Best restaurants for beer pairings

These eateries are as serious about suds as they are about food.

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  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

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    Back Forty

  • Photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein

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    Beer Table

  • Photograph: courtesy http://www.flickr.com/kiyomi3631

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    Cafe D'Alsace

  • Photograph: courtesy DBGB

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    DBGB

Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

backforty01

Back Forty

Against the Grain
Wine and beer partisans come together over small plates at this rustic neighborhood brew joint, which also offers serious selections from the adjacent vino bar Grape and Grain. A menu organized from "light" and "white" (think pilsners and lagers) to "dark" and "darker" (stouts, barley wines) helps newbs navigate the smartly curated picks, which tend toward American craft brews like the supremely hoppy Green Flash Imperial IPA ($8) and the crisp Belgium-style North Coast Le Merle from California ($9, currently off the list). The easygoing menu of pizzas, sandwiches and savory bites (such as braised short ribs with polenta. $17) is just as democratic. A communal table in the center is used to host seasonal beer dinners, and it can be booked for private tastings customized to your party (12--18 people). 620 E 6th St between Aves B and C (212-358-7065, grapeandgrain.net)

Back Forty
Artisanal craft beers are a natural match for the seasonal grub at chef Peter Hoffman's farmhouse-style tavern. In keeping with the local bent of the cooking, regional producers such as Captain Lawrence and Keegan (both in-state) get marquee treatment on the well-edited draft list, while bottles roster ventures a bit further afield to showcase other cult U.S. producers. The staff is versed in the offerings and can suggest pairings for your meal. It's worth seeing which hand-drawn cask is on offer—on a recent visit, a Tregs pale ale from Pennsylvania ($7) was a hit paired with the juicy grass-fed burger ($11) and bite-size pork-jowl nuggets ($4 for three), its crisp fruity and floral punch balancing the salty richness of both dishes. 190 Ave B between 11th and 12th Sts (212-388-1990, backfortynyc.com)

Beer Table
Justin and Tricia Philips's trailblazing eatery is built on the philosophy that beer and food should be enjoyed together. The approach is reflected in one of the city's most unusual drink selections, which often includes rare old-world bottles. Order from the seasonal market menu (available la carte, or as a $25 three-course prix fixe plus $15 for three beer pairings). Or talk to friendly staffers, who might guide you toward a rye-and-black-peppercorn--infused Dieu Du Ciel! Route Des pices ($10) to lift the fattiness of the duck-and-beef meat loaf ($12). Beer Table is also a full-service hops-head HQ, filling growlers and hosting weekly events, such as brewmaster talks and home-brewer meet-ups. 427B Seventh Ave between 14th and 15th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-965-1196, beertable.com)

Caf d'Alsace
French styles like Bire de Garde—a strong farmhouse ale traditionally brewed in winter and matured until spring—are well represented on the meticulous beer list here, but there are plenty of other varieties to explore. A whopping 132 bottles are organized into 18 styles, from pilsners to lambics. Delve into vertical vintages (the same beer bottled in different years), such as the champagnelike Deus Cuve Prestige ($44) from 2005, 2008 and 2009. To help you navigate the unfamiliar selection, flag down affable beer sommelier Gianni Cavicchi. He's an ace at pairing the Germanic-influenced plates with their perfect partners. 1695 Second Ave at 88th St (212-722-5133, cafedalsace.com)

DBGB
Downtown denizens pack Daniel Boulud's raucous brasserie for wieners both traditional (lamb merguez on a bun $9, on a plate $15) and inspired (Thai red curry and lemongrass, $14), plus burgers, raw-bar platters and French-inflected small plates. Beer sommelier Hayley Jensen stewards an international list of 22 drafts and 60 bottles chosen to enhance the eclectic eats. Cut through the richness of the Viennoise ($14)—an Emmentaler-cheese-stuffed pork sausage with house-made sauerkraut—with a crisp lager, like the slightly smoky Schlenkerla Helles (250ml bottle $9). 299 Bowery between E Houston and 1st Sts (212-933-5300, danielnyc.com)

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