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  • Writer's pictureJersey Johnny

Spuyten Duyvil NYC - End Of An Era

Approaching 20 years ago now, my cousin Adam brought me to this fairly new beer bar in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I immediately fell in love with the place, and it quickly became the beer bar to which I measured all other beer bars up to. I’m speaking, of course, about Spuyten Duyvil.

Not to be confused with the section of the Bronx bearing the same name, this Metropolitan Avenue (Brooklyn) haunt, with its long, inviting bar, mismatched furniture (including several high tops, tables toward the back and even a few window seats which I must say are always fun to sit and hang out in) and cozy backyard (a must on nice days) has been nothing short of a beer drinkers paradise over the last 20 years. It’s warm, inviting, hip but homey feel always made me want to stay longer and longer. Almost as long as the beer selection did on its own.

Spuyten Duyvil has had so many stellar beers seemingly always readily accessible. From a great draft list with many remarkable finds (the first time that I ever had Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel on tap was there), to a terrific local list, a superb German bottle list, several well-chosen English bottles (I rarely ever went without getting a vintage bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale. Just had a 2005 there recently) and such a tremendous Belgian beer bottle list that it was always certainly second to none.

Many great events have happened here over the years. Annual events like their “The Big Woody” Barrel-Aged Beer Day, “Zwanze Day” in celebration of the annual Cantillon Lambic Release, and even some smaller local brewery events like Brooklyn Brewery, Hudson Valley Brewing (from Beacon, NY) and many others.

I have introduced many people to this wonderful place over the years too. And with each introduction, a different story as to their initial thoughts on the place, as well as experiences had with them there on so very many occasions.

Two years or so ago, Spuyten Duyvil underwent a transformation. The amazing beer bar was seemingly put somewhat aside in favor of Amaro and Vermouth. Now, while I actually happen to enjoy Amaro and Vermouth, the fact that these herbaceous, sweet and savory spirits were now encroaching on my beloved beer bar caused me to feel slightly befuddled.

This change was indeed a byproduct of the pandemic. I could only guess this was so because the owner felt the need for a connection to a different crowd for a jumpstart.

However, this sense of angst only lasted a couple of visits. After a little digging I found out that the back wall behind the bar, adorned with many bottles of the floral liqueurs, had not replaced the wonderland of beer that I had come to rely on (even though the hand written chalkboards were gone). You just had to ask the bartender for “the list” and you were all set.

As mentioned just a few words back, I recently visited yet again (enjoying a 2005 Thomas Hardy’s Ale, as well as several others) and had a conversation with the bar staff. I had already heard some rumblings regarding the current status of the bar, but needed to find out a bit more info for myself.

Well, it actually upsets me greatly that this amazing city oasis of craft is now closing its doors for good. Not because of a failing business, but for a disinterest by the property owner in renewing the lease. I, of course, did not get the proverbial “both sides of the story”, but I’m curious as to how a 20 year tenant, with a proven business on the premises as well as two solid business both right next door (St. Anselm) and across the street (Fette Sau) couldn’t work out a lease extension.

Apparently, however, the property owner for the building in which Spuyten Duyvil is located is indeed not the same ownership as the other two. Let’s just hope, for cold comfort sake, that the reason for this unceremonious dismissal from continuing to do business is not for the purpose of opening yet another Starbucks or the like (insert your not-so-favorite corporate establishment here). If it’s a matter of being “priced out”, which it almost certainly is, it’s the epitome of irony that the bar that greatly helped with the gentrification of the neighborhood, causing the higher rents, is asked to leave in favor of those higher rents.

Of course, there have been many other instances of these occurrences in and around the city. The problem is when these new corporate entities decide the neighborhood isn’t supporting their business the way they anticipated, they close up shop. It’s easier for them to just cut and run. Then these properties go empty for a while.

It’s cyclical I guess.

You may call this “the end of an era”, or maybe it’s just a testament to an ever-changing city scape. Whatever you call it, I’m sad. I’ll just have to get back there before they close for good, with as many of the people I have gone with over the years. Especially Adam.


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