Thanks to Places like The Bronx Brewery, Beer Is Making a Comeback in the Bronx

The last time we had The Bronx Brewery on the Window Sill, I told you the story of Kato, the ailing-yet-brave fat cat I’d grown to love while my wife and I were nursing him back to health. You’ll be glad to know that not only is Kato doing better, but the Bronx is back on the sill, too! This week, I reached out to the “Boogie Down”-based brewery to talk to them about their delicious Northeast IPA, Built For This. See what they had to say about it!

First, a little about the history of brewing in the Bronx. The eclectic history of the borough began 1898—before the Yankees even came to town—but it was once also a haven for quality suds. Beer and brewing have actually been a part of the area’s historical tapestry for nearly 400 years. The borough is named after James Bronck, a Swedish settler who made the trip from Europe to what was then known as New Amsterdam back in 1639. According to a 2010 article in the Riverdale Press, when Bronck passed away in 1643, evidence of a brewery was discovered on his South Bronx estate.

Fast-forward to pre-Prohibition New York, and the Bronx’s brewing scene was really hopping. Immigrants from Germany had brought their love of lagers to the area starting in the second half of the 19th century. Soon, breweries were springing up all over, including large operations like the Hupfel Brewery, Eichler Brewery, Zeltner Brewery and the Ebling Brewery Company. You may have heard of Ebling. They boasted their technique of aging their beer in “natural rock caves,” which were rediscovered in 2009—more than 60 years after the brewery closed its taps for good—by a developer building low-income housing on the company’s old stomping grounds.

Hell, even the first borough President—Louis F. Haffen—came from a brewing family. Beer and the Bronx went together like Babe Ruth and home run records; or Babe Ruth and, well, beer. The 18th amendment changed all that. The industry—at least the legitimate version of it—completely collapsed. Even the breweries that managed to get through those dark years, or those which re-opened after Prohibition was repealed, soon faded into oblivion. The last company to brew beer in the Bronx was Rheingold Beer, which left the borough for good in the 1960s. It would take another five decades—and two friends—for beer to return.

Damian Brown and Chris Gallant had an undying appreciation for all things beer, and all things Bronx. In 2011, they decided to fuse their passions by bringing their favorite alcoholic beverage back to the borough they so admired. Together, they founded The Bronx Brewery, and soon began brewing their brand of awesome beer. Unfortunately, the two didn’t have the capital to build their own facility—YOU try raising $1.5 million—so they spent their first three years of existence making their beers in Connecticut, at Cottrell Brewing, while storing their beer in the Bronx. By 2014, they’d grown enough to move into their own place, so they found a spot in the South Bronx, where they built their current facility. Although they were technically beaten to the punch by Gun Hill Brewing Company by about seven months, Damian and Chris had finally brought brewing back to the Bronx, for real!

While all that is well and good, I’m sure you’re wondering… is their beer any good? I haven’t had too many of their brews, but if the Name This Beer!—eventually renamed Holy Mother of Citrus—and the Built For This are any indication, these guys should be making quality beer in the Bronx for many years to come.

Speaking of the Built For This, I spoke via email with Patrick Libonate, The Bronx Brewery’s VP of Marketing. He went above and beyond the call of duty, answering all my questions and providing me with a ton of information about this delicious beer.

What’s the hop profile for the Built For This?

PL: We use 4 different hops for this brew: Idaho 7, Mosaic, Azacca, and Loral. This is a Northeast Style IPA and as I’m sure you know, Mosaic, is a popular hop used in many NE IPA’s. It helps deliver that heavy tropical fruit (mango, orange, pineapple, etc.) aroma & taste. We use a variety of malts including wheat malt and oat flakes which helps give it a nice full body.

When was it released?

PL: This was just a 20 barrel pilot brew that we made. We were very happy with the quality and integrity of this pilot so we packaged & shipped a small batch. This doesn’t always happen with pilots. We will officially launch this beer in May with new packaging and much larger quantities.

What inspired the name?

PL: This is the official description of the beer that will be printed on the label:

One thing the Bronx isn’t short on is toughness. Its strong work ethic and no-nonsense attitude is why we chose to brew our beer here. And in the spirit of the character of the Bronx, we created this tough as nails, Northeast IPA. Full bodied, hazy with tastes of orange, mango, and pineapple, it’s a brew made big & bold like the borough that inspired it.

Love the minimal can art. What inspired you guys to go that route with it?

PL: Glad you like the white label approach. We only use this “design” for our small batch or pilot brews. It fits our ‘No Nonsense Ales’ brewing philosophy and from a logistical standpoint, it’s quick & easy for us to produce. When we officially launch the brew, it will be packaged with a label that we designed together with a Bronx muralist. We love the white label but the custom artwork is even better.

Check out Built For This on Instagram, now!