My first Beer Class at Top Hops NYC

I arrived in New York over a month ago now (mid December 2015) and while still dealing with jet lag I found myself drinking beers from a craft house somewhere lower east village Manhattan.

Little did I know, I was drinking in one of Weekly Pint’s Top 20 Best Beer Shops In America. 

I had stumbled upon Top Hops

And oh, what a find.

A blackboard wall lists the current beers with keg tap dates etc, and my jaw hit the flaw as I read through the list. So many things I’ve never tried before. 

The beer was delicious. The barman was knowledgeable, swift and generous. I was happy.

I finished my tasting paddle and ordered a pint of something dark, what I thought was tastiest. Oh the flavor of good beer.

Next thing I know I’m not only feeling buzzed but also my sleeve tugged on – it’s time to go now Pat.

But I didn’t want to go anywhere.

This place was beautiful. This was my peace. My happy place.

On the way out I took a quick snap of the poster on the wall, it said ‘beer classes’ and that was all I needed. I’m new to this city and what better way to learn the streets than by spending an evening with some local – and evidently distinguished – craft brew heads.

Classes were kicking off late January 2016. I would have to wait it out, but finally, last night, the wait was over.

#1 lesson from the my first night

When it snows in New York it will probably cause subway delays.

I’d waited over a month for this only to be sitting in a tunnel somewhere under Manhattan. 

Wandering in late I put on a brave face and was pointed to the back of the hall by the friendly gent at the bar after questioning him with the simple words “Beer school?”

My seat was still there, praise the maker, and the beers were already flowing. 

The eight of us (the students) were seated on bar stools around tables filled with beer and pretzels. This is the best school I’ve ever been to.

Our teacher stood surrounded by his beers and basically had a conversation with us about beer.

Knowledgeable in seemingly all things beer Josh Wood took us on a Belgian beer ride for the senses. 

Often when tasting different beer (or wine) after a while they sort of all roll in together on your palate, and in your mind.

Interestingly, the Belgian journey we were taken on had some real variation to it, and of course understanding why the difference in flavor occurs is all part of the fun.

Aging beer is an actual thing, and it’s awesome

What was really cool was Josh brought a few of his own beers from home that he’d had aging.

This meant we were able to compare side by side some delicious original Chimay Primiére ales and also St. Bernardus Abt 12, five and one year apart respectively. I was shocked at just how different the beer tasted.

My preference with both beers was the more aged version, but of course not everyone was in agreeance. This is fine. More beer for everyone else.2016-01-25 20.44.24

The balsamic beauty Duchesse De Bourgogne is a perfect example of just how wild some of these flavors get. Probably wouldn’t spend all night with her but really interesting and flavorful. 2016-01-25 20.47.06

Evening favorites

Of course difficult to say as there were beers for multiple occasions on show, some slow sippers, some flavor punches, some fizz poppers – and even this raspberry in a bottle Lindemans Framboise Lambic.2016-01-25 20.46.42

The Orval Trappist Ale made a mark in my mind as one that I will be getting into again, crazy complex, so many flavors to experience. If you ever get the chance – try this beer.2016-01-25 20.46.14

A look at my phone this morning and realise that there is only one beer that I actually took the time to note down – and that is the Saison Dupont. High carbonation, nice and dry, tingly, delicious.2016-01-25 19.51.57

Josh suggested Vietnamese spring rolls would work a treat with this beer, and I think I might make it this weekends goal to make that happen.

Verdict: beer classes are worth it

The beer class is small, there is plenty to sample, and with its intimate setting guarantees any questions you have will be answered quick smart.

But when you go to these type of things you not only want to learn something new – you want value, you want flavor, and what you really want is an experience. 

Top Hops delivered. This was a relaxed, fun environment. I’ll be back.

Our teacher for the evening even stayed back and kicked on, happy to chat with a room full of strangers who all have one thing in common: we all like beer. 


Top Hops beer classes run seasonally. See if they can fit you in during your next trip to NYC.


Beer Snack Almanac all about finding the perfect ingredients to eat, drink and be merry. If you’re interested in improving your skills as a beer loving host then go ahead and download the free eBook The Way Of The Pintsman: 7 Secrets Of Beer Snack Legends.

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