Tag Archives: Homebrew

Introducing Braven Brewing

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Braven Brewing’s Marshall Thompson (left) and Eric Feldman. 

The path to professional brewing often starts on the kitchen stove. As the batches stack up, skills are refined. Recipes are perfected. Friends clamor for another pint of bitter IPA, or maybe it’s a coffee stout. Accolades stack up like poker chips. “You should start a brewery,” someone suggests, planting a seed inside that grows into an all-consuming desire to turn a hobby into a career.

Over the last four years of running my homebrew tour, I’ve watched this journey play out like an endlessly looping film reel. Rich Buceta went on to launch SingleCut. Jonathan Moxey now works for Perennial Artisan Ales. Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee are opening Finback. To the list of homebrew-tour gone pro I will soon add Marshall Thompson and Eric Feldman, a duo formerly known as the East Village Brewing Company.

Back in 2010, I crammed 30 strangers into Feldman’s Manhattan apartment to sample the Avenue A-le and Stuy Town Nut Brown. The beers were delightful. The crowd was impressed. Perhaps these guys have a bright future, I thought, making a mental note to follow their online exploits. But months later, their website went dark. Posts fell off a cliff. Was this another case of a hobby fizzling out?

Hardly. Three years later, the East Village Brewing Company has been reborn as Brooklyn’s Braven. “We want to tap into Bushwick’s brewing tradition,” Feldman says of the brewery, which takes its name from a chimera-like combination of a buck and a raven. Once upon a time, you see, Bushwick got America good and drunk. By 1962, 10 percent of America drank Brooklyn beer, and a dozen-plus brewers dotted the blocks. But by the 20th century’s close, breweries like Rheingold and Schaefer were historical footnotes. Today, there’s nary a brewery in Bushwick.

That’s a void that Braven aims to fill. “We’re hoping to be a destination brewery,” says Feldman, a lawyer who envisions a laid-back taproom where friends, families and their dogs can mingle together. Currently, the twosome are searching for a space, preferably around the Jefferson Avenue stop, and are perfecting their launch brands. Driven by the notion of being bold and crafty (the bold buck + the crafty raven = Braven), the friends are working on a lineup of balanced, approachable beers that are full of flavor, not booze.

“I love IPAs, but many of them hit you with 7 percent ABV,” says Feldman, who will be handling the brewing while Thompson focuses on sales and marketing. “That’s a lot of alcohol. I like having a few beers throughout the evening.”

The crisp, quaffable debut brews will be a white IPA heavy on citrusy, floral hops such as Cascade and Centennial, as well as a black IPA likely dosed with piney, woody Simcoe. While the allure of hoppy beers is undeniable, Braven will also look toward classic styles such as the altbier and pilsner, as well as brews that tie into Bushwick’s Hispanic and Mexican population—hello, Day of the Dead–themed orange habañero chocolate stout. “We’re trying to make a beer that captures the spirit of the neighborhood,” Feldman says.

As for timing to buy these beers, don’t hold your breath. Right now, Braven is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a pilot brewery. Furthermore, the friends are seeking out a regional brewery where they might be able to contract-brew, or perhaps they’ll set up a smaller brewing system inside an existing restaurant or bar. (Realistically speaking, Braven is still at least 12 to 18 months away from opening, which means the end of 2014 or spring 2015.)

“One of the big problems is trying to find a space,” laments Feldman, who is still cranking out five-gallon batches in his East Village apartment. Though Braven can’t legally sell the beer, Feldman and Thompson are doling out samples at parties and events around Brooklyn. “The first couple times I handed out beer to people and waited for feedback, it was terrifying,” Feldman says. “Alternately, this project will be super-exciting and super-scary, but nothing makes us any happier.”

This post originally appeared on Craft Beer New York. Check it out!

NYC Homebrewers Guild Anniversary Party

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It’s tired maxim, but I’ll trot it out again: Today’s homebrewers are tomorrow’s professional brewers, the men and women who will one day craft your favorite new IPA, gose or some other style that has yet to be invented or dredged from the history books.

Getting a taste of these beers typically requires you to be buddies with the brewer. (Or if you’re in New York City, attending my homebrew tour.) But on Saturday, November 2, you’ll have the chance to sample your way the most dizzying—and dizzyingly delicious—collection of homebrew the city has ever seen.

