Almost a year later, I’m still raving about my trip to the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts. I enjoyed tons of beer and a wonderful tour of the brewery there while visiting a friend who lives in the area.
So, it seemed only fitting that when he came to New York to visit me that we do something similar. On a hot Saturday, we took ourselves to the Brooklyn Brewery on North 11th Street in the heart of Brooklyn’s famed Williamsburg neighborhood.
After waiting on a pretty lengthy line (it doesn’t move too terribly slowly), we were admitted into the busy brewery. Unlike Harpoon, Brooklyn Brewery’s bar operates on a token system, so first patrons must wait in line to exchange dollars for tokens.
Each token is worth $5 and almost every single beer on the menu goes for $5. We’d planned to get to the brewery with enough time to attend one of the last tours of the day, but we wound up with a solid 25 minutes to ourselves before the tour began. So, we traded in our cash for some tokens and hopped on line at the beer bar.
Already I could see that the Brooklyn Brewery operates quite differently from Harpoon. First of all, Harpoon has a much bigger space open to the public, so their massive wraparound bar allows patrons to either sit at it or sit at any of the tables inside the warehouse. It still gets quite busy, but because of its size and staff, patrons don’t have to wait in a line to grab a beer.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, has a much smaller bar with only a couple of bartenders working at a time. There aren’t a ton of tables either and no seating at the bar is offered. Patrons spend most of their time in between tours either waiting in line to grab a beer or standing around hoping a table will open up.
Thankfully, the line moves quickly, so I was able to get a Greenmarket Wheat before the tour. Brooklyn’s take on the wheat beer is deliciously light with a five percent ABV. I was satisfied and looking forward to seeing the rest of the brewery.
I’d like to preface this next bit by saying that the Brooklyn Brewery’s tour is free, whereas Harpoon charges for theirs. At Harpoon, the charge is worthwhile, but I don’t think I’d pay for Brooklyn’s. The tour guides are great and I learned a ton about the brewery’s history as well as the history of the surrounding neighborhood, but it takes up a much smaller amount of time than Harpoon’s tour.
Patrons can smell the hops and pass them around, but there’s no tasting room or question round. For those looking for something a little more, the brewery does offer small batch tastings and other events in their tasting room. For these, patrons must book a spot in advance.
After the brief tour, we were looking to cash in the rest of our tokens for more beer. So, we hopped in line to try a few more brews. I started with the brewery’s award-winning Brown Ale, a tasty beer with just a little bit of hop (30 IBUs) and an ABV of 5.6 percent.
Then, I had what must be one of the most interesting beers I’ve had to date: Brooklyn’s Red Sumac Wit. The brewery uses “the world’s finest sumac” hailing from Turkey and replaces the standard coriander with sumac instead to make this beer. The result is a deliciously spicy beer at 6.5 percent ABV that pairs well with Mediterranean favorites like hummus and cheese.
The Red Sumac Wit was the highlight of my afternoon, but as of right now this Brewmaster’s Reserve brew is out as a very limited release and is only available on draft. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it going forward, but it looks like I’ll have to head back to the brewery soon.