals.
“Think back five to six years ago and you wouldn’t want to live in this area,” Pedroza said.
Now, it’s a destination — for hurricanes and beer lovers alike.
When: Sunday, April 14, noon to 2 a.m.
Where: 5-14 51st Ave., LIC