After Zack Kinney, Tony Bellis, and Pete Lengyel met through a New York City homebrewing club in 2015, they joined forces for a shared cause: to make beer as a collective, subverting the more traditional brewery practice of siloing important decisions. With that, Kings County Brewers Collective was born. The craft brewery, which opened in 2016 in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, quickly became known to locals and beer fans simply as KCBC.
The brand has since amassed a following with its killer brews, colorful can art, and quirky beer names. To this day, KCBC continues to crank out consistent hits by experimenting and pushing the envelope to produce wild barrel-aged lagers, inventive fruited sours, and hyper-traditional, geographically specific styles of beer that have been largely forgotten in the wake of modern beer culture. It’s not just stouts, sours, and hazies at KCBC, and they like it that way. And sure enough, so do we. As of 2023, KCBC distributes to over 10 states, and sometimes, their beer even makes it overseas.
Should your summer travel plans allow it, we recommend making your way over to Bushwick and paying them a visit in person. But until then, read on to learn more about what sets KCBC apart in today’s beer market.
KCBC is the first brick-and-mortar brewery to open in Bushwick since 1976.
In the early 20th century, Brooklyn was producing 10 percent of the beer in the U.S. Then came Prohibition, and the majority of those breweries went out of business. In 1976, Rheingold and Schaefer — the two remaining strongholds — both closed down permanently, and Bushwick was left without a brewery for the next 40 years. Thankfully, eventually KCBC set up shop, ushering in a new era in Bushwick’s beer scene.
KCBC’s in-house artist began his career as a comic book illustrator.
Artist Earl Holloway moved to New York in 1987 to attend the School of Visual Arts. After that, he began illustrating on a freelance basis, and he started his own comic book series before joining the KCBC team. His hand-drawn artwork is now featured on all KCBC can art, merchandise, and the brewery’s walls. (Check out more of his artwork here.)
Film plays a major role in KCBC’s beer-naming process.
“We’re big movie buffs here,” says KCBC’s lead brewer Ian Smith. Somehow managing to dodge copyright violations, most of KCBC’s beer names are either comic book-inspired or an animal-based pun on a classic film title: Mission Impossumible Double IPA, A Cluckwork Orange, and Reservoir Frogs to name a few. Smith also notes that tying in movie titles has helped their beers reach a wider audience. “When people see something familiar, they’re more likely to try it and remember it,” he explains.
Every May, KCBC celebrates “Lager Appreciation Month.”
It’s unclear as to whether lagers will ever surpass hazy IPAs in popularity, but breweries are doing what they can to put the industry underdog on the map. The idea for KCBC’s own lager appreciation effort was also born out of practicality: During the pandemic, the brewery was sitting on a bunch of unsold beer — particularly lagers. To help liquidate backstock, co-founder Kinney decided to shotgun a beer every day for the entire month of April. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t move the needle much, so the brewery decided to kick off its first Lager Appreciation Month in May. And as lagers carry the stigma of being one-dimensional, KCBC makes it a point to draw upon different regional Old World variants. In fact, it has an outstanding Slovenian-style pilsner, Demon Dragon, on tap at its tasting room right now.
It recently released a beer aged in an amaro barrel.
KCBC has jumped on the Amaro bandwagon, but it’s not canning Negronis. Brooklyn-based distillery St. Agrestis generously gifted the brewery a spent amaro barrel, which the folks at KCBC used to age one of their schwarzbiers (a German dark lager). The resulting beer, A Dance with Death, is a phenomenal example of the creativity and “no-limits” attitude that KCBC embodies — and it’s already sold out. KCBC is currently using that same amaro barrel to age a sour beer, so keep an eye out for that release.
The brewery occupies a former auto body shop.
It’s not the first to do so, but it’s still a pretty cool concept. The construction template of a car repair shop actually accommodates a brewery quite well. The cavernous space, with high ceilings and an open floor plan, leaves plenty of room for brewing equipment, storage, and the long bench-style seating you see at many breweries nowadays. The huge garage doors also function as a quick way to extend the space out onto the sidewalk when the weather permits.
It has a huge metalhead fanbase.
There’s a surprising amount of overlap between the metal scene and the craft beer scene. “Metalheads are some of the nicest people who drink our beer,” says KCBC sales director Lindsey Storm. In 2018, KCBC teamed up with the Polish metal band Behemoth for the release of “Wolf ov Siberia,” a double IPA hopped with Citra, Motueka, and Centennial. The beer shares a name with the second track of Behemoth’s 2018 studio album “I Loved You at Your Darkest.” Then, in September of 2022, KCBC debuted “Netherhelles,” a German helles-style lager brewed to honor Revocation’s new album “Netherheaven.” KCBC has also participated in Decibel Magazine’s annual “Metal & Beer Fest” in Philadelphia for the past two years, pouring up its best brews for metalheads and brewers alike.