At this Downtown Brooklyn spot, you can sip on a pilsner while watching the brewers in action.
Circa Brewing Co., a new restaurant with an on-site brewery, debuts Wednesday at 141 Lawrence St.
Owner Gerry Rooney, who is also behind the 6-year-old Clinton Hill bar Putnam’s Pub, always dreamed of running his own brewery.
“There are other brewery restaurants in the city, but I don’t think on this scale with the exposed brewery and exposed kitchen,” said the Dublin native. “It’s a special and unique experience.”
To pull off his vision, Rooney knew he’d need a massive space — 6,000 square feet, to be exact — and found it in Downtown Brooklyn, right off Fulton Mall.
“I’d been looking for a space that would be big enough to house a brewery,” said Rooney, who lives in Clinton Hill. “Watching the skyline protrude up through the horizon was kind of an interesting sight. I just started watching the neighborhood and what was going on down here was crazy.”
Indeed, Circa joins recent attractions such as Alamo Drafthouse and DeKalb Market Hall in the neighborhood, which is also experiencing a residential construction boom.
The space can fit more than 250 people inside, with prime seating at the bar, right in front of the tanks, or in the back, in front of the exposed kitchen, which Rooney expects to fill with MetroTech workers, NYU students, residents and tourists.
“I definitely think we’ll attract beer tourists interested in sitting in an active brewery,” he said.
A Sixpoint vet behind the brews
Rooney is a fan of homebrewing, but knew that to pull off a new brewery, “I needed someone with experience.”
Enter Danny Bruckert. The former head brewer of Sixpoint Brewery in Red Hook is heading up Circa’s beer operations.
Bruckert got into homebrewing after his wife brought him a Mr. Beer beer-making kit. After joining Sixpoint as a keg washer and carpenter (he makes his own paddles used to stir and mix the beer), he worked his way up to head brewer.
“It’s a giant rabbit hole,” Bruckert said of craft beer. “The topic of water chemistry alone someone could devote their life to.”
Circa will have 12 different brews on offer, most of which are geared toward session drinking — with a low alcohol by volume, or ABV. “That’s being able to sit down with your friends and have four, five or six beers, and not be trashed at the end of the night,” Bruckert said.
Most of the brews have an ABV of 4 to 5.5 percent, though some, including the double IPA, are as high as 9.5 percent.
“Session beers aren’t easy to do,” Bruckert said. “As it wakes up, a quality beer — the flavor comes out. [Brooklyn Brewery head brewer] Garrett Oliver once said, ‘A good beer is like a good story — it has a beginning, a middle and an end.’ To me, beer should never be stagnant — it should be constantly evolving in the glass.”
Beyond its own beer, Circa will also have cans from breweries such as Sixpoint, as well as wine on tap from Rooftop Reds and barrel-aged and beer-infused cocktails. But of course, the beer is a highlight, with a variety of styles — such as pilsner, IPA and nitro stout — to sample.
“The idea is we have many different beers of many different styles that we can pair with many different foods,” Bruckert said.
Fun riffs on pizza
As for food, the focus here is on pizza, with two wood-burning ovens churning out Neapolitan-inspired pies. And it’s a family affair — Danny’s fraternal twin brother, Luke Bruckert, is behind the pizza menu.
“We’re just having fun with it,” said Luke, who formerly ran his own food truck, Little Oven Pizza, in Portland, Oregon.
His menu includes standards like sausage, as well as a take on the controversial Hawaiian pizza.
“I’ve always wanted to do a cool version of a classic, disgusting pizza,” said Luke, who has made a white, instead of a classic red, pizza, with maple bourbon ham instead of Canadian bacon. “We’re charring the [expletive] out of the pineapple over the wood-fired grill so it has a wonderful smoky flavor.”
Another favorite of Luke’s is the eggs Benedict-inspired pie, with maple-cured ham, hollandaise and eggs, on the brunch menu.
“It’s a gut bomb but it’s so, so flavorful,” he said. “It’s so delicious it hurts.”