After spontaneously sailing on New York City’s first coolship at LIC Beer Project and couthily consuming hops-crammed cocktails with Don Draper at SingleCut Beersmiths, the final stop on the Niko Does Queens Beer Week! tour delivers me to the doorstep of Big Alice Brewing in Long Island City. When three co-workers at Arista Air Conditioning, also located in the neighborhood, opened a brewery less than a mile away in 2013, basically everything inherent to Big Alice’s operation was a palpable contrast to “Big”—except, perhaps, the grandiose concepts of its beers, which often featured offbeat ingredients like morels, kumquats, and mustard greens, and its beers’ alcohol volumes, which often surpassed 10 percent. (I usually needed the assistance of one or two homies to tackle a full bottle.)
This, as in “basically everything,” changed dramatically last fall, however, and now Big Alice—whose name references Big Allis, one of Ravenswood Generating Station’s electrical generators positioned prominently on Long Island City’s waterfront—is a lot bigger, and not just in a physical sense. A refreshing air of maturity is circulating when I chat with Kyle Hurst, one of Alice’s two owners and now its head brewer, and it definitely wasn’t emanating from any device he installed with Arista. This air, I later learn, is the air of Big(ger) Alice and if you weren’t aware, it’s really, really cool.
Before we bid adieu to the short-lived (but legendary!) Niko Does Queens Beer Week! tour, a brief dossier on Big(ger) Alice:
[Niko’s Note: Big Alice Brewing is still named Big Alice Brewing, but for the duration of this article it’s also named Big(ger) Alice Brewing. How? Why? Because. This is the legendary Niko Does Queens Beer Week tour! WE CAN SAY ANYTHING!]
[Niko’s Note II: If the Big(ger) Alice premise garners a healthy buzz on the Internetz following this article, WE’RE COMING TO RIGHTFULLY CLAIM THE REBOOT THRONE, Fuller House! HULU, WHERE YOU AT?]
BIG(GER) EQUIPMENT, BIGGER IDEAS
Big Alice began its glorious metamorphasis into Big(ger) Alice by upgrading its equipment last summer. Big Alice’s equipment was really small, and production yielded only 60 gallons of beer monthly. The beer was only packaged in 750-milliliter bottles, and no recipe was repeated in its first 141 beers. This model of unconventionality was intentional, though, and it reflected the kind of beers Big Alice wanted to brew. “It was a lot of fun—in essence we were still homebrewers and we thought we could just brew a bunch of different crazy beers in tiny amounts and have people pay for the ingredients,” says Hurst. “But it wasn’t financially smart for us. We weren’t making money.”
Enter: Big(ger) Alice. A bigger brewhouse was purchased from Southport Brewing, which operates three brewpubs in Connecticut and had unfortunately (fortunately!) closed a fourth location last summer. “We went to visit and they said, ‘Anything you see related to the brewery is included,’ Hurst recalls. This upgrade was a pivotal moment. Alice could now make around 150 gallons of beer EACH TIME. This prompted another pivotal moment: the brewery’s switch from bottled beer to draft beer.
Are you following? Good.
BIG(GER) SPACE (AND NEW TAPROOM)
Big Alice was only open on Fridays from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m, but Big(ger) Alice is open from Wednesday-Sunday. This signifies more days, more hours, more minutes, and more seconds for beering. ALSO: Big(ger) Alice renovated Big Alice’s space and added a 14-draft bar! It’s also open from Wednesday-Sunday. This signifies more days, more hours, more minutes, and more seconds for ON-PREMISE beering. LOOK:
BIG(GER) and BEAUTIFULLER.
BIG(GER) BEERS, IF BIG(GER) MEANS MORE REGULARLY AVAILABLE
As I mentioned earlier, Big Alice never repeated a recipe in its first 141 beers; there was only one small batch of #0001 Red Ale w/Pumpkin, only one of #0069 Soft Maple Cinnamon Strong Ale, and, yes, only one of #0126 Galia Melon Sour Wheat. These beers were only brewed once, and then each recipe quietly disappeared into a profound eternal blackness. Sorry.
Big(ger) Alice favors some regularity, though, and releases six new beers every three months. The newcomers are gradually inserted into the previous mix until all former newcomers are gone. Big(ger)’s initial six, which included Queens Honey Brown, Sour Multigrain Stout, and Rye IPA, were somewhat derived from preexisting beers released when Big(ger) was Big, but at a lower alcohol volume, mostly around 6 percent ABV.
Are you following? Good. These are some of Big(ger) Alice’s latest releases: 1) Salt & Pepper Black Saison, a “malt-forward saison featuring fleur de sel and fresh cracked peppercorns,” Hurst says; 2) Honey Wheat, a “light-bodied, sweet Belgian ale brewed with local honey from Wilk Apiary”; and 3) Peanut Butter Chocolate Milk Stout, “silky, smooth, nutty, and sweet.” Big(ger) is releasing a new beer tonight, a collaboration with Chris Cuzme called Mice Elf. “It’s a big, dry-hopped Belgian IPA that we brewed on 4/20 so expect it to be DANK,” Hurst says.
DANK YOU, BIG(GER) ALICE.
This is a blatant lie, but please forgive me, I am overwhelmingly excited about all of the Big(ger)-ness being discussed. Hey. Did you know? Big(ger) Alice will still bottle beers like Big Alice. A new pair is set to debut sometime between now and July. The first beer is Smoked Saison, one of the original “Big(ger) Six,” aged in Breuckelen Distilling Glorious Gin barrels. “It’s very aromatic with notes of mint, juniper, citrus, and a slight smokiness,” Hurst says. The second is another from the Six, Queens Honey Brown in Breuckelen Distilling 77 Whiskey barrels. “It’s a malty, sweet brown ale that comes out boozy with notes of vanilla,” he says.
Big Alice’s community-supported brewery (CSB) program—one of only two offered in New York City; coincidentally, both breweries are in Long Island City—sold six-month shares of bottles to only around 100 subscribers. Big(ger)’s, however, features two 32-ounce growlers each month for the half-year period, a neat tote bag, a 10 percent discount on all merchandise, and first dibs at any bottled beers. TOTE. BAG. ALSO: Its enrollment is unlimited and signup is open year-round! BIG(GER) CSB! We love you, Big(ger) Alice!
A major goal of Hurst’s is increasing Big(ger) Alice’s exposure around New York City. This “felt like an impossible task” initially, he says, referring to those damn pre-(ger) days, because “all our beer was sold at the brewery in such small amounts. People were still asking us at events if we had just opened and it was a year and change after we had. It was definitely frustrating.” It’s okay, buddy! That phase is over now! Big Alice is now Big(ger) Alice and Big(ger) Alice started distribution in February, the same month Big(ger) Alice was awarded New York City Beer Week’s Ruppert’s Cup. If you search on BeerMenus now, Big(ger) Alice’s beers are pouring at Jimmy’s No. 43, The Ginger Man, Beer Table To Go, and more. Exposure! EXPOSURE.
Hurst already wants more exposure, too. “Even though our expansion was recent, current production is the only thing limiting us at this point which already has us looking at increasing our capacity again,” he says. “I guess that would make us ‘bigger-er’ when we do.”
WAIT. Big(ger)-er Alice?!?! NETFLIX, WHERE YOU AT?