Bags it up: The 8 best bars for playing cornhole in Brooklyn

The Great Cornholio: 8 of the best bars for playing bags in Brooklyn

Photo via Brooklyn Crab.

To say a lot of Brooklyn’s ~hipster~ culture has been influenced by the Midwest would be… accurate. Mom jeans, dad bods, PBR — there’s a lot of goodness to borrow from the so-called flyover states. And now we can add another thing to the list of Midwestern traditions making an appearance in our fair borough: bags.

Cornhole, bags, bean bag toss, baggo — whatever you want to call it, the number of places in Brooklyn to play the king of all yard games is on the rise, and we’re pretty psyched. (Though for the record, it’s bags. What is this, Ohio?). It’s the perfect game for almost any occasion — a nice summer day, relaxing at the beach, tailgating this fall.

You get to drink while playing, but you’re not playing to drink, ya know? It moves fairly quickly, and you can still be social, so it’s not like you have to make some big commitment to go isolate in a corner for an hour during a party. And though we wouldn’t call it a spectator sport, it’s more entertaining to watch than a lot of other games.

While we’re happy to see more and more bags sets around town, we’ve also noticed most of these spots don’t have any house rules, meaning wiley tourists or people from Massachusetts are just making up their own rules, willy-nilly. And that’s no good. To help spread the love and entertainment — and to save you from the embarrassment of not knowing a woodie from a cornhole* — here’s a quick guide on how and where to play your new favorite bar game.
*JK, no one really cares about this.

Also, because we know this is going to come up in the comments, it’s worth noting that although the exact origins are unknown, this game likely got its start in southern Ohio, where it’s most commonly referred to as “cornhole.” Different parts of the country call it by other names.

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Bags on the roof. Photo via @rooftopreds on Instagram.

Bags on the roof. Photo via @rooftopreds on Instagram.

First, how to play

The Basics: It’s really simple. Kinda like horseshoes. Play in singles or teams of two. Alternate throwing the bean bags (there should be four; the best are filled with dried corn kernels) into a hole in a board (hopefully made of wood) across the court, which should be 27 feet away if you’re playing regulation.

Scoring: If your bag lands on the board, it’s one point; if it goes in the hole, it’s three. These are supposedly called a “woodie” and a “cornhole,” respectively; but that really doesn’t matter at all. (Author’s note: I’ve played this game my entire life and have never heard either of these terms uttered during play, but others — likely from Ohio — have, and the American Cornhole Organization uses them, so sure. Wikipedia has a whole list of jargon if you really want to sound cool on the court) First team to 21 wins.

The Nuances: Pay attention, this is where it gets important.

• No Bouncing: A bag that bounces off the grass and onto the board doesn’t count and must be removed. Once it hits the ground in any way, even if it’s leaning on the board, it’s dead. The end.

• Cancellation Scoring: Only one team can earn points each round. When both teams are done throwing, tally the score by subtracting the lower scoring team’s points from the higher scoring team’s. Once someone tried some bullshit where each round we counted all the bags for each team, and then whoever had the most points after 12 rounds or something won. No. That is wrong. This isn’t basketball, it’s bags.

The game ends at 21 points: And technically, you’re supposed to win by at least two. But sure, if you’re at a busy bar and people are waiting, or your group is struggling (read: you’re slow), maybe scratch these rules and play ‘til 11, or even 8?

Court Size: The front edge of the platforms should be 27 feet apart. But this is Brooklyn and space is at a premium, so we work with what we have.

Don’t Cross The Line: Throw from anywhere you want, so long as your toes never cross the front of the board. Don’t let someone tell you you have to be behind the board itself (though feel free to make up some “Over the line!” drinking penalties). Stand where you’re comfortable. Also, try switching sides if you’re not doing so well (from the left to the right of the board, or vice versa). It might help.

Surface Texture: This is hard to enforce, but ideally, the platforms shouldn’t be too grippy or too slippery. If so intended, a skilled player should be able to toss the bag so it slides into the hole without landing flat or sliding off (though there are times when both of those results are desirable).

Other fun house rules:

When tossing, you must hold a beer in your other hand: There’s a technical benefit to this, too — the beer provides a counterweight.

You must hit 21 exactly: There are different ways of enforcing this. Some deduct points if you go over — sometimes up to half. Others go a little easier and just say your turn immediately ends, or that the other team gets a chance to retaliate and put up some points to tie/win. Or maybe you just have to chug. Get creative.

Hangers: Some people play that any bag that’s hanging half-way in the hole but doesn’t fall through is worth two points. Why not?

