5 Best Beer and Cheese Spots in New York

One of my favorite new styles of beer bars is the market-hybrid, and they're cropping up like mad. These shops sell beer by the bottle, usually with an entire wall dedicated to refrigerated cases, but also often sell pints to drink on the spot. And many have some sort of food component built in, too, whether it's a small deli counter or an entire charcuterie list, plated and served alongside a flight of craft beer.

Between this kind of shop and other small restaurants specializing in cheesey foods and craft beers, I have been loving what I see. These five are my favorite beer and cheese specialty shops and restaurants in New York.

191 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn (Park Slope)
Beirkraft offers an enormous selection of beers to take home or drink on the spot, including both bottled beers and draughts that you can order by the glass or growler. Picnic tables inside the horseshoe-shaped bar provide ample room for spreading out a few glasses of beer, as well as the  sandwiches, cheese, and bags of chips and nuts you can buy at the deli counter right inside the same store. Check out the freezer cases for some amazing ice cream sandwiches, too. The taps rotate often. Go mid-day on a weekend, as the place closes fairly early, and enjoy the outdoor patio in the summer.

ABC Beer Co.
96 Avenue C, Manhattan
ABC Beer Co. has much more nightlife than Bierkraft--it's open until 2AM on Fridays and Saturdays--while still feeling more like a sit-down deli than an Alphabet City bar. It also has bottles and taps, although I've been turned down from drinking a bottle inside the establishment itself, so be prepared to drink off the small but well curated tap list.

The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway, Astoria
I adore The Queens Kickshaw, a chic beer restaurant that specializes in some of the most interesting grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever tasted. Try the egg sandwich with ricotta, and a cheese crisp, and maple hot sauce. The beer selection is super, both bottled and draught, although you can't take the bottles out as Kickshaw is a restaurant and not a market. Kickshaw also makes damn fine coffee.

Earl's Beer and Cheese
1259 Park Ave., Manhattan
Earl's takes the cake for being the weirdest of all the beer and cheese shops in New York. It serves grilled cheese sandwiches and a beer-cheese dip, rather than cheese plates. And they have a burrito that's disgustingly large. Earl's itself is tiny, as is its tap list (four on my last visit, which was admittedly a few months ago), and they don't sell beers by the bottle. But Earl's is wildly interesting and does pick some fantastic and original beers to try.

Astoria Bier and Cheese
34-14 Broadway, Astoria
Another Astoria spot? It's true, and who would have thought it? Astoria Bier and Cheese is so new I've only been once so far, and the place still seems to be getting its legs. There's a lovely tap selection, full array of bottles to drink on the spot or carry out, a cheese and meat counter, as well as a flat-top grill and sandwich press for grilled cheese and other sandwiches. I had a flight of four beers recently ($10) that were all knew to me, a good sign of an interesting selection.

Site of the Day: Skydrive.Live

Over the next few days here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorite websites. Enjoy!

Did you know you can use free and legal copies of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint online? People who work with technology quite a bit likely already know about Skydrive, but I'm always surprised how many others have never heard of it. That's probably in part due to Microsoft's notoriously poor processes of choosing names for products, switching the names, and bungling the media outread (sorry, Microsoft, but it's painfully true).

Update: Microsoft will be renaming Skydrive due to a trademark battle in the U.K. Can I just say that this is so completely typical? One of my biggest complaints about Microsoft's products and services is that they are inconsistently named and often renamed during the course of their lifetimes, which means if you search for information or tutorials about the service online, you might not find what you need because you would have to be searching under the old name.

Think of Skydrive as being similar to Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), only it's all sanctioned by Microsoft. You get Web-based access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so that you can create and edit documents that run in those programs. You also get some free online (ehem, "cloud") storage with an account.

How do you get Skydrive? Simple. Sign up for any Microsoft Live account, which includes Hotmail and Outlook.com. If you already have a Hotmail account, you already have Skydrive. Look in the upper left corner of the screen. See that down-pointing carat? Click, and you'll see Skydrive as an option.

Students especially should know about Skydrive because unless they need the full version of Microsoft Office, with every single feature, then they can probably get by with Skydrive and don't have to buy Microsoft Office! That's really a big deal. I wish I had had Skydrive when I was in college.

Site of the Day: Focus@Will

Over the next few days here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorite websites. Enjoy!

