There are some bars that begin as rumors, mere whisperings amongst beer savvy friends and industry enthusiasts, subtle hints as to when and where the alleged joint will pop up. Pickle Shack – Dogfish Head founder and craft beer rockstar Sam Calagione’s newest Brooklyn-based outpost – was one of those bars. Pickle Shack is a joint venture with local picklers Brooklyn Brine, and among the latest in a run of beer-and-snack NYC venues. Since establishing the stunning Birreria atop the Flatiron’s Eataly, Calagione has been systematically plotting to take over the New York City craft beer… or so it seems. And you know what? I’m quite ok with that.
Pickle Shack is an inviting little cafe tucked away on a rapidly gentrifying industrial stretch of a section of Gowanus that in some circles is considered Park Slope, equidistant from the brand new and utterly shiny Whole Foods Brooklyn and the mucky, tar-filled Gowanus Canal. Change comes in stages, and Pickle Shack is decidedly part of this change. Nestled between bodegas and bistros, Pickle Shack combines a relaxed, blonde-wood paneled vibe with a choice tap list, extensive bottle supply and tasty array of healthy-ish vegetarian faire (think cornmeal-crusted oyster mushrooms with tangy cocktail sauce, crunchy, thick cut fries, farm fresh cheese plates and, of course, house made pickles). The service is quick and friendly and the pints runneth over with well-poured selections hand-picked from Dogfish Head’s Delaware brewery, including harder to find numbers like “occasional rarity” Positive Contact – an enticingly spicy concoction of Fuji apple cider, coriander, roasted faro grain and cayenne peppers. On a sunny spring day, you’ll encounter Park Slope moms filling out crossword puzzles alongside Gowanus hipsters, happily brought together under the uniting force of great beer.
Does Pickle Shack live up to its reputation? Well, maybe. As a diehard Dogfish Head fan – Festina Peche was my gateway into craft, after all – it’s hard for me to find fault in any Calagione enterprise. However, in order for Pickle Shack to compete with nearby hop havens like Owl Farm and Mission Dolores, it might have to up its tap game by bringing in something exclusively brewed for the shop or expanding the food menu to include non-veggie options to satisfy a broader swatch of patrons. Then again, if you find yourself in the neighborhood, weary after a taxing trip to Whole Foods and looking to quench a serious thirst, you could do worse than a hop-spiked pickle plate and crispy Aprihop IPA.
Pickle Shack is located at 256 4th Ave. in Brooklyn. Closest subway is the R train at Union Street.