Progress Update On A Brewery

You may have noticed that there hasn't been much in the way of any updates lately and I apologize for my lack of communication. When my efforts are focused on progressing the brewery forward, my updates/writing take a bit of a back seat and I did not mean to make you suffer from the lack of my provocative and insightful posts on creating a brewery. But progress IS being made, our Federal and State brewers licenses have been filed and are going through the bureaucratic paces; we have been reaching out to farmers and maltsters to get those New York State grown ingredients that are oh so important to our brewery, and we are about to begin our build-out!! The architect and engineers worked for months pouring over the spot to make sure our brewery needs will be met and now that is over our contractor is set to go. Thankfully, the space was a former pickle factory before it will be a brewery, which has left us with a space that needs minimal work before we can make that ever so delicious beer I know you are craving. For those looking to start their own brewery, If I can give one piece of advice, it would be to get your designs and paperwork started as early as possible. The lag from signing the lease to getting to the build-out is one that can be busy but stressful and whatever you can get out of the way before that pen goes to paper the better.  Now you never know how things are going to go in starting a business, especially in this city, but if everything goes smoothly, we hope to be making tasty ales this fall. Still a lot of work to do, but things are moving along and I hope to have more info coming your way as we get closer to the end goal.


We've secured a location!

After nearly 3 long years of searching for a location, starts and stops, and almost signings, we finally found the perfect spot to open Strong Rope Brewery. Being in New York was really important to us, both because of the connection of Strong Rope's name sake (more about where our name came from here) and about revitalizing the agriculture and manufacturing of my home state. Building on the local food movement and the increasing demand for craft beer, Strong Rope combines consumers’ passion for local ingredients and for flavorful beers. With a focus on serving cask ale, we will sell pints and growlers directly from the taproom, while providing tours and classes within the brewery.

Prior to Prohibition there were close to 50 breweries in Brooklyn at its peak. Currently there are only 8 operating, all of which are currently furiously brewing to keep up with demand.  Being a part of the community was always a main focus of ours and that meant that we needed to pick the right location. And picking a location, as we found out, was the easy part, finding a space in that location was the tough part. For the brewery we needed a space with these key demands: to be in correct zoning district (an M-Zone for manufacturing); we needed the space to have some heavy duty utilities with enough power, gas, water and good sewage to allow for the brewing process; and finally with our focus on cask ale and our desire to have a great taproom we needed a location that had a good amount of foot traffic, or at least close enough to mass transit to allow for easy access.

In late 2012/early 2013 we were looking into spaces that were acting like incubators for the new Brooklyn Maker movement, including the remodeled Pfizer building and the up-and-coming Industry City location. After those didn't quite work out we started to focus on neighborhoods that had a strong sense of community, Strong Rope is a passion project for myself and a big part of what I want from the brewery is to make it a space for people to come learn about beer, where the ingredients come from, and who the farmers and makers are. Strong Rope Brewery is looking to acquire a Farm Brewery License, utilizing New York grown ingredients, taking advantage of the effort by the state and Governor Cuomo to strengthen New York's agricultural sector as well as expanding economic development and tourism. In addition to supporting local farmers and encouraging the revival of New York State’s agricultural history, these heritage and organic ingredients have an amazing taste, helping provide a unique flavor and freshness to our beers. This lead us to look at neighborhoods such as the revitalized Brooklyn waterfront, the Brooklyn Navy Yards, Sunset Park, Crown Heights, and finally back in Gowanus.

We're happy to share the new location of Strong Rope Brewery will be at 574A President Street, Brooklyn, NY (formerly the home of Brooklyn Brine pickle guys who've moved to a larger space). We live nearby and always wanted to be close to our home neighborhood. We are so excited to begin the process of opening up the brewery here...the picture below is of our first shared time in the space merging the landlord's amazing circle of friends and musicians with our beer geek circle (with even a few curious people coming in off the street). It was an amazing night and we can't wait to see what more is to come...

