Leap Day was a dreary day in Brooklyn, the kind where rain pours down in sheets of pissy mist during an afternoon colored through a prism of bleak shades of grey; naturally, I decided I needed to get out of the house and go for a walk. I wanted a drink, and had somewhere specific in mind.
It was a long walk in that pissy mist of cold rain, through McCarren Park and down Manhattan Avenue, past aromatic Polish bakeries and cozy Polish restaurants. An old roller-skating rink that’s been converted into a pharmacy, a smattering of shitty 99-cent stores, a sprinkle of corporate chains, a diner, a sushi joint, a 7-11 that always makes me think of Bangkok. I take a left at Greenpoint Avenue, skirt past a reeking poultry slaughterhouse, and finally see a small cluster of people smoking cigarettes just outside the entrance of Brouwerij Lane.
Brouwerij Lane, the beer shop with the bathroom plastered in vintage Star Wars wallpaper. Brouwerij Lane, where everybody doesn’t necessarily know your name, but everybody who’s been there more than two or three times recognizes a familiar face or five. Tonight it’s a Polka Party featuring three fantastic brews from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project–”an idea, not a brewery”–and Pretty Things’ own Jim Barnes spinning cocaine-glamorous Polish disco on turntables set atop empty crates of Gaffel Kolsch and Jever Pilsener. Real vinyl–not an iTunes playlist.
Parties and microbrewery tap takeovers are held here with increasing regularity. A few weeks back, my wife and I happily slogged through a flight of inherently strong barleywines, a drink-too-much-and-you-might-blackout lineup highlighted by a special third-year anniversary ale from The Bruery called Cuir.
Weighing in at a hefty 14.5% ABV, the Cuir is brewed with the “solara method“, often used for sherry. In short, The Bruery takes ales from two different years, blends them with another from a third year, then pours it off and 25% is kept and further aged in oak-bourbon barrels. (Got that?)
At first it tasted a bit overbearing and overly dry. The Cuir softened considerably as we slowly worked our way around the flight sip by sip, however, later revealing itself as a complex, nuanced concoction with warming notes of raisins and caramel.
I’ve squeezed into a packed house for an evening with Kelso of Brooklyn. That night a friend and I chatted up a freelance ballet dancer who worked as an extra in Black Swan who, bless her heart, kindly obliged my gossipy curiosity and confirmed that Natalie Portman does, indeed, have a huge head and stubby little raptor arms. She was there with a friend who runs a satanic hamburger truck out of Queens. I don’t remember much of what was discussed, but do remember it was good, fleeting beer-drinking conversation with good people–and that his massive burgers are, of course, stamped with massive pentagrams.
I’ve attended the opening of Greenpoint artist (and Brouwerij regular) Chris Smith’s “Cars and Drivers.” Along with my homebrewer brother-in-law I went to Artisanal Imports Night, where we snagged a complimentary Tripel Karmliet glass with the beer, shared nerdy (snobby?) beer-tasting notes, and bullshitted about neighborhood minutiae with the company’s like-minded Brooklyn rep.
Tonight, on Polka Night, a meandering conversation with a familiar Brouwerij face for the first time. I find out he came to New York by way of Cork, Ireland, while aiming for a beach life in Bahia, Brazil, in the mid-80s. He never made it and decided to stay, and some three decades later has settled into a comfortable life in Long Island City, Queens, a borough and neighborhood he says he’s “adopted philosophically”.
In many ways, Brouwerij Lane has played a key role in my own somewhat recent philosophical adoption of my borough and my neighborhood. As a frequent traveler forever seeking the thrill of the foreign, I’ve constantly projected myself leading everyday life in Berlin, in Bangkok, and other far-flung destinations, always enjoying but never unequivocally embracing my charmed life here in the pre-war building I’ve lived in for almost 9 years that straddles the Williamsburg/Greenpoint border.
Since returning to Brooklyn last August after six more blissful months in Bangkok, however, something has changed. The allure of expat life hasn’t diminished, but the allure of Brooklyn life has at the same time taken on new life. After all these years I’m finally ready to admit it: life is good here in Williamsburg. Really good.
It’s a lot of things: it’s a heightened appreciation for simple things like Sunday brunch at Teddy’s Bar & Grill, whiskey tastings at Noorman’s Kil, and street food on the waterfront. It’s my running route, my beat up old bike, my mischievous cat, my small group of friends, most of all my wife. And, of course, it’s half-pints and good conversation with good people at Brouwerij Lane, a modest little beer shop located near the center of my world in Brooklyn.
See you there during Imperial Stout Weekend?
More on Brouwerij Lane:
+ The Beer Intoxicated, and the Bathroom Walls Were Covered in Vintage Star Wars Wallpaper
It’s at 78 Greenpoint Avenue, just off Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Open Mon – Thu 2pm – 10pm, and Fri – Sun 12pm – 10pm. 347-529-6133.