It’s Friday night and dozens of people are hanging out in a Sunset Park warehouse where, not long ago, abandoned railroad tracks ran through the middle of the ghost of a steel manufacturing plant. The exposed brick walls and heavy timber beams hold up ceilings where the skylights used to be fenced in with razor wire, an attempt to minimize burglaries at the old factory.
But these days, there’s beer here.
Five Boroughs Brewing Co. joined the industrial block on 47th Street near the water last summer, opening a streetfront taproom and 12,500-square-foot production facility offering a rotating selection of 16 different brews on tap.
The pet-friendly brewery offers live music and board games, and is attracting beer lovers like Ryan Schneider, 37, a former New Yorker who makes monthly trips to grab a few brews and fly them back to Florida.
“Their beers are pretty solid,” the software educator who journeyed to Brooklyn to sample a flight, said. The imperial stout, he noted, had “great body and good flavor.”
Brew master Nick Griffin and “a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds with a lot of different skill sets” are making Five Boroughs Brewing Co. a premier destination, according to co-founders Blake Tomnitz, 28, and Kevin O’Donnell, 35.
The two friends, who started brewing together on a 15-gallon MoreBeer home-brew system before leaving jobs in the corporate world, set out to discover the answer, “What is New York City’s beer?”
“No one really had a straight answer,” said Tomnitz, who started as an amateur brewer while studying at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. His dorm room equipment was confiscated.
“For us, it was developing a concept where it didn’t matter what borough you’re from, what neighborhood you’re from, if it was your first craft beer or you’re a craft beer connoisseur,” said Tomnitz, whose 6-year-old dachshund mix Tater sometimes accompanies him to work. “This is your brewery, and this is your beer.”
In the taproom, those beers translate to four “year-round core beers,” Tomnitz said, and 12 that rotate every three to four weeks, “depending on both the style of beer and associated demand.”
The staple beers are a West Coast-style IPA, Czech-inspired pilsner, gose and hoppy lager.
And, aiming to design brews “so that there was something for everyone, no matter their flavor preferences or palate,” other varieties have included double and triple IPAs and a low-alcohol, cherry-plum gose. The aforementioned imperial stout, made with a blend of nine different malts, is a strong one, at 12 percent ABV.
Hoping to produce 4,000 barrels total in its first year, Tomnitz said that Five Boroughs has the “unique ability to be a big production facility but keep a hyperlocal mentality.”
The day we visited, Griffin could be seen — through giant picture windows in the taproom — brewing Helles, a traditional German pale lager.
Five Boroughs Brewing Co.’s beers are available in the taproom via sampler flights, pints or to-go growlers. Or, if you can’t make it to Sunset Park (just blocks from the R stop at 45th Street), Five Boroughs beers are served at restaurants and bars across the city — more than 300 currently, Tomnitz said — including Blind Tiger in Greenwich Village and Bronx Alehouse. Since opening on Aug. 5, over 600 places in the city have sold Five Boroughs on tap. Tomnitz noted that a grand total of 250,000 pints have been crafted to date.
They’re the new kids on the block who quickly turned into an integral part of the growing craft brew scene. Joining with eight other NYC breweries that opened last year, Five Boroughs is hosting a “Class of 2017 Release Party” on Feb. 22 from 4 to 10 p.m.
It’s your first opportunity to try collaborative NYC Style Pale Ale, which was planned, brewed and canned by the brewers and owners of nine of NYC’s 30 breweries.
It’s one of the opening events for the annual NYC Beer Week, which actually runs 10 days starting on Friday.
The Five Boroughs Brewing Co. taproom 4-10 p.m. Thursdays, 4-11 Fridays, noon-11 Saturdays and noon-10 p.m. Sundays.