Last November 2014, in the heart of Brooklyn, we had the great opportunity to visit for the first time the Brooklyn Brewery in New-York, USA.
After a quick and interesting tour of the Brewery with one of the Brewers, we of course made a stop at the bar to experience their craft Ales – it’s always better when you experience them directly at the brewery isn’it ? We tried their Sorachi Ace – which is one of our favorites – and we had also their wonderful Brooklyn Brown Ale.
Having been there without being able to bring back a souvenir to share with our readers would have been seen as a defeat and thanks to our friend Mike Gilmore, we could get in contact with Garrett Oliver who is the Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery.
Top Of The Hops – What are the main key points of the history of Brooklyn Brewery ?
Garrett Oliver: The brewery was founded in 1988 by Steve Hindy, a Mideast foreign correspondent, and his neighbor Tom Potter, who was a commercial banker. At the time, there was very little craft beer in the United States, and they wanted to bring flavorful beer back to Brooklyn. I joined the brewery in 1994 as brewmaster, having previously been the brewmaster at Manhattan Brewing Company, a pioneering brewpub in Manhattan. The company is now largely owned by CEO Eric Ottaway and President Robin Ottaway, whose father worked with Steve in the Middle East. Steve still works with the brewery as chairman of the board.
“I like to think that there is a Brooklyn beer for everyone”
Why did you decide to create your own brewery and why in Brooklyn?
Steve and Tom were neighbors and homebrewers. They wanted not only to make great beer, but also to bring a sense of pride back to Brooklyn, which at this time was not often viewed as a great place. But Brooklyn has a great brewing history, and was once home to 48 breweries that made more than 10% of all the beer in the country.
What is your opinion in regard with the Craft beer movement expansion in USA and in Europe? Do you think that it is only a trend?
No, it is not a trend, and this is the most important thing to understand. “Craft beer” is simply a return to normality. We once had 4,000 breweries in the United States, and they brewed a wonderful variety of beers. We probably also had the most varied food culture in the world, because we are a nation of immigrants. The industrialization of food was a mid-20th Century trend that is now being rapidly reversed. Our food and our beer is once again varied, as it always was before. The cultural forces of industrial food have had their day and will not return to dominate the way they once did. To have a country of 300 million people, with such varied cultures….and only one kind of beer? This was the strange period, or the “fad”. We are now recovering, as if from an illness.
Do you have some recollection of the first Craft beer which has changed the way you enjoy beer?
The first wonderful beer I ever had was in 1983 when I moved to London. I drank all the great English bitters of the day – Fuller’s, Young’s, Samuel Smith’s, Adnam’s. Then I traveled to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and many other countries, and I learned that they had great beer too. But the United States didn’t, and that was a problem for me when I returned home.
Do you already have plans to launch new beers? If yes, what would they be?
We constantly release new beers, at least seven every year, and then there are all sorts of special projects. We have a large barrel room, which can hold more than 2,000 oak barrels, and we release four barrel-aged beers per year. There are new draft specials every three months. Many people know only our Brooklyn Lager and East IPA, and we are very proud of them. But Brooklyn Brewery has always been one of the most innovative breweries in the country, and this tradition continues. Next year we will release more than 35 different beers, so I like to think that there is a Brooklyn beer for everyone.
“Even your grandmother will enjoy Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!”
For our readers who are not necessarily experts, what beer would you recommend to make them fall in love with Craft beer?
I find that almost all people have a sense of “good taste” – they appreciate good drinks, even if they are unfamiliar. What we must do is to tell people what flavors to expect and then suggest some great way to enjoy them. For example, we can recommend a Belgian-inspired wheat beer, which has very light bitterness and is soft and gently spicy. And it is wonderful with moules frites. But then if you have spicy Thai food, then I will recommend perhaps a Saison farmhouse beer or a hoppy, aromatic IPA. And some things seem universal – even your grandmother will enjoy Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout!
What’s your favorite beer at the moment? (could be one of your own production)
Of course, I love all of our beers, though right now I am drinking more of our Sorachi Ace saison and our Quadraceratops (a 10% quadruppel) than anything else. And I like so many other beers, it is difficult to choose. We have so many sour, funky beers that are really good these days, and the 1809 Berliner Weisse from Fritz Breim is a favourite. I also really enjoy the beers from Russian River and Firestone Walker out of California. These days there are many very good breweries in the United States. Anyone who comes here thinking that we are a country of McDonald’s and Budweiser will have a pleasant surprise. We have the most vibrant beer culture in the world, some borrowed from Europe, some self-invented, and very American in its boldness and joie-de-vivre.
“Fermentation and Civilization are inseparable” – John Ciardi
Brooklyn Brewery : North 11th Street, Brooklyn, State of New York, USA – Tel.: +1 718-486-7422