Grandma Lives Upstairs at This New Williamsburg Craft Beer Destination

Dan Lamonaca’s paternal family has owned the storefront’s building for nearly 70 years. Photo courtesy of Beer Karma.

Editor’s note: Does an all you can eat and drink local beer festival seem up your alley? If so, join us next week at Good Beer. Some of our favorite New York breweries and food vendors are teaming up for one delicious evening on Thursday, July 20. More info and tickets here.  

Dan Lamonaca is pursuing his passion for beer in a familiar place. He opened Beer Karma, his impressive new bar and beer store, in the same storefront at the corner of Union Avenue and Conselyea Street in Williamsburg where his grandfather ran a gift shop in the 1970s and ’80s. The space had also housed his great-grandfather’s pharmacy decades earlier.

This isn’t a hoppy—err, happy coincidence: His paternal family has owned the storefront’s building for nearly 70 years. It’s currently owned by his grandmother who still lives upstairs.

For the latest Lamonaca-owned business, medical solutions and retail therapy have given way for healing of the liquid kind. Shelves and refrigerated cases stock close to 50 varieties in bottles and cans—all available to stay or take away—and there is a bar area (with tables) with a constantly rotating inventory of eight beers on tap. The lineup (also available to go in 32- and 64-ounce growlers) has a strong focus on limited-edition brews from the five boroughs. “I want to be the place pouring the best and most sought-after New York beer,” he said.

In addition to his role as thoughtful curator of the city’s thriving beer scene, Lamonaca is quick to share the history inside the storefront, noting his shop’s original tile floor, a vestige of his family’s former businesses. “In a way I’m keeping our legacy alive,” he said.

When asked what it’s like having his grandmother doubling as a landlord, his response was unsurprisingly filial: “She usually sends me a plate of food down to the bar, but only if we keep the music at a reasonable volume.”

“In a way I’m keeping our legacy alive,” Lamonaca said. Photo credit: Instagram/beerkarma.bstc

Here’s what Lamonaca recommends drinking at Beer Karma right now:

Schlenkerla, Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier
“I’m as excited for this classic German pale lager as the beer nerds are who wait in line for hours to snag cans of the latest double IPA. This crisp, dry helles has a beautiful golden color, a little malt sweetness and an ever-so-slightly smoky flavor without actually having any smoked malt. Made to drink more than one.” 4.3 percent ABV, $9 for 12 ounces.

Interboro Spirits & Ales, Another Dose
“A collaboration double IPA from two of Brooklyn’s best hop specialists, Interboro and Other Half. This juice bomb was double dry hopped with every IPA drinker’s new favorite ingredient, lupulin powder, in both Mosaic and Citra varieties. Dank, bright with tropical fruit flavors and crazy sessionable considering the ABV.” 7.8 percent ABV, $9 for 12 ounces.

Sixpoint Brewery, Fuzzy Pits
“The mad scientists at Sixpoint have been experimenting with oak foudres and this beer is the culmination of that work. Fuzzy Pits was conditioned on peaches, which lend a ton of aroma and flavor without any sweetness. It’s funky without being sour and has a ton of white-wine flavors.” 5.5 percent ABV, $9 for 12 ounces.

Graft Cider, Peace Offering
“We carry a small selection of wines and ciders at the shop, and I always keep some Graft ciders in the fridge. In particular their rotating gose-style varieties always flies off the shelf. The most recent iteration of this sour-cider series is Peace Offering, aged on sumac, rose hips and sorrel. I’m already waiting to hit submit to order another case.” 6.9 percent ABV, $3.50 for a 12-ounce can.

Transmitter Brewing, L1 Pilsner
“This Long Island City, Queens, brewery is well known for producing an array of complex and delicious Belgian and French styles, but its first crack at a traditional German pilsner stands right up there with the rest. Laced with all Saaz hops, it’s crisp, a little spicy and the definition of refreshing.” 5.1 percent ABV; $11 for a 500-milliliter bottle.

Katherine Hernandez

Katherine Hernandez is an Afro-Latina chef and multimedia journalist. Her work has been published on NPR Food, PRI's The World, Edible Manhattan, Feet in 2 Worlds, Gothamist and more.