We all deserve a little positive reinforcement from time to time, whether it’s for resisting the urge to squeeze through closing subway doors or finally leaving the laundromat with the same number of socks we came in with. Thankfully, a number of New York City bars have realized they can do more than just sling drinks to make us feel good, and are rewarding loyal patrons for their adventurous spirits or just good ol’ fashioned persistence when it comes to the art of drinking. Whether they’re presenting you with your very own mug, an engraved plaque or a simple t-shirt, these are the watering holes you should frequent if you want to get a little somethin’ somethin’ for your loyalty (sorry, no new livers yet).
With two locations—in Hell’s Kitchen and the UES—Pony Bar boasts more than 40 taps combined, all focused on American craft beers. Each location’s website updates its taps in real time, so you can scope out new offerings before you head down. Sample 100 different brews, which you can track on the bar’s free app, and you’ll be rewarded for your varied tastes with Pony Bar’s All American T-shirt. Scout Tip: Legend has it if you hit 400 you’ll have earned your way to a sweatshirt, but by the time you get there your newly developed beer gut should be enough to keep you plenty warm.
This Long Island City bar ups the ante by putting a time frame on your ability to join its mug club—you have 30 days to drink 40 different styles of beer. Complete the feat, and you’ll receive a 16-ounce mug with your name on it. Think that’s a piece of cake? Then graduate to the Premium Club, which involves a 12-ounce goblet for the pub’s specialty suds, and the same 30-day time frame. Alewife also has on-premise lockers to hold 12 of the mugs, and ownership is rotated every three months. Play your cards right, and you could score your very own beer-dedicated holding area—a much cooler use for lockers than books and gym clothes.
Join this UWS bar’s beer club and your name will be added to the pub’s wall of fame once you’ve sampled 100 different beers. You’ll be in good company, with some members managing more than 300 pints since the club’s inception less than a decade ago. On an average day, George Keeley has 22 different brews on tap, plus a cask-conditioned offering. Sounds like “bottoms up” to us.
The Blind Tiger
Already a spot revered by NYC-area beer geeks, The Blind Tiger also offers a lesser-known Connoisseur Club to encourage drinkers to expand their palates. Try 51 different beers (you’ll have to keep track of them on your own, since the beer bar did away with its cards), and you’ll be bestowed a plaque, T-shirt and all-important bragging rights. If you’re still not sick of beer, entry to the club also scores you happy hour prices all day and all night Sunday through Wednesday.
The Dead Poet
They say variety is the spice of life, but if you’re more of a one-trick pony, The Dead Poet’s 100 Pint Club is probably more up your alley. Guinness lovers get the honor of having their names engraved on a Guinness plaque once they reach 100 pints of the Irish beer, and 500 pints earns you your very own plaque and a photo on the bar’s Guinness Wall of Fame. You’ll be in good company—since introducing the club in 2001, more than 1,000 members have earned a spot on the plaque.