Inside Kelso’s Brand-New Taproom, Opening Today

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Photos by Jane Bruce

A brewery’s tasting room, or taproom, is the best place for beerloons to drink in 2015. YOU HEARD ME.

Fineee. I’ll remove my pretentious meowfocals and rephrase that statement.

A brewery’s tasting room, or taproom, is my favorite place to drink in 2015—and I’ll gladly explain why! A repose from the increasingly voluminous and diverse selections encountered at many dope-beer-sold-here spots in New York City now, ones that inevitably seem to overlap, clash, and crumble within itself at times, simultaneously inciting internal conflict (two stellar IPAs battling to lure a throat at a bar) and customer confusion (a throat unable to decide between two stellar IPAs at a bar), a brewery taproom traditionally showcases only its brewery’s beers in a manner that unites, not overrides. This presentation may seem narrow and restricted due to the crazy amount of badass brews currently available on the planet, but that precisely fuels my attraction. In our “Excess of Access” era, I am happier floating peacefully in Lager Lake over the course of an afternoon than quickly jumping in a few puddles of pilsner. I should add: A brewery’s taproom is also the only place to drink at the source, where beer is always the freshest and often the cheapest. Win.

I mention my brewery-taproom affinity today for a valid reason: a new one opens tonight in Brooklyn! Its venue, a two-story warehouse at 529 Waverly Avenue in Clinton Hill, is the headquarters of Greenpoint Beer Works, where Heartland Brewery and KelSo Beer are made. (It’s also a contract-brewing site, and where Cuzett Libations has brewed since launching.) The new taproom will showcase both brands, marking the first time Heartland’s beers will be available to drink outside of the longtime brewpub’s five locations. Kelly Taylor, Greenpoint’s director of brewing operations since its opening in 2003 and co-owner of KelSo (craving recipes with a personal identity, Taylor started KelSo with his wife, Sonya Giacobbe, in 2006), gave us a quick tour.

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The taproom, immediately located to the right upon entering Greenpoint through a garage door, is positioned beneath the facility’s mezzanine, used to store ingredients, and befits its industrial surroundings. Benjamin Granger, once a partner of Bierkraft in Park Slope, which shocked many (including employees, reportedly) with its unexpected closure last month, built the bar using pallets around the warehouse and designed the draft system.

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The menu, alongside KelSo’s cans (Industrial IPA is my favorite of the trio) and the occasional limited 750-milliliter bottle (Flemish Red Ale is available now, and its lightly sour profile is delicious), features six draft beers sold in pints or counter-pressure-filled growlers. A pair of those taps will always pour “lighter and more accessible classics,” Taylor said, such as KelSo’s Pilsner or Heartland’s IPA. The other four, meanwhile, will rotate regularly and showcase more ambitious and experimental stuff: one-offs, proprietary beers for accounts (e.g., a new “SMASH” pilsner from KelSo made exclusively for Smorgasburg), and “a lot of crazy,” he added, pointing to the 20-something oak barrels stacked two-high around the compact space. The latter is great news: barrel-aging has helped spawn some of KelSo’s best beers in the past, like the limited-edition, Jameson barrel-aged IPA.

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The taproom’s opening lineup is shown in the above pictures. In the next few weeks, patrons can expect to encounter a bourbon barrel-aged version of Heartland’s Oatmeal Stout and a new Lambic-style beer with Concord grape juice from KelSo. Who’s coming with me?

Greenpoint Beer Work’s taproom is open Thursday and Friday, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m; Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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