Chaz Cruz / Threes Brewing
If not for the sprawling views of the Manhattan skyline, the great food, and uniquely charming people, Brooklyn is a must-visit for its craft beer scene. Since the mid-‘90s, the city has become home to more breweries than you’ll find in some entire states.
Now, I’m no beer expert. In fact, my palate would probably be considered “unrefined” by most. I couldn’t even tell you the difference between a “dry finish” and a…”wet...finish…”? But as a Brooklyn resident and recreational beer consumer with an affinity for adventure, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is my duty, as a citizen, to visit every brewery in town.
Granted, such a mission can’t be accomplished overnight. It’s going to take me weeks to knock out all three-dozen-or-so. But I have to start somewhere. So to kick things off, my boyfriend and I patroned six of Brooklyn’s esteemed breweries over the span of one warm spring weekend. Below is what unfolded, along with my everywoman impressions of the beverages we encountered.
195 Centre St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Nestled under the Gowanus expressway in an alley adjacent to a McDonald’s, Other Half Brewing definitely has a garage-y feel. In fact, the brewery itself is actually in a garage that looks like it could have once upon a time been home to a mechanic’s family business. Despite the gritty ambiance, by the time I got to Other Half at a little after noon, the taproom was already packed with enough loud, giggly patrons that it felt like a tailgate for a football game that wouldn’t start for a few more months. It was awesome.
The staff treated me like a welcomed friend -- even though they had every right to be annoyed by my long line of inexperienced questioning. I ended up trying the Cheddar Broccoli IPA (7.9% ABV) -- because who wouldn’t want to drink a beer that tastes like their mom’s favorite casserole? (It didn’t, though the name more likely came from its opaque orange color.) It smelled like hops and tasted like hops, with a touch of acidity and a full body that made me feel like I had eaten a satisfying snack afterwards.
I also tried their Other Southern IPA (8.5% ABV), slightly less hazy, and less acidic than the Cheddar Broccoli. And while my boyfriend thought it had a pleasantly tangy aftertaste, I thought it tasted like pennies. But that could have been because I had gum in my mouth. Live and learn.
credits:"OtherHalfNYC / Instagram" width:800 align:center
574 President St, Brooklyn, NY 11215
I debated whether or not to walk to Strong Rope from Other Half, but ended up taking a car. Ultimately, crossing the Gowanus Canal on foot seemed a tad too daunting for me, a lightweight two IPAs deep, running on very little breakfast.
I liked Strong Rope for its open, airy feel, made memorable by the white-washed, exposed brick, tall, potted plants, and a giant mahogany bar. The tasting room was larger than Other Half’s garage-style digs, and the vibe was much lower-key (in fact, I think there were a few people with laptops working at larger tables in the back) -- but this only made it easier for me to obtain a beer flight, thoughtfully curated by Jason Sahler, Strong Rope’s resident head brewer and owner.
align:right width:650 credits:"Jacque Medina @ Strong Rope"
My favorite of the five beers we tried was the Golden Fest Ale (6.1% ABV), which was a darker amber and tasted both malty and yeasty (the latter of which looks gross written out, but is delicious in beer form). Their American Wheat Ale (5.7% ABV) was also quite nice: lighter in color, with…perhaps, nutty undertones? (If that’s not a term, at least I just came up with the best indie band name ever.) And in the Long Haul IPA (4.9% ABV), I got some grapefruit notes from the robust -- but not overwhelming -- flavor and finish.
However, I’m not a huge fan of stouts, and Strong Rope’s Holy Ink Stout (7.9% ABV) didn’t necessarily change my mind. At best, it tasted like Christmas dinner (meaty, with coffee and chocolate in the finish). At worst, it tasted like steak juice. Still, I didn’t hate it.
And then there was Thomas The Stumbling Buffalo (10.5% ABV): cool name; less cool flavor. Certainly this is my aforementioned unrefined palate talking here, but I thought this one tasted like grape Dimetapp (ah, childhood!). While Thomas might not be my cup o’ barleywine, based on what I heard from other patrons who’d tried it, it’ll be right up the alley of any lover of the style out there.
