When South Brooklyn Pizza and Buschenschank proprietor James McGown bought P.J. Hanley’s back in 2005, he took on decades of history: The Irish bar, often dubbed the oldest bar in Brooklyn, existed under that name for more than 50 years, and its legacy as a Carroll Garden watering hole dates back to the 19th century.
So many of his neighbors weren’t exactly thrilled when McGown decided to close the bar in March under the shadow of bankruptcy and re-open under a new name in concept–but with the refresh, which opened over the weekend under the name Goldenrod, he hopes to revive a bit of Brooklyn’s beer history.
“I did a title search going back 150 years,” McGown explains. “There was a lease to Otto Huber Brewing Company that dates to 1893.” The storefront, he explains, was a flagship retail outlet for the company’s Goldenrod, a beer that launched Otto Huber to the forefront of the Brooklyn brewing industry at the end of the 1800s and on through Prohibition, since Huber sold low-alcohol beer and malt extract in our country’s alcohol-free years.
McGown let that story inform his new concept, which revolves around local beer, much as the bar would have in the 1890s. “Back in 1893, there would have been a bunch of domestic beers,” he says. “In the past 10 years, the U.S. has really come around again.” To that end, he’ll keep 20 brews on tap and 20 in bottle, and he’s also having a Goldenrod pilsner and ale made for the bar, the former by Brooklyn Brewery and the latter by Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. He rounded out the bar program with a bourbon-centric cocktail list.
As for food, drinkers can order pies from South Brooklyn Pizza next door, and Goldenrod will maintain a menu of typical bar fare with one caveat: McGown’s aiming to be extremely friendly to eaters who are gluten-free. “We’re doing potato chips, falafel burgers, and gluten-free buns for our burgers,” he explains. That burger, by the way, is a blend of dry-aged ribeye, brisket, and skirt steak, and McGown says that and the habanero pork rib are the two highlights of the menu.
McGown is also preserved as much of the old building–including the tin ceilings and ornate bar–as possible, while removing anything from the modern era that wouldn’t have been around in the 1890s. But for the rest of the summer, at least, the best spot in the house is likely the vast patio, a beer garden-like set-up that can seat 125 people.
Goldenrod is currently open from the dinner hour until 4 a.m., but the owner says hours will soon expand to include lunch. Look for that change to go into effect sometime in the next couple of weeks.