That night, the Brooklyn Brewery will be taken over by the New York City Homebrewers Guild for its 25th anniversary party. (Fun fact: Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver was a founding member.) To celebrate, the guild has enlisted clubs from across the city to pour their homebrewed creations. From Brooklyn Brewers to Brewstoria (Queens, that is), this event will welcome a stunning array of brewers from across the city—more than 65 different beers and counting.

You’ll be treated to free samples of the homebrews, as well as an unlimited buffet of Brooklyn Brewery beers. But act fast. Tickets are just $25 and they’re going fast. You don’t want to miss out on tasting the future of beer in New York City.

What: NYC Homebrewers Guild 25th Anniversary Party
When: Saturday, November 2, 9 p.m.
Where: Brooklyn Brewery
Tickets: $25. Buy them here.

Say Hello to Brooklyn’s Grimm Artisanal Ales

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One fortuitous day in Providence, Rhode Island, artists Lauren Carter Grimm and Joe Grimm decided to attend a talk by fermentation evangelist Sandor Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation. Though the DIY duo had never given much thought to the culture of fermentation, they were so inspired by Katz’s talk that, soon after leaving, “we started fermenting everything,” says Joe, a musician who has performed with the Dirty Projectors, 33.3 and solo as The Wind-Up Bird. “It was like, ‘We can pickle that!'”

Soon, the twosome were dabbling in mead (“It was really bad,” Lauren recalls), kvass, kombucha and hard cider, before gravitating toward beer. At first, the extract-based brews were pretty sad, the sort of beer you’d drink only if the fridge were empty. And perhaps the experiments would’ve ended there, the brew kettles put into a closet to gather dust if it were not for another serendipitous turn of events. While on tour in Brussels, Belgium, Grimm was introduced to dubbels, tripels, saisons, lambics. “People were feeding us all these wonderful Belgian beers,” recalls Joe, who returned home with a renewed commitment to brewing.

The couple moved to Chicago, where they both attended the Art Institute of Chicago and refined their approach to fashioning saisons and Belgian ales flavored with herbs, spices and flowers. Seeking an outlet for their beer, they started a beer CSA. It failed. “No one wanted to pick up their beer,” Lauren says. Unbowed, they started selling beer at art-gallery shows and continued refining their recipes. After Joe (2009) and Lauren (2010) graduated, the couple, who later married, watched as their friends flew the Windy City coop to New York City. They followed suit, landing in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood with a plan to start a brewery called Grimm Artisanal Ales.

They met with lenders for funding, but quickly ran into a small problem. They had no sales record, much less experience working at a brewery. But Joe did toil at Double Windsor, and he and Lauren mined their local contacts and began making the rounds of New York bars to gin up interest. “People were like, ‘That’s really cute. Sure, we’ll put the beer on.'” But first they needed to brew the beer. Without the funds to build their own facility, they decided to go the nomadic route, tenant brewers in the vein of fellow husband-wife brewers Pretty Things. They began calling breweries around the region. The no’s stacked up like chips at a poker table.

At last, Holyoke, Massachusetts’ Paper City Brewing Company said yes. Last month, Team Grimm traveled to the brewery and crafted From the Hip, a Belgian-style blonde ale (7 percent ABV)  flavored with plenty of rose hips. It’s floral and spicy, with a smooth mouthfeel and billowy head thanks to a healthy measure of wheat. Starting later this month, the beer will be available around town on draft and in 22-ounce bottles adorned with a delicate, gallery-worthy drawing depicting ladies with roses blooming from their bodies. “They’re the sort of graphics you’d find on an ancient Greek vase,” says Lauren, who notes that they’re trying to combat the notion that beer should just be marketed to men.

While it is the inaugural release, From the Hip is not a flagship. In fact, Grimm’s plan is to not to toss all their hops into one brew kettle. Instead, they’re focusing on releasing limited-edition, seasonally focused beers with a Belgian bent. (Up next is a Trappist-style tripel made with honey called Bees in the Trappe.) Blink and you’ll miss the chance to drink them. “We wanted to make very specific beers that we enjoy and grow the definition of craft beer,” Joe says. “The world doesn’t need us to make another IPA.”