We still have a long way to go with the construction and licenses, but this was our first major hurdle in order to start those processes...a huge thank you to our amazing lawyer, Bobby, who came to us through one of the early beer tastings at ba'sik bar in Williamsburg (thanks Derek...those sessions helped us perfect the current beer offerings and meet great people), our new landlords, Steve and Darryl, who welcomed us with open arms, and our many friends, family, and supporters who visited spaces with us, debating the pros/cons of various locations and neighborhoods, and believed in us that we'd find just the right space. This one is for you.


NY State of Malt

As Strong Rope slowly begins to come to fruition, I've started to reach out to the farmers, maltsters and artisans that will help bring my vision for the brewery to reality.

Developing these relationships is a crucial step for Strong Rope as the brewery will be highly focused on utilizing as much local ingredients as possible. With the Farm Brewery requirements of how much NY grown ingredients goes into a beer increasing in the coming years, fostering relationships early will help immensely as we can grow with those farmers.

Pioneer Malt In Hand

One of the biggest benefits of working with local farm, hop yard, and malt houses is it allows the brewer to help develop those flavors and characteristics you want in your beer. Getting out to the hop yard or the malthouse and seeing first hand the techniques, processes, and testing and tasting the product will help the brewer decide how best to utilize those ingredients. The fact that they are small, dynamic, and incentivised (by NY State tax breaks) to develop partnerships with local breweries helps foster these relationships. This is something that can be quite difficult for a NY brewer when working with an English maltster or hop grower from the Pacific Northwest. The access gained for the brewer and the ease of feedback for the farmer and maltster is an amazing system and one that should be explored to the utmost of its ability.

Pioneer Crew

Late last year I had the fortune of visiting two of the newest Malt Houses in New York state, which is seeing a renaissance of craft malting with the introduction of the Farm Brewery License, and the surge in locally produced goods. Pioneer Malting and Flower City Malt Lab, both located in Rochester NY, are new to the malting scene but diving headlong into their craft.

Pioneer uses traditional floor malting process, where the grain is germinated on a tiled floor and raked by hand. It is a more labor intensive method but one that I can attest is making a fantastic product. Flower City Malt Lab is taking the more modern approach in using high tech equipment that helps automate and control the process to their exacting standards, but are also hands on with the farmers who grow the grain, in helping select what grains work best and how to achieve the best product for malting . Both companies come at the process from slightly different angles but are producing great malt. As brewers become more familiar with New York grains, I am hoping we can bring their unique New York qualities to the forefront of our beers.

While I feel the terroir of beer may be a little harder to express then it is in its vinous cousin, just for the fact that much more goes into the creation of a beer than wine (not that I'm bias), I do think it is important to try and express the characteristics of where you are from and that is most discernible in what is known as a Single Malt and Single Hop beer, or SMaSH beer. Using a single malt and single hop in your beer allows you to really develop the unique characteristics of each of those ingredients.

And speaking of beer, NYC Beer Week is starting this weekend and I will be participating in a number of events providing beer made with NY state ingredients. From Jimmy's Homebrew Jamboree (with J.J. Bollerack's Big Brown Ale) and the Brewnity Homebrew Event (with Fat Man Little Stout) this weekend, to Brewer's Choice (with a NY DMaSHH, or a double malt and single hop and honey ale).



Cheers to Local Beers!

Fall has arrived, and while we have been furiously working on securing a space for Strong Rope, we have also been celebrating the local beer scene with new festivals, new breweries and our own new beers.

It is important as Strong Rope takes the steps to open, to take a moment to appreciate all the great things happening in the local beer scene. Recently we were able to check out the Dutchess Hop Festival, outside Poughkeepsie, NY. As one of the many hop farms starting to spring up in New York, it was great to see their farm and many of the participating breweries using local ingredients. Despite the rather dreary day, we were able to enjoy the festivities, drink some good beer, eat some good food, and make some new friends. As a farm brewery I want Strong Rope to use as much New York grown ingredients as possible to develop relationships with the farmers to see where our hops and malts are coming from as well as ensure we're getting the best possible ingredients. They are the ones growing/developing our ingredients, let's get to know them.

