Gun Hill Brewing: The New Little Brewery in the Big, Bad Bronx
Brewmaster Chris Sheehan with Gun Hill Brewing Company owners Kieran Farrell and Dave Lopez
Photos by Susannah Skiver Barton
You may not be looking for a reason to go to the Bronx, but consider this one: after 50 years without a working brewery, mash tuns and fermentation tanks are once again chugging along in the borough.
One of the breweries responsible for the revival is Gun Hill Brewing Company (3227 Laconia Avenue, Bronx, 718-881-0010), which is sandwiched between an auto shop and the local 262 plasterers' union on a desolate block off East Gun Hill Road. The brainchild of two baseball-playing buddies and seasoned brewmaster Chris Sheehan (formerly of Chelsea Brewing Company), Gun Hill's taproom has only been open for a few weeks -- and the grand debut on March 22 welcomed Bronx locals and intrepid travelers from more far-flung boroughs alike.
Owners Kieran Farrell and Dave Lopez both have ties to the Bronx; the former is a native and the latter was a longtime student there. So when they were deciding where to situate their new business, the borough seemed a natural fit. They wanted to bring something back to the place that brought them together and where both continue to feel strongly connected.
And, despite its isolated location -- or perhaps because of it -- the brewery has been well received among locals. "We've had people stopping by, honking their horns, saying, 'Thank you so much for doing this, thanks for bringing this here,'" says Farrell. "It's been very gratifying." The taproom already has regulars who stop by daily for a pint or two.
Gun Hill operates as a New York state farm brewery, one of three in the five boroughs. The designation allows more generous privileges than the typical microbrewery license, meaning Gun Hill can sell its pints and growlers on-site without additional permits. In return, the brewery must source a certain percentage of hops and other ingredients from within the state. Currently, the requirement stands at 20 percent and will rise incrementally over the next decade, with the expectation that New York farmers' and producers' hop and malt outputs will also rise to meet demand.
Gun Hill is putting out 120 kegs per week at the moment, and its beers can be found in about 30 bars throughout the five boroughs, Westchester and Orange Counties, and at the taproom. While the brewery has no immediate plans to bottle or can, it's happy to fill growlers on site. Not sure what you want? A generous flight runs only $5 -- one benefit of outer borough trekking.
If you want some good beer outside your usual barroom haunts, hop on a 2, 5, or 6 train and head up to the heart of the Bronx for a taste of some true native brew.
Gun Hill Gold (4.1 percent ABV) This hazy, lemon-colored session ale features toasty bread flavors, light herbaceous qualities, and a mild nuttiness before sliding into a smooth, gentle finish. Make this the first Gun Hill brew you try -- you may find you return to it repeatedly.
Gun Hill IPA (6.75 percent ABV) Expected hoppiness pervades along with pleasant lemongrass, fresh lemon, and pine notes. The robust hop flavors belie a mellow, easy finish, making this one of the brewery's strongest offerings and a solid choice for any IPA fan.
Defrosted Hop Strong Ale (5.9 percent ABV) The name of this beer refers to the wet-hop technique used during the brewing process, when frozen-from-fresh rather than typical dried hops are added, resulting in a pleasantly bitter ale with mild hop flavor. All the hops, which include Cascade and others, come from brewmaster Chris Sheehan's upstate farm, indicating a limited quantity. Grab this one while you can.
Thunder Dog Stout (5.9 percent ABV) Named for the baseball team on which owners Lopez and Farrell play, this creamy stout has a pleasing palate for spring. Warm chocolate and coffee flavors combine with a surprising tangy note, lending a freshness to the lingering sweet finish. If you spot a nearby Mr. Softee truck, this would make a great boozy milkshake.
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