New York City’s only homebrew supply store, Brooklyn Homebrew, opened Tuesday in its new Gowanus location on 8th Street at Third Avenue. Up until now, the store has been operating out of a one-bedroom Sunset Park apartment–the home of owners Danielle Cefaro and Benjamin Stutz. Both ex-chefs, Cefaro and Stutz set up shop after years of making their own beer in a city with a surprising lack of homebrew resources.
“The city that supposedly has everything has been missing [a homebrew store] for some time now,” Cefaro remarks.
New York homebrewing has only really taken off in the last year or so, according to the NYC Homebrewers Guild. Cefaro and Stutz capitalized on the burgeoning trend, opening their business in July. “We happened to put the store together at just the right time,” says Cefaro.
At almost exactly the same time, another Brooklyn couple, Stephen Valand and Erica Shea, opened the Brooklyn Brew Shop stand at Brooklyn Flea. Valand and Shea specialize in one-gallon mini kits, which they also sell online. (Mini kits provide a good introduction for brewing newbies; they also cater to small kitchens and apartments.)
Chris Cuzme, vice president of the NYC Homebrewers Guild and president of the Malted Barley Appreciation Society, believes the two new ventures have helped the hobby gain popularity in New York. “We’ve seen a gigantic growth spurt of active members since their appearance on the scene.” In fact, membership at the Homebrewers Guild doubled last year.
For a while, the only local spot to get supplies was Sixpoint Craft Ales brewery, which unofficially sells ingredients. Cefaro speculates that the reason New York has gone without a brew shop for so long is that no one realized the demand for one. “People were truly convinced there were not many brewers in the city,” she says. But now, homebrewers who formerly kept to themselves are beginning to find each other, clubs are launching throughout the city, and a market is forming.
Even so, not everyone expects New York’s homebrew scene to grow much more than it already has. That’s because, says Homebrewers Guild member Mark Goldey, the city lacks one important ingredient: space. “To do anything more serious than a Mr. Beer kit –the EZ Bake oven of the brewing world,” Goldey explains, “you need a five gallon pot, a stove hot enough to bring three gallons to a boil, a six-gallon primary fermenter, a five-gallon secondary fermenter, two or three or four cases of empty bottles, a bunch of tubes and siphons to tie this all together, and someplace to store it all, especially while fermenting, when the beer needs to be held at about 70 degrees, which is also tough in an overheated NYC apartment.” These challenges only contribute to potential hazards such as exploding bottles.
While New York homes aren’t always conducive to homebrewing, Cefaro and Stutz are optimistic about their store’s future. “Business has been great,” Cefaro declares. And she’s got the new lease to prove it.
Brew-it-yourself folks seem psyched about the new store. “As a man, homebrew shops excite me almost as much as Home Depot!” Cuzme exclaims.
“I’ll certainly support Brooklyn Homebrew,” adds Goldey. “But carrying ten or 50 pounds of grain on the subway…is not easy, either.”
Brooklyn Homebrew, 163 8th St. Brooklyn, 718-369-0776