Danii Oliver became a brewer out of necessity. The Queens-born, Caribbean-American business owner was looking for healthier, tastier alternatives to fermented beverages when she was pregnant with her first child. So she decided to make them herself.
At House of Juice, her first Brooklyn business, Oliver crafts fresh fruit-based juices, smoothies, and kombuchas. Her craft brewery, Island to Island, adds beer and cider to the mix. Both concepts draw inspiration from both local and Caribbean cuisines. Her passions all come together at Taproom at 642 Rogers Ave. in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn.
Pregnant and already a mother of one, Oliver’s first pride and joy, perhaps, is her Brooklyn Jun Brew. But she still has a place in her heart, and a growing list of recipes, for creative, high-ABV beers.
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
I need my Brooklyn Jun Brew to live! If the beer has to be alcoholic and have grains to be considered [beer], I will add some honey malt… Thus, it would be a sour beer.
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
Three-fold answer. It wasn’t love at first sight. Beer dated me for a while.
I had a Tsingtao — light, refreshing, and thirst quenching in a way no other alcoholic drink ever made me feel. I then as an Asian foodie would always ask for Tsingtao or have water.
Then, I had a Sam Adams Pumpkin Ale and fell in love with this thing that didn’t taste like the Heineken or the Carib Sorrel Shandy that littered every family BBQ. It lead me to read about the Sam Adams brand and how Jim Koch bathed in the beer and I was intrigued. I tried every flavor that came out in the grocery just to explore what everyone else was not offering.
Then I ended up at Heartland Brewery and had their Oatmeal Stout! Nothing like what we West Indians have come to know as a stout. And then I was in love. I was hooked. This thing called beer from light to fruity to flavor-rich to malty and sweet was now my best friend … and my family thought I was crazy. They wanted to know why I couldn’t be normal and have Carib. Why did I always have to ask for or bring beers no one could find or recognize? Like the brands I bought were off or bootleg.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour?
KILL the IPA … oh, God, what IPAs have become today in America … I just can’t. If I wanted hop tea I would have a green juice. Death to them all except [Island to Island’s] Calypso IPA and [Dogfish Head] 90 Minute IPA.
Marry a pilsner because very little excitement is what marriage becomes over time, but you know you can rely on it not to fail you. It’s the kind of partner you can build with, make babies with, change the world with by creating something new. It’s welcoming to all, and keeps good company, making it a beer you can share with a wide range of guests.
Fuck a sour … I need my sours. That late-night kick, that early morning zest, that midday quickie; sneak one anytime. Just thinking ‘bout my favorite sours makes me… I think thirsty is the appropriate word, but “not dry.”
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last supper beer?
Last supper will be a three-course beer meal: Start with my tapas beer, Mango Chow sour ale. Then, my main will be my Perfect BBQ Beer designed to give you the experience of biting into perfectly barbecued ribs, while eating sweet watermelon and having your alcohol at the same time, and not having to get out of your seat! Finally, finish with a dessert beer such as Whine in She Bam Bam, peachy and hoppy, a sweet fruit beer to relax me, getting me whining (a.k.a. dancing) for the last time then knock me out.
Executioner can then come get me. I won’t need Jun so let’s get the show on the road.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
Jun! Jun is life!
I made a hoppy version called Child’s Play during NYC Beer Week 2018 for pregnant women, and those in sobriety to be able to enjoy an IPA. As far as fermented beverages go, Jun is what I loved about Tsingtao, light and refreshing; what I loved about the Sam Adams brand, flavorful and varietal; the reason I would marry a pilsner, it being a good base to make more than what’s in your hand. I love to create and a canvas or muse that can be a springboard gets my golden ticket as a life partner.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
Best beer in my fridge at home right now is the Class of 2017 New York City Pale Ale. Why do I still have it, you ask? Because I’m pregnant and I don’t want a sip of that, I want to enjoy it!
Worst beer in my fridge: I don’t keep bad beer around to be honest. I had a DDH can for research but that didn’t stay in stock. There is a rule, you don’t want to waste alcohol, but some beers fly under the radar of the alcohol police. They get drained and recycled, no track record.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
Jun! Take out the grain, don’t hop it, [and] beer snobs will demote it back down to a probiotic soda.
In fact, I made Jun and have been perfecting Jun over time because I learned about my gluten intolerance and had to avoid beer for a while, or suffer the consequences. From time to time, I snuck a beer in and would get all the intolerance symptoms and was miserable after. Now that I have Brooklyn Jun Brew I can drink more varieties of beer without consequence or even getting drunk or slightly tipsy. I miss getting that slight buzz but I’d rather not be in pain.