Four Brooklyn Breweries
I will do a proper New York post in the next week or two. I discovered a unique wrinkle to Big Apple brewing I didn’t anticipate, and it deserves a post of its own. In the meantime, here’s another batch of photos to tide you over. The Brew Enthusiast, Chris McClellan, took me to four breweries in his Brooklyn neighborhood, and they demonstrate an admirable range of styles and moods.
The king of hazies in New York is Brooklyn-based Other Half, located next to the picturesque Gowanus Expressway. (That’s a wry joke, but on the other side of the brewery is Carroll Gardens, which is famously picturesque.) Other Half makes beers with crazy names like Broccoli and Baked Ziti, and they are saturated in hops. Pictured below is Galaxy-hopped Space Dream, an “oat cream IPA.” That’s not an extant style, but it is a pretty good description.
While sipping our oat creams, we were offered an impromptu tour of the 15-barrel brewhouse, which revealed two fascinating details. First, Other Half uses a centrifuge, which blew my mind. In typical breweries, these expensive devices produce clarion, sparkling beers. Other Half uses it to spin out the heaviest particulates so what’s left over is a nice stable haze. Not the typical use, but it works. There was also an entire pallet of oats, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen.
Whatever your view of hazy IPAs and pastry beers, Other Half is a brewery focused on their craft and it takes beer as seriously as any Bavarian. I’m still goggling over the idea that a brewery known for opacity would deploy a centrifuge, but it shows how much attention and care they have. Those quick to dismiss hazy makers should take the tour I did and listen with open ears.
I got to meet a lot of people in the New York beer scene, and I started asking this question: “What’s the brewery I should see no one’s talking about?” (A great question, incidentally, if you want to get off the Untappd superhighway leading you to the same buzz breweries.) The answer was inevitably Folksbier, an unusual operation with just a half dozen beers pouring—and not a hazy to be found.
I would describe the beer as eclectic but connected by a thread of rusticity, whether it was an English style (a rye porter), Belgian (table beer), or German (sort of a thick Franconian lager). That thread is carried over into the presentation and space. The vibe at the tasting room is mellow and countrified—to the extent such a thing is possible in NYC—and the day we visited, Grateful Dead played softly on the stereo. There were two dogs in the place and one baby. It felt like a pub people settle into for a session.
Chris knows the owner of Svendale, which is right around the corner from Folksbier. Although I hadn’t mentioned it among the list I wanted to see (or heard of it), he suggested we stop in. Man, am I glad he did. It turned out to be one of the best breweries I visited, and they poured the best hoppy ale I had in New York (and I had many)—another oat ale, but this time a pale.
I can’t tell you too much about the brewery, which I understand is not located in the city. The postage stamp-sized tasting room is charming and intimate, the kind of place where you almost have to get in a discussion with other pubgoers. I found that very welcoming and I’d love to have Svendale down the street from me.
My final stop was Threes Brewing, another of the highly-regarded NYC breweries. In terms of beer, it reminds me a bit of Portland breweries, where a familiar troika are the focus—lagers, hoppy ales, and mixed-fermentation ales. Their flagship is Vliet, a pilsner, which some fans speak about in hushed terms of reverence.
The pub is in Gowanus, and I found myself walking through a quiet and deserted Brooklyn to get there. (The “city that never sleeps” is apparently not Brooklyn.) when I arrived, however, I found a rocking scene populated by a crowd who were all twenty years my junior.
Because it was my fourth stop, I didn’t get to explore the taplist deeply. (My tolerance isn’t particularly high.) Fortunately, one of my selections included Kicking and Screaming, a tweaked version of Vliet lagered in oak vats for six weeks. The inspiration comes from Pilsner Urquell, which once had miles of wooden lagering tanks beneath the brewery. It was extraordinary. Because it was my last beer of the night, I failed to take notes, so you’re just going to have to take my word on it—or better yet, go try one yourself.