Bitter & Esters brew maestros shepherd beer aficionados 21 and older through the basics of crafting their own libations during the two-hour introductory brewing courses. These knowledgeable instructors sprinkle their lessons with useful tidbits as their students immerse themselves in the process, communally brewing a bubbly batch of hops-laden liquid like witches on Super Bowl Sunday. Classes cover need-to-know facts about extracts, malts, grains, and yeasts as well as common trouble-shooting methods for when batches go awry. The hands on lesson includes all the necessary ingredients and reference materials required to whip up a hearty brew, with starter kits available for purchases if students want to continue fashioning beer in their home or underground speakeasies. Classes conclude with students sampling the fruits of previous home brewed labors, opening their taste buds to all the different possibilities craft beer making affords.
Little Town NYC unabashedly hearts New York. Of its three restaurants, two are located in iconic Manhattan spots: one in Union Square, the other on Theater District’s Restaurant Row. Little Town’s fancy for the Empire State shines through on the menu, too, with homestyle dishes such as the Adirondack chicken pesto and an Angus beef burger topped with crispy Berkshire bacon. The Suburb Backyard BBQ platter is piled high with enough buffalo wings, Nathan's hot dogs, and other locally inspired fare to feed a family of four.
Little Town NYC also takes great pride in its beer list, which features more than 100 local brews, including IPAs and amber ales that hail from breweries in Long Island, Ithaca, and Saratoga Springs. At the Restaurant Row location, you can enjoy a pilsner from Coney Island while sitting in a booth constructed from the beach’s old wooden boardwalk.
With six handcrafted beers on tap and a full menu of delicious pub provisions, J.J. Bitting Brewing Company enrobes taste buds in warm, comfortable flavors. The Blazing Brewhouse wings ($5.95) perk up palates with a tangy zest that earned them the title of Best Hot Wings in Woodbridge by BestHotWings.com. Wrangle the Colorado burger's bison patty into hungry mouths aided by sautéed onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried-tomato pesto mayo ($7.95), or follow the delicate salmon steak's incredible journey through pan-searing and potato-breading before rousing it from snug beds of rice and fresh veggies ($15.95). Like the cool table in a high-school cafeteria, Bitting's homegrown pints ($4.50 each) stay popular with or without delicious food. The Garden State IPA balances appealing bitterness with a floral aroma, and the heavily roasted Black Jack Stout swoops up from cellars to slake any thirst in the house.
City Wine Cellar stocks its shelves with hundreds of different wines, champagnes, and liquors. The cellar houses bottles ranging from table wines to high-end vintages from around the world, and lists its wines based on their ratings. They also routinely select choice beverages to feature on their site to help customers become acquainted with bottles they may not have tried.. To help their customers make informed buying decisions, City Wine Cellar hosts regular wine tastings, during which guests learn to detect each wine's variety of flavors without licking the label on the bottle. City Wine also stocks extravagant champagne bottles dating back to 1998 from Krug Grand Cuvee or Taittinger, as well as liquors from around the world, ranging from pisco and anise to whiskey and vodka. To make mixing drinks or serving wines simple, the store also sells a variety of useful accessories.
Every Saturday, wine is free at Elegant Wine & Liquors. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the shop holds a complimentary tasting. Here, the resident sommeliers welcome patrons to sample wines from Italy, New Zealand, and France, as well as domestic vintages from California vineyards. High-caliber spirits from Grey Goose, Bacardi, and Tanqueray also line the densely occupied shelves, reflecting the refined palate of the shop’s owner, Stefanie, who has spent more than a decade in the beer and wine industry. She shows her savvy not only through the eclectic and sprawling selection, but also through customer-oriented touches such as free gift wrapping, a more aesthetic alternative to ensconcing gift wine bottles in slightly bigger wine bottles.
Don’t be fooled by the beers on tap, the happy hour specials, or the games being played on big screen televisions—Corner Table at Whole Foods Market - Millburn-Union is not an average sports bar. Characteristically committed to ethical eating, the taproom presides over a selection of local craft beers and a menu of classic tavern fare made from locally sourced ingredients. The chefs whet appetites with battered avocado fries, accompanied by chipotle-ranch dressing, and locally-produced Chestnut Valley salumi served with a pretzel baguette. On the heartier side of the spread are prosciutto and fennel flatbreads, a pulled-pork sandwich drenched in honey-jalapeño barbecue sauce.
The brainchild of Ivan Ruiz—a sommelier who’s perfected mealtime pairings at restaurants across New York City—the Summit Wine & Food Festival celebrates the intersection between great wine and great food while simultaneously raising funds for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Celebrity chefs from Bravo and the Food Network and local guest chefs share their knowledge during events like mixology classes and a special beer tasting hosted by Spiegelau Crystal, which includes a complementary set of beer tasting glasses for each attendee. Sommeliers also share the spotlight at the summit—showcasing varietals from domestic and international vineyards—and clear up the misconception that grapes are just confident blueberries.