Brooklyn Brewery is a unique spot to visit for a tour. Every Friday night from 6-10 pm, you can join members of their staff in the Tasting Room for great beer. On Saturdays at 1,2,3 and 4 pm, they offer tours of the brewery.
A century ago, there were no fewer than 48 breweries in Brooklyn. Taverns were community civic centers where the important issues of the day were debated by everyone from politicians to the workers who built the Brooklyn Bridge. In the late afternoon and early evening, it was common to see children scurrying back and forth to breweries and neighborhood taverns, carrying pails of fresh beer (known as growlers) for their families to enjoy with dinner. Brewers themselves were civic and social leaders, and their family monuments remain an impressive part of Brooklyn's Evergreen Cemetery.
The last of those great family breweries, Schaefer and Rheingold, closed down in 1976, victims of competition with bigger Midwest breweries that produced vast volumes of beer more cheaply, shipped them cheaply over the country's new highway system and peddled them through television commercials that sold "national" beers as superior to local ones. By then, the light pilsner beers that most Americans drank had little in common with the full-flavored, robust lagers and ales brewed before Prohibition.
In 1984, Associated Press correspondent Steve Hindy returned from a six-year stint in the Middle East and settled in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. Hindy had caught the homebrewing bug from diplomats stuck in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where alcoholic beverages were forbidden. With his downstairs neighbor, Tom Potter, a former lending office at Chemical Bank, Hindy quit his job and founded The Brooklyn Brewery. Their initial goal was to bring good beer back to New York City. Due to their limited resources, they had no choice but to have their first beer, Brooklyn Lager, contract brewed in Utica, New York. They commissioned a fourth-generation German-American brewmaster, William M. Moeller, to develop a recipe for Brooklyn Lager. Moeller's grandfather had brewed beer in Brooklyn and willed his notebooks and brewing records to his sons. For the label design and company identity, they hired the world renowned designer, Milton Glaser, best known for the "I Love NY" logo.
It was not all glory for Hindy and Potter in the first years of the company. An initial test batch was hand-labelled in the basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. They found most New York distributors were controlled by the big breweries and uninterested in small local brands with little marketing money. Their Brooklyn neighbor, Soho Natural Soda founder Sofia Collier, advised the budding entrepreneurs to distribute their won brands with their own trucks. They bought a van and a small beverage truck, painted their logos on the sides and began peddling Brooklyn Lager store to store on their own. With partners Mike Vitale, Ed Ravn and Jim Munson, Hindy and Potter struggled to establish a market in New York City. Hard-boiled New York tavern owners were skeptical of a full-flavored beer that cost as much as the leading imports and had no recognition or advertising in the market.
Slowly, their brand caught on. When the big distributors began to express interest in carrying Brooklyn Lager, Hindy and Potter recognized there was money, and valuable market information, in the distribution business. They opened their doors to other microbreweries to broaden the base of their distribution company. Soon they were representing more than a dozen micros and a selection of world class beers from Germany, Belgium and Britain.
Brooklyn Brewery is located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Manhattan. As Manhattan has become increasingly upscale and overwhelmingly expensive, the New York intelligentsia and creative underclassmen have increasing looked to make Brooklyn their home. The neighborhood that has—arguably—taken the brunt of the exodus from Manhattan is the northern area of Williamsburg. Now a haven for starving artists and hipsters, the neighborhood has redefined and rebranded itself into one of the hotspots of Brooklyn, with bars, live music, and restaurants spawning in direct proportion to the increase in the now well-established sense of Williamsburg community. If the weather's agreeable, you can head to McCarren Park to throw the ol' baseball around or watch the many hipsters in Williamsburg's Kickball League lounge and pose their way to victory. The park's pool is splendid, and there's a brand-new, year-round recreation center. After running around on the grass or watching other people run around, it might be time for a trip to the borough's preferred brewery, the Brooklyn Brewery, where Williamsburg's beer of choice has been make for two decades. The brewery offers staffed tastings on Friday nights, as well as tours of the brewery itself. If the weather's disagreeable, you might be in need of some new threads. No sweat in trendy Williamsburg! Seek out Beacon's Closet on 11th Street for some great thrift-store shopping or native chain Brooklyn Industries for new fashions. Fashion-forward Francophiles will burst their pocketbooks over the selections at Jumelle and Noisette. For those chasing a more urban chic, Williamsburg's own Triple Five Soul should do the trick. Maybe your wallet's heart isn't in apparel and craves music instead. Williamsburg favorites Earwax Records and Academy Annex will satiate the most eclectic of musical tastes with new and used CDs, LPs, and DVDs. Ah, but nothing has a higher fidelity than live music, so check out the Music Hall Of Williamsburg, where national indie acts like Dr. Dog and Les Savy Fav have performed. For a bit of local music and a more neighborhood-appropriate atmosphere, the swank Union Pool offers live music and a bar but no swimming whatsoever. Now, replenish your dwindling energy with breakfast or lunch at the esteemed egg restaurant, or try more filling fare at the renowned Peter Luger Steakhouse. There's also the one-two punch of sister restaurants Marlow & Sons, a Mediterranean café/restaurant/bar/store, and Diner, both created by the same folks and well-known parts of Williamsburg's hipster pedigree. Then there's Bamonte's for Italian, Falafel Chula for Middle Eastern, and Planet Thailand for Southeast Asian. Finally, enjoy a local nightcap—which generally means a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon—at one of the classic neighborhood bars. At The Levee, you can supplement your drinks with great bar food and a game of pool, but at Barcade, the gaming is digital and as well-stocked as the beer selection. The Alligator Lounge is another neighborhood favorite and serves free personal pizzas from its wood-burning oven every night until 3:30am. Or if you'd prefer a subdued atmosphere and well-mixed cocktails—included seasonal potables like hot cider (spiked, of course)—then you should give Pete's Candy Store a go.
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