Top Hops Beer Shop

Top Hops Beer Shop

I admit this with some amount of shame, but I don’t know my beer. Sure, terms like “dark” and “light” I can get a handle on, but especially a few months ago I might have guessed that Doppelbock and Weizenbock were monsters from German folklore rather than something I would ever drink. Because of this handicap, I would have expected that wandering into a haven for beer enthusiasts would make me feel like a Neanderthal entering the Louvre. So, when I ventured into Top Hops Beer Shop last month, I didn’t expect to feel particularly welcome. Tucked away on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, a sign above the entry read “Merchants & Advocates of Great Beer,” and charmingly tinted glass comprised the whole front wall of the shop. Inside, I first noticed the thick, stylishly curved bar, and a few good-humored patrons seated there. The wall opposite the bar hosted an assortment of beer memorabilia, and the whole place had a minimalist and surprisingly welcoming atmosphere.I took a few tentative steps toward the back of the shop, where refrigerators lined two walls, filled with bottles of a staggering number and variety. I was just beginning to feel entirely lost when the young barkeep approached me, and asked me if I needed help with anything.If only he knew. I mumbled something about looking to buy some beer, probably. He smiled and asked what kind, since they had a lot of that there. I frankly admitted that I hadn’t the faintest clue, and asked if he had any recommendations for a blank slate.That was the point where I most expected a mob of angry, pitchfork-wielding and beer-loving townspeople might storm out of the back room to punish me for my ignorance. No such mob made an appearance. Instead, my barkeep friend only chuckled, and peered into the glass doors to make a few suggestions. With liberal help from his encyclopedic knowledge of beer, I narrowed down the daunting quantity of bottles to my final selection of Three Philosophers, a quadrupel ale from Brewery Ommegang. I must admit that I chose it almost entirely because of its name, seasoned of course with a confirmative nod from my guide.I began to understand later that evening why people love beer. I’ve returned twice since then, and might have started down the road to becoming an enthusiast myself. Nothing I’ve purchased or even sampled has disappointed. Whether you’re seated at the bar for their regularly rotated selection on tap, or standing at the tables in the back to share a growler between a few friends, the ambience is a pleasant change from bars of the rowdy or morose variety.Anyone interested in beer, from the complete novice to the avid cerevisaphile, can find something they’ll like. The bar and shop are clean and crisp in appearance, the staff I’ve encountered has been knowledgeable and helpful, and most importantly, the beer is great. Top Hops is top shelf.

» Top Hops, 94 Orchard St., 212.254.4677