Shifty’s Bar, off of Burnet Avenue, is a beloved Syracuse institution. Opened in 1969, it boasts live music five nights a week, award-winning chicken wings and has garnered a loyal following. Shifty’s checks off many of the dive bar conventions along with some more premium accoutrements. The space is fairly bare bones and split into two rooms, one with the bar, informal seating and a corner wedge stage. The other is dominated by a pool table, which is probably a crowd pleaser, but leaves me confused. I would think more seating would bring more revenue but what do I know, I just like to drink booze, eat food and write about it later. I don’t like a sticky floor, but given the amount of foot traffic, I understand. The breweriana was limited, but the framed and signed pictures of visiting bands and patrons behind the stage enhances the local touch. The tin ceiling is another pleasing design aspect you often see in older area buildings. A row of Harleys always adorns the outside and folks of all stripes can rub shoulders inside.
Despite a mob scene of a crowd, I did get service without too much of a wait. They offer a fairly large craft beer selection, draft and bottled, some wine and a decent spirits line up. Given the atmosphere, I skipped my usual cocktail start; this is a beer and a whiskey spot. After I left my card and gave a more than generous tip on my first round I had to fight to get any further attention; the three bartenders were basically doing triage service. I went with Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, a 7 ABV 55 IBU AIPA that I’ve had before. This is a great beer with a piney resin hop balanced well by sweet caramel malts. The mouthfeel is smooth and silky and one could pile these down all night. The temperature was a touch high and the taste not quite what I remembered. This could indicate stressed lines. Generally speaking, the colder and tastier the beer the better yield they are getting out of the taps. When I go back, I’ll be sure to sample a few more and see how it goes, in the name of professionalism, of course.