There are many reasons to fall in love with the Owl Farm (297 9th Street, Brooklyn; 718-499-4988). Centered in the heart of Park Slope’s energetic 9th Street, it makes the most of its prime location, offering a cozy interior with comfortable seating and exposed-brick façades, an eclectic cross-section of craft beer and spirits, and pinball machines. It’s even dog-friendly. Yet these attributes are common to many a Brooklyn-based watering hole. To set his bar apart, managing partner Steven Baird compiled a distilled beers program unlike anything else in the city.
“I was tired of seeing the same collection of spirits at most bars, so I decided to bring the liquor program in line with our beer program,” says Baird. “Since the first step of making most whiskies is making a wash [basically, an un-hopped beer] it was a logical step to explore distilled beers. It’s been a fun journey tracking these things down and adding them to the list.”
That list features a dozen distillates, most of which rotate depending on availability. Prices range from $8 to $12 for two-ounce pours that hover in the traditional spirits realm of 80 proof. The liquors are produced almost exclusively by third parties, but generally in close cooperation with the breweries. Oregon-based Rogue Brewery is an exception, crafting both their popular Dead Guy ale as well as the whiskey they distill utilizing the same malt bill.
Although he frequently switches them out, Baird typically stocks a few expressions well suited to entry-level experimenters seeking to get their toes wet. The Kiuchi No Shizuku, for example, is distilled from Hitachino White ale and offers gentle notes of orange zest and coriander, pleasing to most palates.
For the seasoned single Islay malt fans, distilled Aecht Schlenkerla amplifies the smoked malt components of its base beer into something resembling peatiness. The distillate is mellowed in barrels for several months, giving it a whisky-like appearance to match its flavor.
There’s also selections suited to gin enthusiasts: Last month’s list featured Anchor Hop Head, a gin-like spirit subbing hops for juniper. Port lovers would migrate toward the Baladin Xyauyu Oro, an oxidized barleywine with sweet tannic characteristics.
And, of course, having a liquor derived from beer affords a unique opportunity to build the perfect boilermaker — always a crowd-pleaser. “The response has been extremely positive, especially when we pair a distillate with the base beer,” notes Baird. Currently, he is running a combo of Uerige Doppelsticke, a strong German altbier, with Uerige Stickum, its un-aged whiskey derivative. It might not remain on the rapidly evolving list by the time you arrive. But come to the Owl Farm with a sense of adventure and you won’t leave disappointed.