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Beer in the ‘Burg: A tour of Brooklyn Brewery

The COOK crew loves the many Philly-region breweries that come through to share their knowledge (and products), but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for a little non-local beer love, too. Take Brooklyn, one of America’s most visible and successful craft breweries, which teamed up with Di Bruno’s for a beer and cheese pairing class last month. A recent trip up to NYC’s most populous borough wasn’t complete without a stop into the brewery’s HQ, currently in the midst of a multi-million-dollar expansion.

Founded by AP foreign correspondent Steve Hindy (he was sitting behind Anwar Sadat when he was assassinated in Cairo in 1981) and his neighbor, former Chemical Bank lending officer Tom Potter, the brand put down roots in 1987, contract-brewing with a producer in Utica (which still produces its 12-ounce bottles) ahead of the debut of their current HQ in Williamsburg. A century ago, there were close to 50 beermakers in the neighborhood (think Philly’s Brewerytown), bones that fit the partners’ ambitions perfectly. A rough start for the brand due to uninformed skepticism over their products and the rough-and-tumble Brooklyn landscape at the time (hoods ripped them off for $30K and a forklift, the latter of which they stole back, in the early days) slowly evolved into a solid following that flourished in step with American beer awareness. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver came on board at Brooklyn in 1994, kicking the brand into high-gravity gear and helping to spread its reach to 25 states and 20 countries. (Which nation outside the U.S. consumes the most Brooklyn beer, which has always been brewed with unadulterated NYC tap water? That’d be Sweden.)

Twenty-five years of success has led Brooklyn into its current expansion, which over the next few years will increase its overall output to 250,000 barrels (that’s half a million kegs!) annually. The growth plan will bump Brooklyn from 31st-largest on the American brewery list to the 20th. The installation of new tanks and equipment in the plant, located along Williamsburg’s “Brewers Row,” means the tours offered every weekend are currently not as mobile as they’d like them to be, but there’s still plenty of info to take in and plenty of beer (including many location-exclusive rarities) to drink. On Saturdays, they offer free public tours on the hour from 1 to 5 p.m., as well as on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. All you’ve got to do is show up, grab a beer for the tour (they sell them on a token system) and scout out a seat in their picnic-tabled tasting room after it wraps up. BYO food and/or snag one of the snacks (pigs in blankets!) at the table set up by the bar.

In the late summer months, the friendly tasting room staff has been pouring hard-to-find beers like The River, a quadruple-hopped Belgian-style ale aged in barrels from Red Hook Winery; the brewmaster’s reserve Fiat Lux, a balanced summer-friendly wit; and Radius, a session-friendly saison available only within Brooklyn borough limits. Come as you are, and don’t forget to absorb the sage advice offered on the wall-displayed koozy below.

Photos: Drew Lazor

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