On July 18 at 5 p.m., From the Hip will debut at Jimmy’s No. 43. On July 19 at 7 p.m., From the Hip will appear on tap The Double Windsor.

Amateur Hour Is Over: NYC Homebrewers Go Pro—Sort of

Chris Cuzme508 brewer Chris Cuzme rocking his trademark T-shirt. (Credit: 508)

Most brewers get start cooking batches on their stoves, turning out ales and lagers that, once recipes are perfected, can be just as good as anything on tap at a local bar. Not that you’ll ever find a homebrewer’s creations on draft—legally, at least.

The legalities surrounding selling homebrewed beer are as clear as Bud Light. When President Jimmy Carter legalized homebrewing in the late seventies, he allowed folks to brew up to 100 gallons of beer a year. Many brewers slosh over the threshold, but it’s unlikely that cops will come knocking. That’d only happen if homebrewers sold their tipples. There’s a defined line separating amateurs and professionals: Are they selling beer and paying their taxes?

Vending beer is a tangled web of regulations wrapped around the three-tier system, in which breweries sell to distributors, which then peddle to stores and bars. Taxes are collected at every step. Plus, there’s the cost of acquiring a federal permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It’s a pain in the butt to sell a pal a growler.

However, no law prohibits a brewery from producing a semi-pro’s recipe. “I want people to realize that homebrewers can make high-quality beer,” says Chris Cuzme, the former president of the New York City Homebrewers Guild, co-host of Fuhmentaboudit! and, most importantly, the head brewer at SoHo’s 508 GastroBrewery. “The homebrew scene still has a big place in my heart,” Cuzme says. “We have so many more homebrew clubs now, but even then, people don’t know that many of them exist.”

To raise awareness, Cuzme will partners with a different homebrew club or shop each month and craft a 50-gallon batch of beer, which will then be poured through one of the brewpub’s six tap lines. The first six collaborators are the New York City Homebrewers GuildPour Standards—Richmond County Brew Society, Brooklyn Brewsers Homebrew ClubBitter & Esters, The Brooklyn Kitchen and Brooklyn Homebrew, which will brew the first beer in the series next week. (The exact style is still undecided, but the odds-on favorite is that it will be an ESB.)

There are no limitations on the beers that will be brewed, except that Cuzme would like them to be brewed and ready to drink within a month. That means no barrel-aged imperial stouts. But with the weather breaking warm, I doubt you’ll want to drink such a bruiser. After each beer is brewed, Cuzme plans on holding a five-gallon keg in reserve for a “homebrew heavyweight tap takeover,” which will take place at the end of the six-month project. And if supporting your favorite local homebrew is not enough to get you to pop by 508 for a pint, here’s another reason: one dollar of every beer will be earmarked to the collaborators’ charity of choice.

We’ll drink to that.

The first beer in the series should be on tap at 508 by June 1. 

 More NYC Homebrewing News of Note
* This spring, Brooklyn Brew Shop plans to go pro with its EST line of beers. (The name is short for Established Brewing Company.) First up is a spicy Jalapeño Saison, a homebrew-kit favorite.

* On May 18, the Comedy Bar NYC will tap a new monthly series dubbed the Homebrewed MicProduced and hosted by comedian Ben Asher and The Brahery, the free show will partner plenty of homebrewed beer with comedy and brew-centric tunes from Final Gravity. I’ve hosted the Brahery on my homebrew tour and heard the band bash out tunes. At best, it’ll be a blast. At worst, you’ll get drunk. It’s a win-win.

This story was originally published on my Craft Beer New York app. Buy it here.

A New Homebrew Festival Grows in Brooklyn

156340_582641035082597_1455230532_nOver the last four years of running my homebrew tours, I’ve watched Brooklyn’s DIY beer scene boom. Where once aspring apartment brewers were forced to order grains and hops online or drive into Long Island, now there’s a bounty of brew shops such as Bitters & Esters, Brooklyn Homebrew and Brooklyn Kitchen, all of which stocks ingredients and offer classes.

