Every brewery has its own unique and interesting story, and Brooklyn Brewery is certainly no exception. Co-founder Steve Hindy spent six years as a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, living in both Beirut and Cairo. Like many westerners in the Middle East, he found that the only way to obtain beer in a Muslim country was to brew it himself. Coming back stateside, he drafted up a business plan with neighbor and successful banker Tom Potter for a microbrewery in Brooklyn, N.Y., which has a rich brewing history but had seen many of its classic breweries shuttered over the preceding decades.
Many stars had to align for Brooklyn Brewery to get going. Early on, the pair set a goal to raise a minimum of $300,000 from investors or else ditch the entire plan and return the money to the investors. Just two weeks after they finally secured their startup capital from wary investors, the stock market crashed. Investors lost much of their portfolios and, needless to say, lost any interest in financing risky startups. Had they not reached their mark before the 1987 crash, there would have been no hope for Brooklyn Brewery to get off the ground.
Hindy even managed to get Milton Glaser, the pre-eminent graphic designer responsible for the I (heart) NY campaign and the famous Bob Dylan poster, to design the Brooklyn Brewery logo. Hindy called Glaser’s office every day, reaching a first-name basis with his receptionist until he finally gained an audience with Glaser, who warmly received his pitch and designed the now-famous logo. The interesting history of the brewery is chronicled in Hindy and Potter’s book “Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery,” which I highly recommend checking out.
With the coming of colder weather, I decided to try Brooklyn’s Winter Ale, a seasonal offering available from November through March. The beer is brewed in the scotch ale style, using floor-malted grains imported from Scotland along with the classic Willamette hop variety grown in the U.S. Winter beers are typically a bit stronger, darker and maltier than ordinary pale ales and are sometimes spiced to add an extra layer of complexity.
From a 12-ounce bottle, the Winter Ale poured a deep amber with a nice, off-white head. The aroma was not overwhelming but contained some nice caramel and toasty notes. Taking a sip, I first noticed the very smooth, toffeelike feel of the beer. Flavors tended toward toasty and grainy, with unique buttery biscuit notes and some oats. I didn’t notice the intense maltiness typically associated with scotch ales, but the burned mellowness of the beer was pleasant. No spices were present.
Overall, Brooklyn’s Winter Ale evokes a toasty warmth which is pleasant for the cold weather but lacks the intensity and complexity to really stand out among its winter ale peers. It’s a satisfying beer nonetheless and a solid offering from a classic brewery.
$11 for a six-pack
6.1 percent ABV