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BK Crab is summer games central. Photo via @Brooklyn_Crab on Instagram.

BK Crab is summer games central. Photo via @Brooklyn_Crab on Instagram.

Brooklyn Crab
24 Reed St
Red Hook

Brooklyn Crab is a game-lover’s dream. Tabletop shuffleboard, mini golf, arcade games and multiple(!) bean bag courts — one in the back and two in the front, and they sometimes set up a few more. But since it’s usually filled with tourists and parents that treat it more like a playground than a bar, it can be difficult to play a proper game. The courts up front, though a little shorter than regulation, are easier to play on without risking beaning a child — or an oblivious adult who should know better — in the head.

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The Brooklyn Barge's waterfront views are much more photogenic than its bags set-up. Photo via @muchodesign on Instagram.

The Brooklyn Barge’s waterfront views are much more photogenic than its bags set-up. Photo via @muchodesign on Instagram.

The Brooklyn Barge
3 Milton St
Greenpoint
(adjacent to Transmitter Park)

At Greenpoint’s East River bar, the bags game is not given prime waterfront real estate, instead relegated to the concrete lot adjacent to the barge and deck, right near the smoking section and bathrooms, giving it an illicit feel, more like you’re playing a back alley dice game than innocently tossing around a bean bag. We’ll take it.

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Photo via @eelliissssaa on Instagram.

Photo via @eelliissssaa on Instagram.

Greenwood Park
 555 7th Ave
South Slope

Whatever criticisms you might have about this South Slope — or, at the brokers say, “Greenwood Heights” — beer garden, you can’t knock their bags setup. This season, it’s usually located on the side of the bocce tent in a perfect little sheltered spot that means you’re almost guaranteed to play interference-free. Even when they set up on the north side of the beer garden, near the outdoor bar (or set up a second court there), it’s still regulation size and people are respectful of your game. And they serve pitchers. Win-win.

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Photo via @RooftopReds on Instagram.

Photo via @RooftopReds on Instagram.

Rooftop Reds
Sands and Navy Streets gate
Brooklyn Navy Yard

This new spot in the Navy Yard might be “the world’s first commercially viable urban rooftop vineyard,” but it’s also making a name for itself as one of Brooklyn’s best cornhole venues. Rooftop Reds hosts a tournament every Wednesday. Go for the gold.

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BK Tap House's bags game was donated by  regulars. Photo via @brooklyntaphouse on Instagram.

BK Tap House’s bags game was donated by these too. Photo via @brooklyntaphouse on Instagram.

Brooklyn Tap House
590 Myrtle Ave
Clinton Hill

A sports bar through and through, Brooklyn Tap House doesn’t disappoint with its bags setup, which, according to their Instagram, was made by a couple who we’re guessing are regulars — or at least locals — so major props for that. This spot is particularly great in the fall, when their outdoor bonfire pits are in full effect (be ready to go home smelling like a campsite) and football is on the outdoor projection screens.

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Photo via @ironstationbk on Instagram.

Photo via @ironstationbk on Instagram.

Iron Station
683 5th Ave
South Slope

This fairly new South Slope spot has a solid bags setup in their backyard, which is hardly ever packed, meaning you can often walk in, order one of their delicious cocktails or draft beers and start your game. Oh, and happy hour gets you $1 off drafts, wells and wins from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekdays.

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Photo via @mattabdoo on Instagram.

Photo via @mattabdoo on Instagram.

Pig Beach
480 Union St
Gowanus

Come for the barbecue, stay for bags. This Gowanus beer garden (formerly known as Swan Dive, Pig Beach was specifically the name of the barbecue counter inside) has made some major upgrades in their sophomore season, including trading porta potties for real bathrooms and adding a custom bags set to the mix. It’s definitely a casual operation, making it easy to play when you want, how you want. But seriously. Who’d have ever imagined that one day, we’d be enjoying some local beers, delicious barbecue and a quality game of bags on the banks of the Mighty Gowanusissippi? Just try to ignore the smell.

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Photo via @kingstavernny on Instagram.

Photo via @kingstavernny on Instagram.

Kings Tavern 
949 Grand St.
East Williamsburg

This “craft sports bar” is an ideal spot to throw back a microbrew with one hand while sinking a bag with the other. The bags game is set up in a well-shaded area in their backyard garden, so even if the game gets heated, at least you won’t get overheated.

What do you guys think? Any bags players out there have points to add/argue? Leave ‘em in the comments — along with any additions to our list of where to play in Brooklyn .