We were standing in the middle of a dimly lit street on an unbelievably dark night in November looking for a bar. This was hardly a new experience for me but in the days before the wide availability of detailed world maps in tiny devices in our pockets, it was challenging. It was my first time in Brooklyn and we had a vague idea of where this world class Belgian focused beer bar was located but unsurprisingly, our directions didn’t quite get us there. So as we stood there, trying to figure out which direction to head in next, some local beer geeks passed by, noticed our predicament, and helped guide us to Spuyten Duyvil, where we drank Cantillon, ate stinky cheese, and laughed through the evening. This was the night I fell in love with the town on which we focus today’s episode, Brooklyn, New York.
Brooklyn was once one of the world’s great brewing centers. Home to nearly 50 breweries in 1900, the borough brewed a ton of beer under brands names like Schaefer, Rheingold, and many others lost to history. But that came to an end by the mid-1970s and the borough’s mashtuns went silent for the next almost 20 years. That was until 1987 when Steve Hindy and Tom Potter decided to open up their own brewery in a warehouse district in Williamsburg. Named after the borough it inhabited, Brooklyn Brewery would go on to spread the word of craft beer around the globe and become one of the early pioneers of the resurgent modern American beer scene.
It took a while for brewing to catch on again in Brooklyn but slowly others opened, including Kelso and Sixpoint. And then there was the third wave of craft brewers, with names such as Other Half, Threes, and Finback. Today, Brooklyn’s beer scene is top notch and the borough’s bars and breweries make for an easy and exciting night out.
After falling in love with it after my first visit, I trek down to Brooklyn a couple times a year including in December for an annual holiday themed pub and brewery crawl. It remains a favorite place to visit and drink and I look forward to exploring it with two great local experts.
Courtney Iseman is a freelance writer who has written engaging pieces for Vinepair, Craft Beer and Brewing, as well as her own newsletter, Hugging the Bar. She’s a compelling voice in beer and has written extensively about everything from diversity and inclusion to her favorite local Brooklyn pubs, including about the bar owned by our second guest.
Chris Maestro is a DJ, avid record collector, educator, and also the co-owner with his wife of Bierwax, a beer bar with outposts in both Brooklyn and Queens. The Prospect Heights based bar focuses on great beer and music, played analog style from one of Chris’s thousands of vinyl records that line the back of the bar. He was in the beer business before opening his own shop and is a Brooklyn native.
It’s a big borough and there’s a lot of ground to cover in this episode. So let’s get started with our tour of Brooklyn, New York, with writer Courtney Iseman and publican Chris Maestro.
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