Crafting a well-curated beer list is a delicate balancing act for a modern beer bar. Beverage directors need to offset decadent, boozy stouts with crisp, quenchable pilsners; the freshest, juiciest IPAs with funky farmhouse ales.
“In my mind, a great beer bar has knowledgeable, unpretentious staff; a tap list that encompasses a variety of styles; and, of course, an awesome ambiance,” shared Chris Maestro, the owner of BierWax. Maestro facilitates a great time at BierWax through his extensive hip-hop vinyl collection. “BierWax focuses on hip-hop and the genres that hip-hop has mined for samples: jazz, soul, funk, Latin and some rock,” Maestro explains. “I focus on artists and try to complete certain discographies. I hope to find all of the LPs that were released during the ‘Golden Age of Hip-Hop’—everything from Gangstarr to the various Wu-Tang releases.”
During the day, beer drinkers can expect more mellow selections with BierWax bartenders selecting jazz or soul records. In the evening, Maestro will throw on some old school Hip Hop or invite DJs to spin records for the night.
About five blocks south of BierWax is Gold Star Beer Counter. Featuring a minimalist design and a comfortable, lived-in aesthetic, Gold Star is one of Brooklyn’s coziest places to drink. Plus, owner Josh van Horn maintains one of the best draft lists in the city with regular appearances from Crooked Stave, Threes and Tired Hands. One of the less lauded aspects of the bar is van Horn’s extensive record collection.
“I mostly like to play rock and folk stuff,” van Horn mentioned. “It’s a lot from the ’70s and ’80s. More indie styles, though. We’ll play soul, jazz, some groovy records. It’s kind of all over the place.” It’s no surprise to find the evocative voice of Charles Bradley filling the narrow bar as you wait for a glass of an Oxbow saison or Suarez pilsner.
“One of my goals with our music was to make sure you can always have a conversation without having to yell,” van Horn shared. “Sharing my record collection with craft beer fans wasn’t always my intention but it’s been a great way to connect with folks who come in for a beer. And we’re usually happy to play a record that someone brings in for us.”
But why craft beer and records? “I think there are a lot of commonalities between craft beer and record collecting,” explained Maestro. “There’s this endless quest to try rare beers and collect hard to find bottles, the same way there’s an incessant search for rare LPs.”
“It’s a way to set the mood,” van Horn shared. “It adds some personality to the drinking experience.”
Need some record recommendations? Maestro has been getting a lot of mileage out of Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs and Anderson .Paak’s second LP Malibu. Eternally Even, the most recent solo record from My Morning Jacket’s lead singer Jim James, has been played quite a bit at Gold Star.
Chris Maestro regularly hosts record sales and swaps in the BierWax backyard so stop by to expand your own collection. Then, make the short walk to Gold Star to share your newest find with Josh van Horn.