Happy Birthday, Covenhoven: Owners Bill Pace and Molly Bradford on the Bar’s Stellar Opening Year

Photo by Jane Bruce
Photo by Jane Bruce

It’s hard to believe that Covenhoven, Prospect Heights’ beloved little bottle shop and taproom, has been around for an entire year already. It feels like just yesterday that I received a curious email from fellow beer writer (and my former neighbor) Josh Bernstein, alerting me to Covenhoven’s inception. “Think: Bierkraft for Crown Heights,” he wrote. “But, with a few fun wrinkles.”

When I looked up the address and realized it was mere steps from what was then my front door, I hopped over to take a peek for myself. At that point, Bill Pace and Molly Bradford, Covenhoven’s literal Mom & Pop proprietors (they live upstairs with their two children), were just pulling things together for a soft opening. Bill, a history buff and Ebay peruser, had amassed quite a collection of vintage beer trays to display along the bar’s prominent front wall, each appropriately advertising bygone breweries of Brooklyn’s past–Covenhoven, after all, was once the name of an established Brooklyn land owner, at a time when the pastoral region was divided up amongst its leading farmers. I immediately loved the feel–yes, it was like Bierkraft, in terms of its diverse bottle selection, on/off premise business model and well curated tap list, but the space itself departed from the distinctly boyish, down-and-dirty beer geek bash atmosphere Bierkraft often conjures. Covenhoven was different. From the get-go, its big, open, homey backyard, sparse yet quirky decor, amber lighting and short, L-shaped bar provided the drinker with a noticeably calmer vibe. Somehow, it felt at once a board game-fueled family joint and a great place to take a first date, a relaxed, Sunday afternoon reading room and the perfect place to geek out over pints with a boisterous group of beer buddies. If those were the wrinkles Josh had mentioned in his introductory email, I thought, bring on old age.

On Friday, March 27th, Covenhoven, along with my blog Beerded Ladies, is hosting a birthday party to celebrate its first, successful year of existence and to thank all the local folks who have made Covenhoven the Classon Ave gem that it’s become. Manager extraordinaire James Case has stocked an impressive lineup of rare kegs for the event, including limited releases from Westbrook, BFM, The Bruery and Mikkeller (along with a few added surprises, to be sure). And, as a tribute to the vibrant New York craft beer and brewing community that’s embraced Covenhoven with open, sudsy arms, Other Half Flavor Particles IPA, Finback Sunday Field Trips Saison, Sixpoint File Under J Gose, Barrier Atypical West Coast IPA and Threes Arboretum Pale Ale drafts will be just $5 all night long (which is completely bananas).

In preparation for the big night, I sat down with first time publicans Bill and Molly for a brief glimpse into how they’ve developed their business over the past year and what exciting new changes lay in store for Covenhoven’s loyal patrons.

What was your initial vision for Covenhoven?
There are so many great NYC beer bars, bottle shops and hybrids that we like. We definitely wanted to create the right balance, for us at least, between being both a bottle shop and beer bar.

How has the neighborhood responded?
The response has been great, thanks to the help of our wonderful staff, led by our cellar manager, James Case. Meeting Brooklyn homebrewers and collaborating with our local homebrew shop, Bitter & Esters, has also been a lot of fun. Last summer, Bitter & Esters, along with homebrewer Robert Sherrill, organized a competition held here where they paired homebrewers with local professional brewers, such as Sixpoint, Finback, Single Cut and others. We’re planning to do it again this summer and Robert’s even formed a homebrew club that’s started meeting here regularly. It feels like a real community.

What stand out beers have you been introduced to over this past year?
Before we officially opened, we had events with Other Half and Transmitter, two breweries that started up just about the same time as we did, and we continue to love their beer and tell our customers about what they’re doing. We also love our other local brewery BFFs, like Finback and Grimm.

Can you divulge and changes planned for the next year?
We’re installing a counter-pressure growler system this week, which we’re very excited about. And, later this Spring, we’re planning to extend our hours and food offerings.

What’s the best part of owning a bar like Covenhoven?
After rattling off all of these names just now, the best part is definitely the people. Meeting and becoming part of the beer community in NYC has been amazing. Everyone — the brewers, our patrons, our staff and everyone in between — is so passionate and serious about beer and yet, at the same time, so laidback and fun to be around.

And the toughest part?
Choosing which beer to taste next.

730 Classon Avenue, Prospect Heights


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