Bierkraft was the first retail store to sell growlers in New York City— they essentially started a trend, which caught on and the big brown jugs can now be found at places like , , and even Whole Foods.
With their popularity, growlers are not just for beer nerds and that even Duane Reade sells them. Bierkraft took that as a sign and decided it’s time to take their beers sales just one step further: brew their own beer.
, on Fifth Avenue, between Union Street and Berkeley Place, applied for a brewer’s license on Wednesday night, starting at Community Board 6’s liquor license and permits committee, which voted unanimously in favor of their application and will be sent to the State Liquor Authority.
They will be brewing on premises and sell their homebrewed suds in growlers and pints using an electric brewing system.
“It’s like making soup,” said founder and co-owner Daphne Scholz, explaining how easy it is to make your own beer.
CB6 swept through the voting process, for Bierkraft has no complaints and has been a good neighbor for the ten years they have been open. However, one CB6 member, Pauline Blake, was worried about the brewing system’s smell.
“The aroma, which I find pleasant, won’t waft into the street,” Ben Granger, a co-owner and master brewer at Bierkraft, assured the committee during the CB6 meeting on Wednesday night.
“It won’t be industrial, which would be 15 barrels seven days a week, in total we’ll only be making 104 barrels a year,” Granger said who is Scholz’s son-in-law and has a baby with her daughter. “Budweiser will spill more than that tomorrow.”
Granger said that they will be brewing all styles of beer like IPA, pale ale, lager and stouts and will use seasonal ingredients, which will be supplied from Brooklyn Homebrew on Eighth Street in Gowanus.
“We’ll be brewing beer like Ma and Pa did 1,000 years ago,” Granger said, explaining that the home brewing process is not overly complicated and has been a staple in civilization for a very, very long time.
Scholz said that they want to bring the ancient home brewing process back to Brooklyn.
“This is how Brooklyn used to be— every bar brewed their own beer and typically the kids in the family would go and fetch a pail of beer for the parents,” Scholz said, explaining that their small, home brewery is inspired by the days or yore. “I think everybody should start doing this. If you can make soup, you can brew beer.”
Granger said he has been brewing beer for years and even grows his own hops in Bierkraft’s backyard garden.
Granger will be heading the brewery, which will be located in the front of the store. The operation will be so small that they only needed to remove two refrigerators from their space to make room for the stainless steel system of boilers, beer tanks and fermenters.
They will also host “guest brewers” from bigger breweries like Barrier and Kelso, who have already told Bierkraft that they are on board.
“This is going to be about fun, keeping it strictly to beer and keeping our product fresh and local,” Granger said.
The brewing system is a small brew house set up. They have three 55-gallon stainless steel barrels, but will only make 62 gallons of beer a week in two batches of 31 gallons.
The process will start in a hot liquor tank that will be filled with water that will be heated until it reaches the striking temperature. Then, the hot liquid will be transferred to a mash tun barrel filled with grain.
Granger will then recirculate the hot liquid by opening the valve at the bottom of the barrel, releasing the hot liquid and then pour it on top of the grain again to spread the enzymes throughout the mixture.
After sitting for about an hour, the mixture goes through “good sugar conversion” and becomes wort. Granger will then drain the mash tun barrel and transfer the wort to the brew kettle and add hops and spices. After that, the mixture goes into a chiller and he pitches the yeast and then the mixture goes into the fermenter.
“Then, you wait,” Granger said, explaining that the fermenting process can take anywhere from 10 to 20 days, depending on the type of beer he is brewing. Once it is done fermenting, Granger will “crash” the liquid, part of the process where he extracts the yeast and transfers it to a conditioning tank.
“Then, after all that, you consume it,” Granger said matter-of-fact while standing next to his brew house set, which is already sitting in the store.
Granger has been brewing for over ten years, but has never sold his suds at Bierkraft. But after he gets the brewing license, he will be able to sell his beer, something he is very much looking forward to.
“I am really excited to work with a larger, more organized and sophisticated system,” Granger said. “It’s going to be rad.”
“We were the first place in NYC to sell growlers on the retail level and we want to lead home brewing at the retail level too,” Granger said.
“We’re trying to set the example for everyone else to follow. I’d love to see small brewing systems in every bar,” Granger admitted. “If you’re a beer bar, you should be doing this.”
Although the process sounds complicated to some, Granger said it really is not hard.
“If you want to make beer, then make beer,” he said. “It’s really easy.”