When it comes to making career moves, Brian “Q” Quinn, comedian and star of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” says he’s only interested in doing projects that are fun. At the top of that list is relaunching a long-shuttered Staten Island beer brand, Rubsam & Horrmann Brewing Company.
“I’m in a really good place, because I can see where the wind takes me,” Quinn says. “I want to shoot from the gut and shoot from the heart.”
His heart is in Staten Island, where he was born and raised. He still lives in Bay Terrace, and saw an opportunity to raise a glass to the borough he loves.
“I would have never started a beer company if it wasn’t this connected to Staten Island,” he says. “I love beer and I’ve always been a beer drinker, and I saw an opportunity to marry two things that I love: beer and Staten Island.”
Quinn’s interest in the shuttered beer company started two years ago, during a “research rabbit hole” into Staten Island history. He traced the brewery’s origins to Joseph Rubsam and August Horrmann, German immigrants who took over Atlantic Brewery, renaming it Rubsam & Horrmann in 1888.
“There’s a deep history of beer in Staten Island, and the brewery was a real institution,” Quinn says. The brewery flourished well into the 1900s, advertising with its own sponsored radio hour and a promotional blimp.
“How was this beer company so successful that they had a blimp, there was an R&H Beer song, an R&H TV hour and radio show — all of these interesting things, it’s a shame for Staten Islanders to not know this history,” Quinn says.
However, the challenges of Prohibition, growing competition from other breweries and the expense of getting the beer off the island prior to the construction of the Verrazzano Bridge forced the company out of business. In 1953, Piels brewery bought the company, and the brand was discontinued in 1963.
For Quinn, recreating the once-iconic beer brand meant doing some investigative work. Unable to find original recipes, he teamed up with brewmaster Amanda Mayer to capture the taste — and spirit — of the three flavors the original brewery produced. He relied on crowd-sourcing from Staten Island locals familiar with the beer, and his own palate, to zero in on flavors that were familiar, and paid tribute to the original.
“It’s all a guessing game unless I find the recipe. So I talked to people who drank it and got their opinions, I brought it to my firehouse pals, I would work with Amanda and then give it to my dad to try,” Quinn recalls. “You have to make something that honors the tradition but also something that people want to drink.”
His team eventually settled on recipes for a pilsner, an IPA and an amber ale. Each version went through up to six iterations before they settled on a final recipe, which they are brewing with Staten Island’s Flagship Brewery.
“At the end of the day, this is what I wanted to drink, and I wanted it to be something you drink with your friends,” Quinn says. “I don’t want to be the guy who’s like, taste the flavors, swirl the glass around. I wanted to keep the spirit of what the beer was, and I don’t give into trends. All I care about is what I want to drink, and if I’m carrying on the legacy of this beer.”
Quinn was behind every step of the process — from business logistics and marketing to updating the logo. “The logo is based on the original logo of a shield and crown, but I turned the shield into an outline of Staten Island, and the crown into a silhouette of my cat, Benjamin,” he said, adding yet another nod toward the personal naure of the venture.
He’s even canning beers on the assembly line, and is starring in commercials, directed by his "Impractical Jokers" co-star Joe Gatto.
“The guys from the show, they want to help out, they want to bartend,” Quinn says of his co-stars. “They’re my friends, they’re my inner circle. We love each other and we try to be as supportive of each other as possible. You would think guys that spend this much time together would not want to stay together, but we’re living this unbelievable life. We turn to each other and say, ‘Can you believe this?’ on a weekly basis.”
His co-stars will be behind the bar on Saturday during the launch event at Flagship Brewery. Tickets are $25 and include an hour and a half of unlimited tastings.
Local businesses will also carry the beer, including, of course, Staten Island spots, such as the St. George Theatre, Rosebank Tavern and Adobe Blues. Select restaurants and bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn will stock it too — and there are plans to expand to more.
“I’m drinking with my friends," the comedian says. "I just wanted it to be fun."
And while he doesn’t mind the clout from his show helping to get the beer on the shelves and into glasses, he’s also not just a name promoting the brand.
“I don’t want to be the guy that’s like, Hey, you’re from ‘Impractical Jokers’. That’s not my end goal,” Quinn says. “I’m doing it because I love Staten Island and I want to bring it back. It’s really good beer.”
Rubsam & Horrmann relaunch
When: noon Sept. 21 ’til late
Where: Flagship Brewing, 40 Minthorne St., Stapleton
Tickets: $25 (21 and over)