Monday, August 3, 2009

The Brooklyn Brewery

On Saturday my husband and I visited the Brooklyn Brewery, located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn was once one of the nation's largest beer producers from 1870 until the 1950's, with over 48 breweries located in the borough, including 11 on one 12-block stretch in Williamsburg. Some of the famous brands produced were Trommer’s, Rheingold, Piels, and Schaefer.

According to the Brooklyn Historical Society:
"The rapid growth of the beer industry was due, in part, to German immigrants who brought with them a taste for good beer and strong brewing traditions. The high quality of the region’s water, inexpensive labor and land, easy access to raw materials, and proximity to Manhattan’s huge market also contributed to the breweries’ success. Most breweries were located in Brooklyn neighborhoods with the highest concentration of German immigrants: Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint. By the industry’s height, just before Prohibition, Brooklyn had joined other major cities, including Milwaukee and St. Louis, as one of the nation’s brewing centers. When Prohibition ended in 1933, very few breweries remained. The industry rose again after World War II, but local flavor gave way to large breweries and national brands."

The Brooklyn Brewery is located on 79 North 11th Street, in an 1860's building that was previously a Matzo factory. They present free tours every Saturday and Sunday at one, two, three, and four o'clock.
We waited with a large crowd for the 2 PM tour inside the main hall of the building, surrounded by bags of barley and hops and displays of vintage beer bottles.

Soon, we were ushered into a nearby room which contained what I thought was a surprisingly small amount of beer brewing equipment. We were told that since no factory activity was done on the weekends the tour would consist mainly a review of the history of how the Brooklyn Brewery came about.

In 1987, two Brooklyn residents, Middle East News Correspondent Steve Hindy and banker Tom Potter quit their jobs and started the Brooklyn Brewery using the Matt Brewing Company in upstate New York. In 1989 they bought their first truck and began peddling their brand of Brooklyn lager to vendors in New York City. In 1996 they opened their newest brewery in Brooklyn, and became the first successful brewery located in Brooklyn since 1976, and are now among America's top 40 breweries. The present brewmaster is Garrett Oliver, who is the foremost authority in the United States on the subject of traditional beer.

Our tour guide also gave a brief overview of how beer is produced by combining barley, water, hops and yeast, with the addition of spices or other ingredients, to produce unique artisan brews.

My husband and I have visited many breweries in our travels over the years, and have gone on many extensive tours of their facilities. We usually found ourselves treated afterward to a free sample of the beers produced by the brewery in their hospitality centers, so we were a little surprised by the brevity of this tour and the fact that there were no samples.

However, on the opposite side of the brew room is a "party room" and visitors are given the opportunity of purchasing six tokens for $20 that can be redeemed inside for 6 full cups of the beers that were presently on tap. As you can see from the photo of the board above, we had quite a selection of interesting beers to choose from.

We tried the Blance de Brooklyn, the Intensified Coffee Stout and the Sorachi Ale in our first go -round.

The room was really crowded, as you can see in the photo above of the long line to redeem the tokens at the serving counter. Finding a seat was mattering of patiently waiting for a group to leave.

The scene in the party room is, for the most part, definitely young and hip. It appears to be a very popular meeting place, and the patrons were definitely having a good time!

Some of the regulars knew enough to bring in food, or have pizza delivered! The longer we stayed the more fun it was for us, too, as drinking all that wonderfully cold deliciously blended beer took a few hours that afternoon.

My favorite? The "Intensified Coffee Stout"! It had a complex coffee aroma and flavor, slightly sweet from the addition of a chocolate malt, and equalled in taste to drinking a delicious chilled effervescent espresso. If you've ever tasted a Manhattan Special soda, it was similar but more intense in coffee flavor. Definitely a coffee lover's beer! It is only sold on tap in limited areas, so it may mean that you'll have to take a trip to Brooklyn to taste it, but definitely well worth the trip.

We plan to visit the Brooklyn Brewery again in the fall, as I hope the "Post Road Pumpkin Ale" will be offered, and I'd love to try that brew, and this time I think we'll also bring in a pizza.

I wish you could join us! Oh --and as a "PS" we always drink responsibly.


Anonymous said...

Very, very interesting!! However, I detest beer, wine & liquor!!

Joyce said...

Looks like fun and where else could those kids get 6 beers for only $20. When you go to the wine country in CA you have to pay for the samples for years now so I am not surprised that they charge for their beer. I think you should have a blog fest there and we can all fly in and bring some appetizers:)

Anonymous said...

I wish we could have joined you too. I am not a beer lover. I occasionally drink a beer in the summer, however, anytime I am somewhere to get a dark German beer, I always go for that. I love the history you use in your blogs. My ancestors were Irish and all were tavern owners and works after coming to the U.S.

RoeH said...

I don't drink but I find how they make it very interesting. When I lived in Denver we went through the Coors in Golden once. It's really a neat tour. Who'da though that would come out of wheat. Or is it grain. Or some cousin to that.

Lynn said...

When I saw your post was up, I got ready for my New York fix!
I love your tours.
It's so hot here, that beer looked good, and I am not a beer person.

happyone said...

Enjoyed your tour of the brewery. I love a nice cold beer, though I have to admit my favorite is Guinness. :-)

Lisa's RetroStyle said...

I bet the longer you stayed (and drank) the more fun it was;-) lol. It never would have occured to me that a brew tour would have "regulars". How fun!

Unknown said...

sounds really interesting, I dont drink but I certainly wont mind visiting and seeing everything. Hope you have a good week ahead :P

Gracie said...

Hubby and I are both beer lovers, and over the years we too have visited many breweries in Europe, especially in Germany and Belgium. However, my very fav one is the dark and delicious irish Guinness. Thanks for lettinmg me know about this one.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

great story. Did you know that a Brooklyn distillery (by Tom Potter) is now in the works?

Nola said...

My mouth began watering when I started reading! When you mentioned the coffee stout, I almost fell outta my chair. I love coffee, hot or cold (sometimes lukewarm, haha). If I ever get a chance, you can bet I'll be trying a big ole pint of it!

Sue said...

Pat, the coffee stout looks and sounds fantastic!! I love a darker amd richer beer, always. I know I would've been on that tour for hours too! LOL hugs, Sue

Cynthia Pittmann said...

What atmosphere...I bet those who love wine are reconsidering! <3

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I enjoyed my little brewery tour with you! Beer is not a beverage I have ever acquired a taste for, but recently I was introduced to special beers with unusual flavors, and your coffee beer sounds quite good...

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

My colleague's brother is the brew meister there! Can't wait to show him this post in the morning. :-)

GailO said...

I never liked beer until smaller breweries started making artisan type I'm hooked. We never got to visit Brooklyn Brewery while Mrs R lived there but we certainly became familiar with their beer and still enjoy it...if I ever get back to Brooklyn I'll meet you there for a cold one!...the Coffee Stout sounds great!

Now that my daughter lives in Boston maybe I'll look into tours of Sam Adams :)