Nanobrewing, simply put, is the bridge between homebrewing and running a full-scale production brewery — one where forklifts and 401(k)’s are involved. A nanobrewer typically produces less than three barrel batches at a given time (for those who didn’t attend a Big Ten university, one barrel equals roughly 31 gallons, two kegs or 248 16-oz. pints). This small-ish production scale allows the brewer to operate lean and nimble, but at a scale much larger than a homebrewer. One that allows many to taste the fruits of their labor. This flexibility allows for creativity, collaboration and what some have called a “liquid calling card” for bigger and better things down the road. Don’t think nanobrewers aren’t in it to win it. Most we spoke with have dreams of opening larger production facilities and hiring staff. Some are already in the process.
Last week, NYC Suds Sergeant Jimmy Carbone introduced us to four nanobrewers operating in New York City. Carbone is co-founder of The Good Beer Seal and owner of Jimmy’s No 43, a restaurant and craft beer mecca in the East Village. He’s also host of Beer Sessions Radio on the Heritage Radio Network. Here’s who he took us to meet:
At this West Soho restaurant, the beer program is not selected by a skilled bartender or beer geek beverage manager. It’s made right there in the basement by accomplished homebrewer, turned beer sales guy and social butterfly of the malt scene, Chris Cuzme. Aided by a perfectly legal, though rarely issued, operators license, Cuzme produces a lineup of handcrafted ales, porters and blondes — working in two-barrel batches at a time. A refreshing pomp ale incorporates pomegranate tea that Cuzme had recently purchased at a market in Istanbul. A spruce ale, also lightweight and session-friendly, thankfully didn’t hint of Listerine. His setup is very homebrew in structure, with plastic tanks and chalkboard taps. These beers really stand out. 508 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10013 508nyc.com
Pioneering. It’s the only way to describe this 11-year-old Brooklyn bottle and gourmet food shop. They were the first in New York City to sell growlers, which co-owner Ben Granger points out you can now find at CVS. Bierkraft was also the first to allow customers to buy a bottle of Blue Point Hoptical Illusion on one side of the shop, and sit down with a paprika-rubbed wagyu roast beef sandwich on the other. Now, they are making their own beer (which should begin any day now once the proper permit is secured). “We aren’t trying to be a brew pub,” says Granger while sitting on his dormant brewing equipment. With a budget of about $30,000, he plans to offer a lineup of approachable beers available on tap only — the same pilsners and ales they’ve been brewing at the shop for years (for store-use only, of course). “Beer, it’s not rocket science,” he says after explaining how he uses an electrical implement to boil, rather than an open flame. Maybe not science, but Bierkraft making their own brew could be the makings of art. 191 Fifth Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11215 bierkraft.com
Bridge And Tunnel Brewery
We’re driving in a residential neighborhood in Maspeth, Queens, where single-family homes with tidy front yards form the landscape. It’s not the kind of place where you find one of NYC’s great upstart brewing minds. But this is the address Rich Castagnia gave us (and asked not to share with the public, presumably so his neighbors won’t find out). His Bridge and Tunnel Brewery, run out of a garage like those guys who started Apple, only received a micro-brewing license in September, debuting with a cask of oatmeal stout at d.b.a. in Brooklyn. It sold out, quickly. He currently works in 1.5 barrel batches, making a range of au courant beers like German-styled dunkelweizen, hazelnut brown and a malty red IPA. He tells a story of delivering 12 kegs to local bars in his Jetta over New Year’s, his biggest weekend yet. He’s currently looking at spaces to expand to, when he might be able to publish an address. In the meantime, you can visit bridgeandtunnelbrewery.com
Rockaway Brewing Company
The name is slightly confusing, as Rockaway is actually located far from the ocean in an old meatpacking plant in Hunters Point, Queens near the happening stretch of Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. Rockaway is known for their ESB — short for extra special bitter, an English styled brew that is not as bitter as the name would suggest. The company is run by partners Ethan Long and Marcus Burnett, who also oversee a set design company in an adjacent workshop. But brewing is what they love to do, and has them currently producing 12-16 kegs per week in their “spare time” between designing for fashion shows and various corporate clients. They recently opened a growler room, which operates Thursday-Saturday. 5-01 46th Ave., Long Island City, New York 11101 rockawaybrewco.com
You can find most of these beers at Jimmy’s No. 43, as well as fine products from other small local breweries, including Barrier and Port Jefferson from Long Island and Carton from New Jersey.