A trip to New York is filled with myriad expectations and to-dos. There are museums and galleries to visit in Manhattan, and culture and architecture to check out in Harlem, and dumplings to eat in Queens.
But if you’re here for the beer, Brooklyn’s got you. And by that, we mean both the borough, which now touts 13 breweries and counting, and the eponymous Brooklyn Brewery, where the borough’s craft beer revolution began.
Brooklyn Brewery is rolling out a brand new taproom this summer (check the website for up-to-the-minute details on tours and accessibility), making this year the perfect time to plan a visit — whether you haven’t kicked it off your bucket list yet, or took a tour too many years ago to count. Beers on the menu abound, ranging from standard and sessionable to wild, experimental, and limited releases you didn’t know existed.
The borough staple started from humble beginnings — Williamsburg, Brooklyn was pretty rough around the edges back in the 1980s — yet became and remains a must for New York locals and visitors alike.
Why It’s Famous
Brooklyn Brewery is one of New York’s first post-Prohibition craft breweries. Founded in 1988 by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter and located at its Williamsburg address (79 North 11th Street) since 1996, Brooklyn Brewery has been taking successful risks for three decades.
Its flagship Brooklyn Lager, “basic” by today’s hop-head standards, is renowned the world over. A wealth of more experimental brews, like its Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, a farmhouse saison that resurrected an oddball hop originating in Japan in the 1970s, is now one of the brewery’s most popular beers.
Basically, Brooklyn Brewery reintroduced Brooklyn palates to locally made beer, and in many ways revitalized Williamsburg as a whole (things were not always tres chic there). Oh, and its brewmaster is one of beer’s most lovable media darlings, Garrett Oliver.
Plus, it throws great parties. From Beer Mansion ragers held around the world; to releases of Brooklyn Quarterly Experiment (BQE), Brewmaster’s Reserve (BMR), and ghost bottles; to big fancy beer dinners galore; Brooklyn Brewery is always down to entertain.
What to Order
Start with a Bel Air Sour, Brooklyn Brewery’s new year-round offering that makes American wild ale friendly for foreign palates. It’s tart, but refreshing and “drinkable.”
After you crush that, ask your server about Brewmaster’s Reserve and Brooklyn Quarterly Experiments (BQE). If the answer to either is yes, you’re in for a treat.
Trust us on this. BQE concoctions include Kiwi’s Playhouse, a tart and tropical sour ale aged on kiwis in red wine barrels; the Discreet Charm of the Framboisie, a sour ale aged with whole raspberries (and a deliciously odd homage to the 1972 surrealist film directed by Luis Buñuel, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”); and the Improved Old Fashioned, a riff on the classic cocktail that happens to be one of our favorite cocktail-inspired beers.
The Brewmaster’s Reserve is another series of one-offs, although at least one has made its way to becoming a year-round offering (here’s looking at you, Bel Air Sour).
After that, go seasonal. Brooklyn Summer Ale is always a fun refresher, although you can also find it in bars and bodegas throughout NYC. And Brooklyn Winter Lager is a very easy-drinking rendition of the already friendly schwarzbier style.
What to Skip
Brooklyn Lager, although the recent recipient of the prestigious 2018 World Beer Cup Gold Medal in the American-Style Amber Lager category, is available everywhere — from across the street to around the world.
When to Go
Anytime. Brooklyn Brewery is unveiling a revamped taproom in summer 2018 (stay tuned for public hours). Its fresh digs feature a new bar, big windows letting in light from North 11th Street, and more seating, hours, and tours than before. The new bar is also a regular cash and card bar, whereas before it did that whole weird wooden-token thing.
Small Batch Tours are on a new schedule, too, running Monday through Friday starting May 23. You can reserve your spot as early as 60 days ahead of time, which may seem excessive, but spots fill up quickly. An $18 admission fee gets you a 45-minute-long tour and tasting of four beers, plus some beer schooling and souvenir stemware. (This glass is a staple in my personal collection.)
If you’re ready to brave a Brooklyn summer, June through September is always an electric time on the Williamsburg waterfront. Beautiful locals commingle with beautiful tourists; street fairs and vendors pop up on every corner; and plenty of options for delicious food and drink meet you at every level, from rooftop bars to food trucks. (We’re looking at you, taco truck on North 7th street.)
If you prefer a quieter visit, that will be difficult to accomplish in a neighborhood this relentlessly hip. But you’ll have better luck in winter months when all the tourists have returned home and the locals are mostly in hibernation.
Where to Stay
This depends on your vibe and budget. Williamsburg claims some of the best hotels in the city, what with its waterfront views and proximity to Bedford Avenue, McCarren Park, and seemingly endless drinking and dining options. Those ready to ball out might consider nearby hotels like the Wythe Hotel or McCarren Hotel and Pool.
A little farther inland from the river is Hotel Le Jolie. It’s a bit of a walk by non-New York standards (about 12 minutes), but still pretty bustling (and in proximity to great beer bars like Beer Street, bottle shops like Beer Karma, and a distillery, New York Distilling).
In Williamsburg’s next-door neighbor, Greenpoint, the Box Hotel offers free shuttles (that are in a badass-looking taxi). Over the Pulaski Bridge in Long Island City, budget-friendly options include boutique hotels and hostels (Q4 Hotel, the Local NYC, LIC Hotel), and major hotel brands like Best Western, Quality Inn, and Days Inn.
Or, you know, Airbnb.
Brooklyn Brewery is located at 79 North 11th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11249, between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue.