If you’ve ever dreamed of turning your homebrewing hobby into a bonafide business, you’ll have the chance to talk to two brewers who did just that, two years ago. This Saturday night, Barrier Brewing of Oceanside, New York, will be taking over the taps at 61 Local Public House in Boerum Hill. Founded by two Brooklynites and Sixpoint Brewery expats Evan Klein and Craig Frymarck, the brewery has grown by leaps and bounds in its first two years, scooping up awards like the Best Brewery in New York at the TAP New York Craft Beer festival in 2011, and upgrading to a larger brewing facility this summer. But Evan and Craig still self-distribute their kegs throughout the city and nearby accounts in the region, and they manage the entire operation largely by themselves.
On Saturday, they’re taking a rare moment to step out of their brewing boots and enjoy the party with fans. Barrier will be pouring eight of their brews at the event, including a never-before-tapped Smoked Belgian Wheat Ale called Le Pete. For a brewery that only produced 500 barrels per year before its expansion (to a 1500-barrel system this summer), Barrier brews up a dizzying array of unique styles and hybrids, such as their Cairn Scotch Ale, Rembrandt Porter, MollyCoddle English Mild, and Greenroom Pale Ale. On Saturday, they’re pouring a full spectrum of rare brews including the Icculus Kolsch, Craven Belgian Red, Bittersweet Pale Ale, and the “Unimperial IPA.” Additionally, Barrier will be curating a selection of beers from local breweries from the region that they admire for the remaining six taps at the venue: Kelso, Greenport Harbor, Victory, Troegs, Southern Tier, and Carton Brewing.
Craft beer geeks should be making a bee(r)line to this rare tasting spectacle, so arrive early as the party is open to the public, or stick around late into the night in the spacious indoor beer garden at 61 Local. Afterward, the venue (a longtime supporter of the brewery) will be serving up whatever kegs aren’t spent for the rest of the week, and generally pour at least a couple of Barrier beers on any given night.
“61 Local embodies what beer is all about. It’s about coming together, connecting with your community, getting to know the people you live with, sharing stories, exchanging ideas, finding inspiration, and having a good time,” said Craig Frymarck on the venue.
We pestered Craig for a few more questions on what to expect at the event, as well as from the brewery over the next few years.
What’s been the biggest challenge this year running the brewery?
CF: Basically everything. Tripling the size of the brewery means tripling the need for everything else, from labor and equipment to distribution (we still self-distribute) and utility costs. Growing a business is really hard work, and many nights are spent lying awake wondering what the heck you’re doing.
Do you have a “flagship” beer or beers?
CF: We do not have a flagship beer, which is both a blessing and curse. Many people love the fact that we put our attention equally toward a wide range of beers (we currently make 43 beers throughout the year) and don’t focus our attention on one or two beers that we sell all over town, but from a business standpoint, it’s really tricky establishing your brand without a flagship. It would make our lives a lot easier if we did, but we didn’t start this brewery because we wanted easy jobs. As brewers, we’re fascinated with the entire spectrum of beer, and we want to explore as much of it as possible. I know breweries who dedicate 80% or more of their production to one beer. That doesn’t appeal to us.
What’s a current favorite beer that you produce? What does it pair well with food-wise?
CF: We get asked this all the time and the honest answer is we don’t have a favorite. If you’re looking for an answer though I’d have to say Le Pete because it’s brand new and I’m still learning all it’s layers and subtleties. I think it would pair well with an Asian salad (peanuts, mandarin slices) or a nice chuck of firm sheep’s milk cheese.
What’s the story with your “Ruthless Rye IPA”? Where did it go?
CF: Ruthless Rye IPA was one of the very first beers created at Barrier and was brewed under that name for more than a year before the threat of litigation forced us to change it. Unbeknownst to us, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. had already trademarked the name “Ruthless,” albeit for a German wheat ale they rarely brewed and only distributed on the west coast. Sierra contacted us (a tiny brewery on the opposite coast) and requested we immediately cease using the word Ruthless in the name of our rye IPA. Shortly thereafter, Sierra Nevada started brewing, and nationally distributing, a brand new beer called Ruthless Rye IPA (coincidence?). So what did we rename our beer… Evil Giant IPA.
What are you looking forward to in the coming year for Barrier and are you looking to make any more expansions or developments?
CF: Everything really. I’m just excited for the future. We’re finally moving out of fledgling start-up territory into a legitimate, revenue-generating business, and it’s really exciting. We’re excited to create jobs and hire employees; we’re excited to get our beer into more people’s hands and mouths; and we’re excited to learn more. We definitely have plans to continue our brewery’s expansion, as well as complete our barrel room and make our brewery more open to the public with tours and additional growler hours. We want people to see first-hand what goes on at Barrier.
Cool! What happens if I come out to the brewery now?
CF: Right now we’re open every Wednesday from 2-8pm and every Saturday from 12-4pm for people to come to the brewery to take a peak around and fill up some growlers. We don’t have a full-blown tasting room (yet) but we always offer at least 16 beers on tap for people to take home and enjoy, being poured by the people who make the beer. We’re 500 yards from the East Rockaway LIRR station so we’re easy to get to from the city and we’re close to the beach, so you can make a day of it