Beer Here! A Report From the Brooklyn Homebrewers Tour


On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, 23 beer lovers met in Sunset Park to embark on a day of heavy drinking. Waiting for everyone to arrive, beer writer Joshua M. Bernstein held a sign he made out of trash that said, “Hey! It’s a HOMEBREW TOUR.”

Bernstein played tour guide yesterday for the Brooklyn Homebrewers Tour, helping beer geeks invade the privacy of neighbors’ homes and drink all their delicious, handcrafted booze.

The first stop was a one-bedroom apartment in Sunset Park that doubles as Brooklyn’s first homebrew supply only store. Danielle Cefaro and Benjamin Stutz started Brooklyn Homebrew in July. “New York’s the only major city in the country that doesn’t have a homebrew supply shop,” says Cefaro. (Their place is the only one that’s entirely dedicated to homebrew supply.) The couple hopes to move operations into a storefront in Gowanus in the coming year.

For now, inventory lines their walls, along with batches of their own homebrewed beer. The latter was of more interest to yesterday’s thirsty visitors. Cefaro and Stutz served a rich Extra Special Bitter, a light Irish red ale, and a medium-bodied oatmeal stout.

On the tour was a mix of fellow brewers and mere beer appreciators. Among the former was Brandon West, who recently moved to Brooklyn from Philadelphia, where he helped run a homebrewing cooperative. “I’ve definitely dealt with the space issue moving here,” he said.

Sipping a red ale, West chatted with Sam Burlingame, a software engineer, about the book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, arguably the brewing bible.

Burlingame said he’s given some thought to the hobby. “I’ve had a little brewing kit that I got from my aunt’s yard sale a year ago, but I’ve never actually used it.”

The next attraction on the tour was homebrewer Dan Pizzillo’s apartment in Carroll Gardens. Pizzillo uses a kegging system with paintball tanks for CO2. He poured everyone a tasty weizenbock (in the style of Aventinus, the beer he says made him want to start brewing) and a smooth vanilla bourbon imperial porter.

“I dream about batches at night,” he confessed.

Just down the street, Pizzillo’s brewing buddy, Fritz Fernow, opened his doors to the increasingly tipsy bunch. His sizable apartment was once a longshoremen’s bar. “We’d like to think the basement used to be a brothel,” he joked.

Fernow served a unique IPA with strong herbal and earthy tones. Wearing a T-shirt featuring a hop-shaped grenade, he talked about how quickly homebrewing has taken off in New York since he started making beer two years ago. “My wife says it’s like lesbians of the ’90s.”

From Carroll Gardens, the group stumbled onto the subway and rode to a huge loft in Williamsburg. Resident homebrewers John Conner and Josh Fields had three exceptional beers on tap–“Dumb Blonde,” “Frank Lloyd Rye,” and “Bankrupt State,” a California common. Both Conner and Fields are sculptors, though Fields said he toys with the idea of starting a brewery one day.

While some on the tour were just in it for the alky, others seemed to have found their new hobby. For them, homebrewer Fernow had this advice:

“Be careful, ’cause it gets addictive,” he said. “Plus, I can’t fit into any of my pants anymore.”