By Eric Sturniolo
Three heirloom tomatoes. One bushel of kale. Four amazing beers fresh from the tap. That was my day (minus the tomatoes and kale; I can’t cook) at the new Whole Foods in Gowanus, Brooklyn. In the huge, shiny store, I focused on the beer and the cafe.
To start your beer experience, head to the back right of the store and you’ll find ground zero for beer lovers…a long refrigerated case full of a wide selection of great beer.
Most is domestic, a lot is local, and all is craft. There are some 6 packs, but mostly single 12 oz and large format bottles, which is great since they let you make your own 6 pack. I was excited to see five different Maine Beer Company bottles ($6.99-$9.99), Evil Twin Justin Blaeber ($11.99), and the hugely popular Goose Island Bourbon County Stout ($5.99).
Around the cooler are a limited number of non-refrigerated six packs/single bottles. I’d recommend a sixer of Lagunitas Sucks ($13.99), or a twelve pack of Founders All Day IPA ($19.99). But an absolute must is Evil Twin Even More Denmark, an imperial stout ($9.99/22oz bottle). This is a collaboration between Evil Twin Brewing, Whole Foods, and Chocopologie, a chocolatier in Norwalk, CT. The beer is brewed with Chocopologie chocolate and smoked chestnuts, but neither flavor is overpowering. The chocolate and smoke actually pair well to hide the alcohol, which makes it very smooth despite its 10.00%ABV. Since you’re already buying the beer, you might well get Chocopologie Chestnut Cocoa Stout Chocolate Truffles ($9.99/box of eight). The truffles are made with the beer that was made with the chocolate. Eat it all together and be confused and satisfied.
Rounding out the beer area is the growler station, with 10 taps. You can bring your own empty growlers or buy one here ($5 for either 32 or 64oz). The prices, depending on the beer, range from $6-12 for a 32oz fill, and $12-23 for a 64oz fill. On the high side, might as well get Even More Denmark ($12/23)! On the cheaper but no less awesome side, I’d recommend the Kelso IPA ($6/12), a dry but juicy beer made nearby in Brooklyn.
When you’re done buying your bottles and filling your growler, head up to the gigantic second level of the store for The Roof, a beer bar/café.
First, the beer. There are 16 rotating taps and over 20 bottles and cans. I recommend the flights ($12/4 pours) to sample as much as possible. My flight consisted of (from left to right) Captain Lawrence Imperial Coffee IPA, Stillwater Stateside Saison, Evil Twin Hop Flood, and (of course) Evil Twin Even More Denmark.
All were great, but I want to focus on the Coffee IPA. Like Even More Denmark, this is a collaboration beer, this time between Captain Lawrence Brewing, Whole Foods, and Stumptown Coffee. Most beer brewed with coffee are stouts, so I was a little hesitant to see how this coffee IPA would work. But it does. It tastes exactly like you think it would…the typical IPA bitterness and hops with a strong backbone of coffee. I don’t even drink coffee, but enjoyed it a lot, although I can’t imagine having more than 1 pint of this. It’s only available at this location, and was only brewed once (never bottled). They had about ¾ of a keg left… when it’s done, it’s done forever. So go try it!
The beer-centered food was fresh and tasty. Whole Foods has pretty high standards for their produce, greens, and meat, and the food at The Roof is made with those same high quality ingredients. To start, the sweet and salty kettle corn ($4) was in fact sweet and salty, but also VERY spicy. Juicy chunks of pineapple was a nice touch. For a small plate, sweet action pork ribs are glazed with Sixpoint Sweet action beer and served with chipotle pickled carrots ($12). The standout on the whole menu is the grilled cheese. I had the BLT with maple cured bacon, arugula, tomato jam, and local New York state Gouda ($10). The buttery, crunchy bread, smoky thick bacon, and tart, acidic tomato jam was a perfect union.
There are also vegetarian grilled cheeses, one with pear ginger preserves and cheddar ($9), and the other with chestnuts red onion, honey and camembert ($10). Other vegetarian/vegan options include a giant kale Caesar salad (vegetarian, $9) and a beet burger (vegan, $9). If you want a full meal here, add a great side like roasted Brussels sprouts with figs ($7) or miso honey baby sweet potatoes ($7).
Finally, if you can, get a slice of pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds ($6) baked daily literally down the block.
There’s a ton of airy seating, and for the warmer months an outdoor dining area with a view of Manhattan (and yes, the Gowanus Canal). The Roof is a great place for a quick lunch, a beer while shopping, or dinner and beers before going out in Park Slope or Gowanus.
Whole Foods Market – Gowanus (214 3rd Street Brooklyn New York 11215 http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/brooklyn 718-907-3622)