|Yes, I stole this photo from Niko Krommydas & Black Sheep. Sue me. Not really, though.|
Yep. I went there. I think The Black Sheep Ale House is Long Island's best beer bar. Right now, you might be asking yourself, "Why? Why not Waterzooi, with their delicious Belgian fare and impressive bottle list? Why not Croxley's or The Lark or any of the other countless pub-style bars scattered around the island?" At this point, you could stumble into an Applebee's on Long Island and find an impressive selection of local drafts. Hell, you might even be thinking, "What the crap is The Black Sheep Ale House?" Either way, it's a damn good thing I'm here to answer all those questions.
The Black Sheep Ale House is a relative newcomer to the local craft scene, owned by the former Manager of Croxley's New York on the Lowest East Side of Manhattan. Nestled within the backstreets of Mineola, the bar is hidden well enough that you would never find it if you didn't specifically know where to look, but is actually only a stone's throw from the Mineola train station.
The location is the first of many reasons why Black Sheep is amazing. For starters, getting to and from is a cinch. Want to indulge in that crazy, 14% ABV Barleywine on tap? Go nuts and grab a cab from the taxi stand at the station. Simple, easy, safe. But on top of that, the side street locale works wonders to ward off walk-ins and bar-hoppers, so the patrons are largely regulars, always friendly, and the place is never over-crowded. This allows the bartenders, who I've always found friendly and extremely knowledgeable, to relax, strike up a conversation, and answer questions. It makes the whole thing feel less formal than a lot of other places and more like people just hanging out, which I love.
|Stolen from Yelp, which is why it isn't as nice as the previous photo.|
Another component that makes Black Sheep the best beer bar on Long Island is, obviously, the beer. The guys and gals that run this joint put together an ever-evolving list of 25 taps, 75 bottles and 1 cask that, in my opinion, could rival the best of what Manhattan bars have to offer, which is no small feat for an off-the-beaten-path pub. They recognize that building a beer list isn't just about quantity, but also quality, and devise a nightly menu that finds the perfect balance of styles from around the globe, but largely emphasizes budding local breweries, like Blind Bat, Barrier and Spider Bite. Brewers and reps from these start-ups are often invited down to host tap takeovers, where patrons can enjoy their brews at discounted prices while picking the brewers brain, which is great in the low-key environment and has major appeal to a homebrewer such as myself. The icing on the cake is that Black Sheep isn't afraid to jump on a rare or one-off keg of something if its really extraordinary, even if its pricey. I've had the pleasure to try such oddities as Firestone Walker XV, Southern Tier Oak-Aged Pumking, and Smuttynose Satchmo, all of which were incredible and priced far cheaper than I'd seen anywhere else.
Most importantly, though, Black Sheep Ale House was clearly designed with the customers in mind. It's that element that really separates them from the pack. They make it obvious upon entry that their bar is your space and you could do whatever you like. Want to watch the game? There are 11 HDTV's that they're more than happy to tune to whatever you'd like. Want to catch up with old friends? There are always quiet seats in the back. Need a bite to eat? They don't have a kitchen, but serve up free hot dogs all day. Once for a birthday party, they even let my friends and I come in, claim the large back table, decorate it in mustache paraphernalia, and bring in a full cake with plates and cutlery. Every Wednesday is Trivia Night with photographer, blogger and all-around Long Island craft expert, Niko Krommydas, that, though I've never been, is supposed to be awesome. Oh, and the bathrooms are lined with chalk boards to graffiti to your heart's content, the contents of which get increasingly more ridiculous and awesome as the night progresses and the drinks continue to flow. It's all a testament to how much they care that you're comfortable and enjoying yourself.
|Some late-night, chalkboard absurdity from FourSquare.|
What really sealed the deal for me, though, was when I saw this posted on Black Sheep's Facebook Wall on July 10th:
"Some guy asked me how the bar's been doing since we started selling all those 'upscale', 'high-end', 'pricey' beers. From now until Labor Day, draughts from all 25 taps are $4, every day, all the time. Fuck you, guy."
The layers of win in that statement, like an onion of awesomesauce, completely blew my mind. Black Sheep wasn't afraid to put their money where their mouth is and have kept true to their statement. $4 for anything on tap, all the time, until Labor Day. Since the announcement I've been to many happy hours, and by happy hour, I mean 10pm on a Tuesday, because it's always happy hour, suckas.
Try to get out to Black Sheep before the holiday and take advantage of the best deal in the history of craft beer. I promise, you'll quickly discover why this hidden gem is the best beer bar on Long Island. Whatever you're into, whatever kind of person you are, they'll find a way to make you feel like you're at home, albeit slightly more intoxicated. Pretty soon, you'll become a regular and find yourself returning long after the Labor Day deals are over.