“Hey, have you tried the Farmstead Motueka? Take a sip if you want to dude.”
The guy next to me, bearded and buzzed and I think a little stoned, had the sort of twinkle in his eye unique to beer enthusiasts caught up in the ecstasy of a particularly special pour. He pushed his glass in my direction with a big, dopey, friendly smile. My first impulse, bottle of hand sanitizer burning in my pocket like a scarlet letter, was to decline the tasting and the fine ring of spittle that likely coated his glass rim.
But here, at Brouwerij Lane, you just don’t do that. You buck your anal-compulsive aversion to winter germs and embrace the comraderie fostered in this special place. I smiled, thanked him, took a sip from the spot I quickly determined he’d most likely not sipped from (nothing personal, bro). In their weekly newsletter Brouwerij described the Hill Farmstead Moteuka Single Hop as an ale “utilizing a rare New Zealand hop variety”, with tasting notes of “bitterness, mango, tropical, fruity, and hop resin.” That tiny sip was flowery, perfumey, refreshing, a revelation; I’m sold, and order a pint after polishing off a half pint of Hill Farmstead George, one of the nuttier, smokier, more satisfying brown ales I’ve tasted in some time. I forget all about the shared spittle.
Located on Greenpoint Avenue, just off Franklin Street, in the heart of the second-largest Polish neighborhood (to Chicago) in the country, Brouwerij Lane is a leading member of the growing beer bar / beer tasting room movement sweeping through the prime Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods, my home for the past 9 years. Even one of the local Duane Reade drug stores is getting in on the action.
At any given time, 19 growler taps and 150+ (pricey) bottled microbrews from around the world can be had. Brick walls; dim, low-hanging lights; a massive shelving unit filled with empty beer bottles presumably chosen for their colorful labels; light-up beer signs for Southern Tier, Harpoon, Palm, and others; a wood-burning stove/fireplace near the back door that leads to an outdoor space.
Seating is sparse: two skinny tables big enough to snugly accommodate six each, a few tall, round tables, and standing room. Stools. The music, a mellow mishmash of funk, discordant rock, Brit punk, and dub reggae. And, of course, a mounted deer head with an eight-point rack looking on in silent watch. I assume the deer has a name because Brouwerij is that kind of place.
The centerpiece is a massive six-doored refrigerator, each section filled with six shelves lined with microbrews with names like Dream Weaver Wheat and River Horse Tripel. Empty four- and six-pack boxes line the floor in front of it for mixing and matching. As the room’s main source of lighting, the fridge shines golden, like the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, without the flesh-eating consequences when opened.
It’s intimate. It’s perfect. It has bathroom walls plastered with vintage Star Wars wallpaper found in a roll on the street on trash day.
Bare descriptions of Brouwerij Lane seem hollow as I type them, however: in the end, it’s just a cozy bar.
No, there’s something else here, something less quantifiable and more difficult to illuminate. When I walk in, I feel welcome; I think everybody does. There’s not a hint of pretentiousness, beer snobbery or otherwise, from the staff to the patrons. There’s a certain… a certain dignity here. A shared dignity. A mutual respect for one another and an unspoken common ground. It’s a local neighborhood watering hole in every idyllic sense, full of sincere laughter, hushed conversation, and drinkers of all ages comfortably mingling, the latter an unfortunate rarity in the hyper age-segregated bar scene that is Williamsburg and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Greenpoint.
Chalk it up to the strong (and relatively cheap) beers, but at Brouwerij I find myself ruminating about the faces that paint the backdrop of everyday life. The familiar faces of the restaurants we eat at, the stores we shop at, the bars we drink at. These people may never be friends, and conversation may never advance beyond simple pleasantries, but they’re people that in some ways we share more kinship with, even it’s just a one-way street, than we do with distant family members. You’re as likely to recognize them on the streets of Berlin as you would be a long-lost friend. They may never know it, but the heavily tattooed bartender with the thick black-rimmed glasses at Brouwerij, the Latin-American woman at the drop-off laundromat (“The Plug”), the Vietnamese family who run the corner deli, the marble-mouthed Italian at the local pizzeria–they’re all so significant even if they don’t know it. They are part of the fabric of my life at 33 going on 34. They’re a part of all of our lives. Christ, I’m supposed to be writing about a bar here.
I’m taking the last few gulps of a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye. A few staffers are milling around by the taps and shooting the shit about beer. Eight or nine other people are here, dreamily zoned out over a beer and a book or a beer and a conversation. Or they’re just staring, mesmerized, deep in thought, into Brouwerij’s Golden Ark of Beer.
Brouwerij Lane is located at 78 Greenpoint Avenue, just off Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Open Mon – Thu 2pm – 10pm, and Fri – Sun 12pm – 10pm. 347-529-6133.
Meh photos taken with an iPhone 3GS by author. I guess they’re copyrighted, but have at it.