Queens has a strong and sizable beer community of its own, but for breweries looking to grow their business, Brooklyn is the next frontier.
Big aLICe Brewing has been based in its namesake Long Island City since 2013, but as of March 1, they’re officially open for business in Kings County as well. The brewery now has a brand-new barrel room inside Industry City in Sunset Park. The new space has been in the works for over a year, and with its opening this week, Big aLICe is able to do more than their original space allows both in terms of production and community.
“Our space in Queens is really tiny—I think we have more square footage behind the bar area here [in Brooklyn] than in our whole bar in Queens,” says Kyle Hurst, owner and brewer of Big aLICe. “When we started expanding into doing barrel-aged beers, we knew we wanted to do more of it, so this gives us the ability to grow and expand that, maybe do some things with wild and spontaneous fermentation. It’s a good spot for us to do that, and it gives us the taproom that we want so we can do more events.”
All brewing will still be done in Queens for the time being, so the Industry City space will be used for aging, packaging and, of course—drinking. Hurst expressed excitement about establishing new connections with Brooklynite patrons and businesses, including some of their neighbors in Industry City. The brewery team is looking into ways to partner with food vendors in the complex, so Big aLICe’s visitors can nosh on the neighbors’ food while imbibing.
Big aLICe may be the first Queens-born brewery to open its doors in Brooklyn, but it’s not the only one. Finback Brewing is teasing a secondary space to open in Gowanus this summer, and Transmitter Brewing is set to fully move from Long Island City to the Brooklyn Navy Yard this spring or summer. Anthony Accardi, owner and fermentologist at Transmitter, also cites a need for more space as one of the chief reasons for the move south.
“A super-small brewery, which is what we are, is not really viable,” Accardi says over the phone. In order to keep up with the cost of New York real estate, breweries need to maintain a certain amount of production. The new space at Brooklyn Navy Yard will put them in a position to do just that—“have a bigger tasting room, up our production, make more beer so we can sell more beer.”
And despite their breweries having roots in Queens, both Hurst and Accardi express not only necessity but excitement in their moves to Brooklyn. Accardi says the move is “not a step for us, but a leap. It’s both exciting and terrifying,” and he mentions that Brooklyn Navy Yard’s mission of creating manufacturing jobs has so far made for a helpful and welcoming environment for Transmitter as they pack up their Glendale space permanently in the next few weeks. They don’t yet have an official opening date in Brooklyn, but Accardi says they’re hoping for the next few months.
Big aLICe, on the other hand, may not be leaving Long Island City behind, but the expansion into Brooklyn still raises some emotions for Hurst surrounding home turf loyalty.
“It kind of felt dirty the first few times I said ‘Brooklyn.’ It felt like I was cheating on Queens,” Hurst says. “But I love it here, I’m loving the vibe, the atmosphere, the feeling you get in this borough.”