This has led to a swell of brewers in Brooklyn and across the city, with kegerators crammed into every nook and cranny. Now, the best thing about homebrewing is sharing it with your friends. But if you’re brewing two or three times a month, that’s a fair amount of five-gallon batches of beer taking up space in too-tiny apartments. And even if your friends are lushes, there’s a limit to everyone’s beer intake. The solution, then, is a homebrew festival.

The latest one to arrive is Pride of Brooklyn, which will debut this Saturday, April 27, at Gowanus’ Littlefield. The festival will feature 25 New York–based homebrewers, as well as pro offerings from Lagunitas, SingleCut and the brand-new Yonkers Brewing Company.

The mastermind behind the homebrew madness is Casey Soloff, an advertising copywriter who has been brewing beer for about a year. “I know a lot of good people in the homebrewing community,” says Soloff, a Brooklyn resident. “I put out a call a call for entries and people responded almost immediately.”

The homebrewers will pour a variety of ales and lagers, including the likes of a pilsner, rye black IPA, spiced milk stout and cherrywood-smoked porter—in other words, you won’t go home thirsty or bored. Additionally, there will be food for purchase from Fletcher’s and Mexicue, and attendees get $2 off drafts at Mission Dolores until 8 p.m.

Come get a taste of the next generation of New York City brewers.

Pride of Brooklyn Homebrew Festival
Saturday, April 27, 1 to 5 p.m.
Littlefield (622 Degraw Street, Gowanus, 718-855-3388)
Tickets: $25 (buy them here)

This post originally appeared on my app, Craft Beer New York.

Top Picks for New York City Beer Week

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This was previously published on my app, Craft Beer New York.

This week marks the return of New York City Beer Week, a blowout of the the best brews in the Big Apple. From February 22  until March 3 (yeah, the week lasts 10 days), the city will be overrun with beer-soaked events. Here are my top choices for abusing your liver.

Williamsburg Cask Ale Festival: Over four days, cask-ale expert Alex Hall will be taking over the Brooklyn branch of d.b.a. to serve up some of the city’s choicest cask ales. (February 23–26, 1 p.m. to late daily; pay as you  go)

Spanish Beer and Cider Fest: Today, Chelsea’s La Nacional will be serving some of Spain’s best beer and cider, which will be paired with unlimited tapas. (February 23, 3 to 7 p.m.; $35)

The World of Wheat: All week, Park Slope’s the Owl Farm will be serving strange, unusual wheat beers, from salty and sour goses to strong, caramel-nuanced wheat wines. (February 22 to March 3, pay as you go)

All-Queens Breweries Dinner For two nights, the Queens Kickshaw will host a four-course dinner featuring food paired with the best local brews from SingleCut, Bridge and Tunnel, Rockaway Brewing and Beyond Kombucha. To reserve a spot, email info@thequeenskickshaw.com. (February 26–27, 6 to 9:30 p.m.; $55 plus tax and tip)

Brewer’s Choice: Tonight, City Winery is filled with the best and brightest of the regional beer scene. You’ll find beers from more than 20 breweries such as Evil Twin, Stillwater and White Birch, many of which will be poured by the brewers themselves.  Plus: food and booze! (February 27, 6 to 10 p.m.; $60)

Jimmy’s Homebrew Jamboree: Fifteen of New York’s best homebrewers have crafted beers especially for this brunch blowout, including coffee-infused oatmeal stouts, IPAs aplenty and even an oak-aged Berliner weisse. (March 2, 12 to 3 p.m.; $35)

aPORKalyspe Now: Like swine and beer? Head to Alewife Queens for a celebration of two of the finer things in life. Expect brews from the likes of Blind Bat, Peekskill, Blue Point and Port Jeff. (March 2, 12 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.; $40 for 10 tastes of food and 10 tastes of beer)

Closing Party: Come tie one on one last time at La Birreria’s stunning rooftop brewpub. The event is pay as you go, and it will feature plenty of rarities from members of the New York City Brewers Guild. (March 3, 12 to 4 p.m.)

Murray’s Cheese Bar Beer Dinner with Garrett Oliver: Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster will pair rare beers and bottles during a five-course, fromage-focused affair. (March 3, 5 to 7 p.m.; $75)

The Most Micro of Brews

Photo: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

Whee! Small feature in New York Magazine this week about homebrewing in Brooklyn. Who would’ve thought, right? Anyway, if yer curious, read it up!