I'll be drinking a few brews on my upcoming visit, and I'm wondering if I should be aware of any local or regional brands that you consider to be excellent. I prefer ale to lager. I especially like a medium dark ale, such as Newcastle Brown, but a nice pale ale is also of interest. I can always fall back on Bass, Guiness, etc, but are there east coast brands you'd like to recommend?
check out The Gingerman and Blind Tiger Ale House, they should be able to quench any thirst you have and then some.
No need to drink megabrews like Bass (ugh!) or Guinness. Brooklyn Beers are pretty good. They are available everywhere. You should like their Brooklyn Brown Ale. You might also like their very rich Black Chocolate Stout. If you can find them, the beers of Six Point brewery: Brownstone Ale is a very good dark brown ale. Their Hop Obama is selling quite well now as well (and actually has gotten favorable reviews). Their beers are drought only, so you will have to get them at a bar.
Other excellent non NYC east coast beers available include those of Dogfish Head (Try their Raisin [sic] d'etre or Indian Brown Ale) and Victory Brewing.
Dogfish head is great, but their best ones are the 120 minute IPA and the World Wide Stout. These are not always available but if you find them, do give them a try. Watch out, though, the alcohol content is over 20 percent. Otherwise I agree with the recs for the 90 minute and Indian Brown. North Square, a nice restaurant and lounge on Waverly Place, has the Indian Brown on tap.