A beer revival is brewing in Bushwick.
Long before it was home to trendy beer gardens and bars, the Brooklyn neighborhood was the beer capital of the Northeast.
In the mid-1800s, more than one million Germans and Austrians settled in the U.S. Many took residence in northern Brooklyn, where they opened breweries, as well as restaurants and beer halls.
By 1904, there were 44 breweries in Bushwick and Williamsburg, according to the city. However, post-World War II, the businesses started to shut down until, by the 1970s, none remained.
Today, Braven Brewing Company is looking to revive the neighborhood’s hoppy past.
“Our aim has been to restore the legendary brewing tradition to the neighborhood,” says Braven Brewing Company co-founder Marshall Thompson.
The two-year-old brewery, whose office is in Bushwick’s Brooklyn Brush Studios, currently crafts its beers upstate in Saratoga Springs. But starting later this year, it will also start production at its own Bushwick brewery, located off the Morgan Avenue L station, where it will make seasonal, experimental and one-off brews on-site, mostly for consumption in its taproom.
A lot has changed since beer was brewed in Bushwick in the late 1800s.
“Employing electricity in the brewing of the beers, refrigeration, heating, transportation, bottling, kegging, sanitation, distribution — virtually every aspect of the industry has been dramatically improved,” Thompson says.
Though the process has transformed, Braven pays homage to the past with its Bushwick pilsner.
“We were lucky enough to find a magazine article written by a beer historian in the 1990s that revealed the basic ingredients and information about how to brew a Bushwick-style pilsner,” Thompson says. “[It] is what we’ve brewed, albeit a few minor adjustments for modern taste and ingredient availability.”
As he helps shape Bushwick’s brewing future, Thompson, for one, hopes its past is also remembered.
“I really love the history of Bushwick. I read and learn as much as I can about the origins of the neighborhood, the rise and fall of the brewing industry and its return as an influential and trendsetting New York City neighborhood,” he says. “Its story has been forgotten by so many and needs to be told to remind residents and newcomers alike how our city evolves over the centuries.”