Hops are down for the season

Hops are down for the season

In addition, there are new developments in the city. I got my first taste from Mike Mare's brewery Secret Engine with their fabulous lagers brewed at and in collaboration with Rocky Point Artisan Brewers. Jimmy's 43 had a recent takeover, serving a wonderful Sticke Altbier on cask, that was malty, rich, and delicious. Keep an eye out for their beers. When talking to Mike, he brought up the point that he loves the collaborative side of brewing. He said to him that was what beer was about, it was something that brought people together, whether it was the brewers or the drinkers. It is a "social" science if you will. I love the idea of being able to throw ideas of other brewers at times and will definitely be on the look out for breweries to collaborate with.

Secret Engine Sticke

I also want to give a shout out to the NYC breweries with wins at this year's Great American Beer Festival. Congrats to Gun Hill Brewing and Grimm Artisan Ales for their award-winning beers. Gun Hill (in the Bronx) has only been open for 7 months...way to kick it off with a bang! Once we get Strong Rope up and running, I hope to participate in festivals and competitions. With Strong Rope's regional focus competitions are a great way to spread the word about our beers/brewery, without attempting national distribution.

Gun Hill with their Oatmeal Stout. Tasty

Gun Hill with their Oatmeal Stout. Tasty

Finally we checked out the 1st annual Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Fest, showcasing a handful of NYC and regional tri-state area breweries. It was a beautiful day and great to see some new and new(ish) breweries growing into the NYC market. The NYC craft beer scene is continuing to grow and one that we hope to be a part of soon. It is far from being overcrowded as Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewer's Association, recently wrote, "I believe fervently that there are plenty of opportunities that still exist for breweries who can make a consistent, differentiated product, particularly at the local/neighborhood level." Hope to see you soon.




Buying a Brewhouse

Strong Rope made its first major purchase this past weekend, bringing the dream of opening a brewery one big step closer to reality. Rockaway Brewing Co., a great micro-brewery in Long Island City, is upgrading from an electric 2 barrel (bbl) system to a shiny new 5 bbl brew-house. They reached out to social media to alert the masses they were selling their system, for a price I couldn't refuse. I contacted them that day and spent the following Monday shadowing them on their last brew day on the system. A week after that we put a down payment on the brew house and I picked it up this past weekend. In the span of 3 weeks we own a brewery! It is still all very surreal at this point, i just keep thinking "oh yeah, I have a brewery", albeit without my own space to put it in, but that will come soon enough.

This opportunity was a change from how we originally planned on starting the brewery. We had planned on using Portland Kettle Works to fabricate a new 3.5 bbl gas fired system. It was important for us to use Portland Kettle Works, both because of their great craftsmanship and because they design and manufacture all their equipment in Portland, Oregon. With much of today's brewing equipment being made overseas, we wanted to use American made equipment for the quality it provides and for the convenience of being able to take a trip out to see it being made and to talk to the manufacturers...the guys at PKW have been great to work with, graciously answering my many questions. With plans for much of our beer being sold through the tap room, we will be serving our beer directly from serving tanks rather than kegs so we still plan on using Portland Kettle Works for those, but finding a used system, that I was able to test out and know the previous beer from it, was too great an opportunity to pass up (even without a space secured).

In this time when new breweries are rapidly opening, used equipment is a hot commodity and very hard to come by. With over 2,500 breweries operating in 2013, many on the nano scale (brewery's smaller than 3.5 bbl) as home-brewers with limited budgets make the leap to commercial status. Buying used saves us money to start, but also allows our environmental footprint to be a bit smaller as we are reusing equipment that has already gone through the manufacturing process. Also having a knowledgeable team nearby that has used it for the past two years and can pass on their first hand experience is an invaluable resource as I make this jump in production. This system will once again have life at Strong Rope. Thanks to the Ethan, Marcus, Flint and the Rockaway Brewing crew for helping get this thing in motion and thanks to Matt and Colby for the long day of moving it. Couldn't have done it without you guys. Stay tuned to find out more...

We have the system and I can't wait to start brewing great beer that will have people drinking Strong Rope for years to come. Cheers and see you all very soon!