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NY Beer Tasting: Experience Brooklyn Beer, Past and Present

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 3/23/2010 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>  Step into any bar in Brooklyn, and there’s a good chance that a locally-made brew will be on offer. But just a few years ago, that wasn’t the case.

Brooklyn Brewery - Local 2In the 1970’s, the last breweries in Brooklyn closed their doors, and city residents could only wet their whistles with national mega-brews like Budweiser, Miller and Pabst, or imports like Heineken and Lowenbrau that were coming into vogue. A city that had once been awash in breweries with strong local brands like Schaefer and Rheingold had gone dry.

New York’s first brewing boom came in the mid-19th century, when large numbers of German-speaking immigrants arrived in America and started setting up breweries to make the styles of beer they were accustomed to in Europe. Within a generation, these brewers had transformed American tastes – their light, golden lager became the most popular libation in the country, supplanting beverages like whiskey and cider.

By 1870, there were more than 3,000 breweries in the United States, and Brooklyn ranked among the top beer producers, alongside renowned Midwestern beer towns like Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago. In 1907, Brooklyn boasted 48 breweries, and one section of Williamsburg and Bushwick had 11 within an 14-block area.

But the boom would not last forever. Prohibition dealt a near fatal blow to New York City’s breweries, but several survived the lean years; rather than temperance, complacency and consolidation finally killed them off. With such a massive local market, the city’s brewers did not see the need to distribute their products to other parts of the country. Meanwhile, the national brewers were gaining market share and driving local operations out of business; eventually, they made headway into the New York market, and the cloistered brewers could not compete.

Today, the brewing industry looks quite different both locally and nationally. Brewing has returned to Brooklyn, and there are now three local producers: Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint Craft Ales, and the Greenpoint Beer Works, which brews the Kelso brand of beers.

After hitting a low of less than 100 independent breweries nationwide in the early 1980’s, locally-owned and produced beer has made a resurgence, and there are now over 1,500 breweries across the country, the most in 100 years. There are lots of ways to explore both brewing’s beginnings in Brooklyn and its current renaissance.

Take the Brewed in Brooklyn Tour

An easy way to explore local beers is to take the Brewed in Brooklyn Tour by Urban Oyster. This tasting tour provides the full-bodied story of beer’s past and present in Brooklyn.

On the Brooklyn beer tasting tour, you visit historic brewery buildings, explore a neighborhood that was once the heart of New York’s German community, tour a brewery in Brooklyn, have a bite to eat at local establishments, and taste a wide assortment of beers from across the city, as well as the world.

Tour, Taste, and Find

Want to stroll around on your own? Here are some beer-related locations worth checking out:

    Huber/Hittleman Brewery Building, BrooklynView the Old Huber/Hittleman Brewery - 260 Meserole Street, Brooklyn
    One of the highlights of the Brewed in Brooklyn Tour is the Otto Huber Brewery, which opened its doors in 1865 (though the current structure dates to around 1875). Unable to weather Prohibition, the Hubers sold the business in the 1920’s to Edward B. Hittleman, a Russian-Jewish immigrant. When alcohol was made legal again in 1933, Hittleman’s brewery enjoyed several years of success producing old Huber brands like Edelbrew and Goldenrod.

    Most of the old breweries in Brooklyn have been torn down, but not only has this huge structure survived, so have many of the intricate details on the building’s facade, like beer barrels built into the brick and the carved initials “O” and “H” – for Otto Huber. Today the building is home to a recording studio and Chinese food company that produces noodles and dumplings.

    Enjoy tastings at Brooklyn Brewery - 79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn
    Brooklyn BreweryOpened in 1996, the Brooklyn Brewery led the revival of the borough’s beer industry. The company was founded in 1989, but they had no brewing facility, so they contracted out their brewing to F.X. Matt Brewing, located in Utica, New York. Today the vast majority of their beer is still made by F.X. Matt, while their Williamsburg brewhouse is used to brew and bottle specialty beers, like their Local 1 and Local 2 (see top picture).

    The brewery is in the process of expanding their production in Brooklyn, which will allow them to produce up to 50,000 barrels of beer annually. It is open to the public on weekends, when they offer tours of the brewhouse. There is also a bar with a wide selection of their products on tap.

    Sip and relax at Radegast Hall & Beer Garden - 113 North 13th Street, Brooklyn
    German-speaking immigrants not only built breweries, they also built beer gardens in which to enjoy their beer. These establishments quickly became popular with non-Germans, and revelers flocked to neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Yorkville (on Manhattan’s Upper East Side), and the Lower East Side to enjoy the vast and airy beer halls. Today, as the breweries have returned, so, too have the beer gardens. Though not German, Radegast in Williamsburg is a modern take on a traditional beer garden with its vast selection of beers and fantastic Central European food.

    Editor's Note: The introduction on this restaurant's website is one of the best around! Karen.

    Use the Web to Find Great Local Beers
    Of course, you don’t have to visit a brewery to taste beer. Brooklyn Lager has become nearly as ubiquitous as Bud Light (or so it seems) in bars across the city, but keep an eye out for taps from Sixpoint Craft Ales and Kelso of Brooklyn. To help you search for local brews, check out Beermenus.com, which offers a full listing of the beer selections for most bars in New York, plus beer-related events around the city and where to get free beer.

Urban Oyster - a NYC Walking Tour Company

Andrew Gustafson, author of NY Beer TastingAndrew Gustafson (beer enthusiast, reporter/writer, cartographer, and Russian translator) and Urban Oyster (a NYC Walking Tour Company) make this series of articles on New York Beer Tasting possible!

For more information about Urban Oyster:

Beer tasting at the Brooklyn BreweryNote that the popular Brooklyn Brewery gets packed on weekends, however, if you join the Urban Oyster Brewed in Brooklyn Tour, you will get to taste all the beers the brewery has on tap, plus receive a private tour of the brewhouse.

About Me, Andrew Gustafson

I am a writer, researcher, and cartographer living in Brooklyn and am available for commission to research and produce articles for a variety of purposes.

    Writing: Specialize on topics related to New York City history and culture, American and international politics, sports, and subjects related to Russia and the former Soviet Union.

    Maps: As a professional cartographer, produce maps for print publications and digital media.

    Russian Translation: Translate written and spoken Russian for a wireservice and magazines. I am available for translation commissions and to work as an interpreter.

For more information, visit andrewgustafson.weebly.com


Ask Andrew Gustafson at andrewg@urbanoyster.com

Urban Oyster - NYC Walking Tours

Article written by Andrew Gustafson for Littleviews.com on March 23, 2010. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com and Mr. Gustafson. Please contact Littleviews.com for permission to reproduce.

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