Focus@Will, pronounced as "focus at will," streams music designed to help you focus. All the tracks it plays are lyric-free. The site has different styles of music, or stations, such as cinematic, spa, ambient, and others. The idea is that the music is designed to minimize distractions and help you keep your eyes on the task at hand; in other words, you listen to it while you're at work.

Certainly, a lot of people already listen to their favorite playlists while they work, and still manage to focus, and to them I'd say Focus@Will is probably not for you. If you already have a listening routine that enables or enhances your productivity, so be it. But if you could use something to help cancel out distractions from your environment, it's well a worth a shot.

For $3.99 a month, you can add some special features to your Focus@Will account, but I say pass on that. The features aren't that great, and you can get what you need out of the free version.

Site of the Day: Global Fat Scale

Over the next few days here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorite websites. Enjoy!

Global Fat Scale
I really wish the BBC had a more permanently configured web page with a memorable URL for its Global Fat Scale calculator, because it's actually very cool. You key in your age, sex, height, weight, and country in which you live, and it spits back out your BMI and some stats about how you compare to others in your country and across the world.

Global Fat Scale results and factoids show countries where your sized body,
based on body mass index, is average according to age and sex.

For example, with a BMI of 22 (no decimal places are used, but I'm actually more like 22.9!), I am most similarly sized with women of my age in Niger. If I gain a pound, I'm more like women in Liberia. The site displays some other neat factoids, too, such as:
"If everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would remove 16,565,158 tonnes from the total weight of the world's population."
What's really neat is to scroll through the display of countries on the chart that this website outputs to see how various nations rank next to one another. If you scroll way down to the bottom, where people are very slim, you will find a list of mostly poorer countries... plus Japan at number 14.

Where do you fall on the global fat scale?
Countries with the leanest women, on average, age 30-44
(ranked bottom to top; i.e., Ethiopia is 1, Sri Lanka is 2, etc.)

Site of the Day: GlobalRichList

Over the next few days here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorite websites. Enjoy!

Feeling poor? Nothing changes that feeling in a heartbeat like GlobalRichList. Go to this site, enter your salary or net worth ("wealth"), select your country's currency, and be amazed to see just how rich you really are (if you're reading this blog, chances are you're in the very tippy top).

Scroll down to see more statistics about how lucky you really are in the grand scheme of things.

What I love about GlobalRichList is it doesn't make you feel guilty about your wealth so much as cultivate a desire to be more generous, which you can do by making a charitable donation right from the same page. I'm not sure if the organizations change from time to time, but it was Care International the last time I visited the site.

Site of the Day: ifttt

Over the next few days here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorite websites. Enjoy!

ifttt stands for "if this, then that." It's a free website that lets you create automations, or "recipes," for your digital life. For example, you can use ifttt to follow this command: "If I someone tags me in a photo on Facebook, then save that photo to Dropbox." Another one might be, "If Apple's stock price reaches $500.00 per share, then send me an email notification."

It supports a wide array of websites where you likely already have accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Evernote, Blogger, ESPN, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Wordpress, and you can even connect it to your phone number to receive calls or text messages.

ifttt is free and super simple to use. I just love it.

Site of the Day: AlternativeTo.net

Over the next few days here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorite websites. Enjoy!

When  you don't have the software of app you need (usually because it's too expensive), you can turn to AlternativeTo.net for suggestions. Just type into the search bar whatever app, software program, or service you need, and AlternativeTo will offer suggestions for alternatives. This site uses community feedback to rank the applications that are suggested, and you can read reviews of the suggestions, too.

In the image below, you can see I've asked for alternatives to Adobe Photoshop. The list of suggestions was quite long, but you can see the top three: GIMP, Paint.net, and Pixelmator.

AlternativeTo is a great resource for finding new apps, services, and the like, or just browsing for useful tools.

Site of the Day: Doodle

Over the next few days,  here and on social media (follow me on Twitter), I'll be sharing some of my favorites websites. Enjoy!

Doodle is a free website that helps you find a time when all your friends or colleagues are free for an event, meeting, or appointment.

Go to Doodle.com, create a free account, and the site will walk you through the steps of making a poll. People can reach the poll from a URL that Doodles gives you, and the respondents don't have to be Doodle users to respond.