Ben Granger started brewing at Bierkraft in 2004, initially using a 10-gallon brewhouse — when the equipment cooperated — in the beer store’s backyard.
“I had to keep pliers in my back pocket at all times. It broke down every chance it got,” the co-owner explains, pouring us a pair of Newburgh Brewing Paper Box Pale Ales for my stop-by on Wednesday.
Granger’s brewing, or troubleshooting, was solely for his employees, “beer we tinkered with and drank after our shifts.” His objective is different now. He’s upgraded to a one-barrel brewhouse that “runs like an electric dream,” yielding approximately 30 gallons, or two half-kegs, per batch. A store renowned for an atypical, always-stellar selection of 14 drafts and approximately 1,000 bottles and cans, Bierkraft is also licensed to sell the housemade beer. Its first release, True American Hero, debuted on Monday.
Granger started paperworking for a license (Restaurant-Brewer) in 2012: “It took a long time. We needed approval from the community board twice because the first expired. Then we switched lawyers and went back and forth with some things. I also think the SLA [New York State Liquor Authority] just spent a lot of time wondering if what we’re doing, you know, the whole store and now the brewing, is it legal to do all these things at once?” It is. I refer to Bierkraft, an archetype for an increasingly popular format in New York City, as a “subeermarket”: a blend of bar, bottle-and-can boutique and fill-er-up station for growlers (charcuterie, cheeses and made-to-order sandwiches are also available at the store). It’s now added “brewery” as a designation, selling beer, though not for distribution, created by Granger and manager Joe Tracy.
“We’ll brew like two or three times a week. We’re gonna try to have as many as three beers on at once but definitely at least one at all times,” says Tracy, a homebrewer of eight years. He’s also brewed commercially at Gallaghers’ Where-U-Brew in Washington and participated in two collaborations for birthday-themed beers for Bierkraft — with Barrier Brewing and Captain Lawrence Brewing in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Granger and Tracy’s first, True American Hero, is a “light, golden, unfiltered pale ale with a little hop bite to it,” says Tracy. The first keg, tapped on Monday, was already finished by Wednesday (before I arrived, unfortunately). A second is slated for tappage on Sunday. Bierkraft will brew “pale ales, saisons, porters — safe beers with a weird edge,” Granger says. “Yep. Deliciousness,” Tracy adds. Both agree a separate name for the in-store beer-making isn’t necessary, either.
“This is very much an installation of our brand,” Granger says. “We’ve spent a lot of time building ourselves as Bierkraft and I don’t want to change that. This is another facet of us now. A very cool one you can drink.”
Photo credit: Localbozo