>> Sunday, September 28, 2014
78-01 77th Avenue
Glendale, NY 11385
Just 'round the corner from the Shops at Atlas Park, down a stairwell near an overpass, and along a suburban Glendale street lies the Finback Brewery. In what has become nothing short of a phenomenon, it's one of the city's newest breweries, and it's practically right here in Forest Hills. It's not. It's in Glendale, but I managed to walk there from my apartment, so it's close enough.
Craft beer, a label given to brands that only put out less than 6 million barrels per year and are not a subsidiary of one of the big guys, has exploded in recent years. It's no wonder that InBev has been buying up small breweries like Long Island's Blue Point, among others, like their market-share depends on it. It does. The fact is, craft beers and micro brews are the new currency for a halfway decent bar. Forget a blog here and a blog there, there are literally entire newspapers and glossy magazines devoted to small-batch brewing. People are willing to spend more to get the intimacy of the small batch brew.
It's not just beer. It's across the spectrum. Think of it as the Farmer's Market Ideal. We want the small batch, local stuff. The newest iPhone aside, we don't want things made by robots helmed by child slaves. We don't want the cookie cutter widget that Wal-Mart paid bottom dollar to pawn off on us. Well, we do. But not the cookie cutter one. We want the Biltsharp knife. We want to item made by a person. With a history. Someone real who, if he or she screwed us, would have to answer personally for their product. Kickstarter couldn't exist without this ideal, Etsy couldn't exist without this ideal, and craft beer couldn't exist without this ideal. Personally, I don't follow football, so I don't get inundated with ads for Budweiser, and I don't follow NASCAR, so I couldn't give two number 2s whose ad is on car number 2 (it's Miller Lite), but when I walk into a bar and the smallest brewer they can offer up is Sam Adams, I know it's time to choose another bar.
Ipso facto, a journey over a short hill and a shorter dale was a no-brainer. Finback's tasting room is just that. A room. There's a bar with a rotation of taps cranking out whatever they happen to be making at the time and a bunch of folding tables with chairs. If you want food, there's free popcorn or you can pony up a buck for some trail mix. It's open only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons and evenings. When I arrived, it was pretty dead, which meant that I had my pick of the seats. But inside half an hour, it started filling up.
It was like being in a Williamsburg with more trees and fewer noserings; a Williamsburg where the residents grew up a bit. The people coming in were young and cool and tattooed and wearing those small fedoras that only cool people and the elderly wear, but they were more reserved. They had little kids and strollers.
Although they do have their selection of "normal" beers, the best adjective to describe the beer from Finback would be "experimental". Here is a reading, direct from their menu, of some of the infusions that they use: cinnamon, nutmeg, Schezuan peppercorn, ginger, chamomile, jalapeno, citrus, and ahtanum... whatever that is (Wikipedia says that Ahtanum is a village in Washington State with a population of 3,601 people, so I guess that ahtanum is soylent green).
There are four sizes to choose from when you arrive. There are two growler sizes to choose from, and feel free to bring the one that your buddy brought over one poker night that he never took home. Finback does not require that you purchase their growlers. Then there's a 10oz glass which is $5 or $6 depending on the variety. Finally, there is the small tasting glass for $2. Basically, you can create a custom flight for yourself, should you so choose.
I'd love for Finback to take a cue from Astoria's Single Cut and install a kitchen. I'd love for them to strike up a deal with a food truck. I'd love for them to become a destination (though I wonder if their immediate neighbors would) because although the location is on the remote side, I can absolutely see them being one of New York's hidden gems. I can see them being a spot to go to when you want to escape the city without leaving it. Oooh! Brunch! A Wafels and Dinges truck outside, an IPA inside. Hmmmm...?