Brooklyn has a new brewery, only, like Brooklyn Brewery in its early days, it is not making beer anywhere near Kings County.
The new beer company Braven has released its first flavor, an India pale ale, after two years of planning, marketing, and fund-raising. The company says it wants to help return Bushwick to its heyday as a brewing capital — and advertises itself as “located in the historic Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn” — but for the foreseeable future the product is being brewed in rented vats upstate in Saratoga Springs. The trailblazing Brooklyn Brewery started brewing in Utica, New York in 1983 and didn’t open its Williamsburg outpost until 1996.
Despite Braven’s credibility gap, one of its founders said the first sips of the first kegs of beer are oh-so sweet.
“It has taken us a long time, but it is so worth it to us,” Marshall Thompson said. “When you have a passion, you have to go for it.”
The first variety is called Braven White, and by the end of the year the brewers hope to roll out a black pale ale and a pilsner. To come up with the recipes, Thompson and his partner Eric Feldman pored over articles and recipes about how beers were made back in the early 20th century in Bushwick, Thompson said.
“We have got enough technical information, so we want to try to bring that back,” he explained.
But finding space to open the first brewery in Bushwick in a half century has, predictably in today’s overheated real estate market, been tough.
“We are looking at a place tomorrow, but it is not the first place we have looked at and it probably will not be the last,” said Thompson. “The thing we love the most when we tour breweries is when the brewmasters show you the process and lead you through the whole system, and we want to be able to do that.”
Thompson and Feldman, from Pennsylvania and Long Island, respectively, became friends when they were college-aged and moved to Brooklyn in 2008. Here they worked on home-brewing projects together and, within a few months of starting, beer expert Josh Bernstein included them on his home-brew tour, touting their skills as professional-level.
Buoyed by the praised, they decided in 2013 to turn their love of suds into a Bushwick-branded business. The process proved to not be nearly as straightforward as they had hoped.
“Our business plan changed so many times and we spent so many hours poring over government regulations and licensing,” said Thompson. “But people do not care about that. They just want to know if your beer is good.”
If Brooklyn’s flagship brand is any indication, turning a passion for home-brew into a major company can be done — and without brewing all or even most of one’s product in the borough. Brooklyn Brewery has now established a global presence as an instantly recognizable piece of Kings County cool, but just less than two thirds of its beer is still made upstate.
Braven is currently selling its beer in kegs at bars in Williamsburg and Bushwick. Bars with Braven on tap include George and Jack’s and Arrogant Swine in Williamsburg, and the Rookery and Heavy Woods in Bushwick.