333 Douglass St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Thank goodness for proximity and warm spring days. For the next stop on our brewery tour, we sauntered out of Strong Rope and just down the block to Threes Brewing. It was a bit of a shock to be thrown into a more bustling, post-brunch beer hall environment after drinking in calm, palm-tree addled Strong Rope. While we couldn’t get a seat at the bar, we were able to snag a table after another couple (On a date? Threes is for lovers!) stumbled out. There were no flights available, so we ordered four five-ounce pours at the suggestion of our (very nice but obviously exhausted) server.
All of the beers we received were of a similar hue. The only way we could tell them apart was because the server graciously lined them up in accordance with our bar receipt. At the top of the lineup was Threes Vliet, a light, foamy pilsner that tasted faintly like licking the rubber tread on a brand new sneaker (in a nice way). At 5.2% ABV, it was also stronger than I’d expected! Next, we tried Wandering Bine (6.5% ABV), which came highly recommended as one of Threes’ best sour saisons. Though aged in Cabernet Franc barrels, the beer reminded me of Riesling. And then there was Tyranny of Mirrors (4.75% ABV), an American pale ale. The menu did claim that it had an orange-citrusy base flavor, but this element came out way more prominently than I thought it would. The beer was pretty bitter -- but savory -- and definitely my favorite.
From what I can tell, Threes makes sour beers and funky saisons incredibly well. But I can also tell that at this point in my beer-tasting journey, I’m not much of a sour beer fan. For now, I’ll stick to my IPAs like the smug Brooklyn riff-raff I am.
credits:"Melissa Horn / Threes Brewing"
79 N 11th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
It wouldn’t be a Brooklyn brewery highlight tour without The Brooklyn Brewery making the list. Brooklyn Brewery might be the most household name on this list, and it is definitely the most tourist-ridden. Although I did visit on a weekend afternoon, I was legitimately surprised by how long the tour admission line was. Then I found out that Brooklyn Brewery is only open to the public on weekends, and saw all of that sweet Brooklyn Brewery merch -- and understood the hype.
This is not to say that I think that Brooklyn Brewery’s beers should be overlooked -- after all, they are definitely the ones I drink the most out of any on this list. I even ordered my go-to: Brooklyn Lager. It makes for crisp, refreshing, easy-drinking, and makes me look like a cultured lady when I order it at bars outside of New York. Brooklyn Lager is a classic brew that’s near and dear to my heart, and I will probably keep drinking it forever because I am a lazy and stubborn creature of habit.
7 N 15th St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
I’ll start off by saying that I deeply enjoy Greenpoint Brewery’s atmosphere. The industrial-style bar had taken advantage of the nice weather by opening its many windows, and the main bar was gigantic with no shortage of seats. At this point, however, I was feeling a little fatigued and had to order a giant Bavarian pretzel, because carbs are the secret to a successful brewery crawl.
Weak from my day of beer-tasting and interborough subway travel, I tried the gentlest-sounding brew on the list, their Milk & Honey Blonde Ale (4.9% ABV). It was -- to my relief and gratitude -- sweet and light, indeed. It had wheaty undertones, and I could definitely taste the honey flavor. It was refreshing, but just sweet enough for a spring day. Not only did it get me out of my beer-tasting rut, it was probably my favorite beer of the day!
credits:"KCBC Beer / Instagram" align:right width:350
381 Troutman St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
I love KCBC because it is small, minimalist, industrial, no-nonsense, and a block away from my apartment. Hyperlocality is the way to my heart (one way, at least), so KCBC was a great way to end a long day of brewery hopping.
After chugging a few glasses of water, I ordered KCBC’s Secret Weapon (4.7% ABV). KCBC calls this an English Pale Ale, but others might know it as an English Mild. Secret weapon was mercifully mild, indeed, and tasted fruity (apple, maybe?) with a hint of chocolate and a smooth finish. This beer was definitely a marvelously tasty way to end a long weekend of pretending to be a beer connoisseur.
While these six delightful breweries are in no way a comprehensive list of all of Brooklyn’s craft brew spots, they are definitely now among my favorites, and worth a visit on a long, warm spring or summer weekend. Stay open-minded, adventurous, and hydrated!