Braven Brewing's Marshall Thompson (left) and Eric Feldman.
The path to professional brewing often starts on the kitchen stove. As the batches stack up, skills are refined. Recipes are perfected. Friends clamor for another pint of bitter IPA, or maybe it's a coffee stout. Accolades stack up like poker chips. "You should start a brewery," someone suggests, planting a seed inside that grows into an all-consuming desire to turn a hobby into a career.
Over the last four years of running my homebrew tour, I've watched this journey play out like an endlessly looping film reel. Rich Buceta went on to launch SingleCut. Jonathan Moxey now works for Perennial Artisan Ales. Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee are opening Finback. To the list of homebrew-tour gone pro I will soon add Marshall Thompson and Eric Feldman, a duo formerly known as the East Village Brewing Company.
Back in 2010, I crammed 30 strangers into Feldman's Manhattan apartment to sample the Avenue A-le and Stuy Town Nut Brown. The beers were delightful. The crowd was impressed. Perhaps these guys have a bright future, I thought, making a mental note to follow their online exploits. But months later, their website went dark. Posts fell off a cliff. Was this another case of a hobby fizzling out?
Hardly. Three years later, the East Village Brewing Company has been reborn as Brooklyn's Braven. "We want to tap into Bushwick's brewing tradition," Feldman says of the brewery, which takes its name from a chimera-like combination of a buck and a raven. Once upon a time, you see, Bushwick got America good and drunk. By 1962, 10 percent of America drank Brooklyn beer, and a dozen-plus brewers dotted the blocks. But by the 20th century's close, breweries like Rheingold and Schaefer were historical footnotes. Today, there's nary a brewery in Bushwick.
That's a void that Braven aims to fill. "We're hoping to be a destination brewery," says Feldman, a lawyer who envisions a laid-back taproom where friends, families and their dogs can mingle together. Currently, the twosome are searching for a space, preferably around the Jefferson Avenue stop, and are perfecting their launch brands. Driven by the notion of being bold and crafty (the bold buck + the crafty raven = Braven), the friends are working on a lineup of balanced, approachable beers that are full of flavor, not booze.
"I love IPAs, but many of them hit you with 7 percent ABV," says Feldman, who will be handling the brewing while Thompson focuses on sales and marketing. "That's a lot of alcohol. I like having a few beers throughout the evening."
The crisp, quaffable debut brews will be a white IPA heavy on citrusy, floral hops such as Cascade and Centennial, as well as a black IPA likely dosed with piney, woody Simcoe. While the allure of hoppy beers is undeniable, Braven will also look toward classic styles such as the altbier and pilsner, as well as brews that tie into Bushwick's Hispanic and Mexican population—hello, Day of the Dead–themed orange habañero chocolate stout. "We're trying to make a beer that captures the spirit of the neighborhood," Feldman says.
As for timing to buy these beers, don't hold your breath. Right now, Braven is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a pilot brewery. Furthermore, the friends are seeking out a regional brewery where they might be able to contract-brew, or perhaps they'll set up a smaller brewing system inside an existing restaurant or bar. (Realistically speaking, Braven is still at least 12 to 18 months away from opening, which means the end of 2014 or spring 2015.)
"One of the big problems is trying to find a space," laments Feldman, who is still cranking out five-gallon batches in his East Village apartment. Though Braven can't legally sell the beer, Feldman and Thompson are doling out samples at parties and events around Brooklyn. "The first couple times I handed out beer to people and waited for feedback, it was terrifying," Feldman says. "Alternately, this project will be super-exciting and super-scary, but nothing makes us any happier."
This post originally appeared on Craft Beer New York. Check it out!