Last Saturday was a good day! Spring finally showed up, the flip flops I bought last week in Florida made their first contact with the sidewalks of New York and more importantly – we toured the Sixpoint Craft Ale Brewery in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
If you haven’t had beer from Sixpoint it’s probably because you don’t live in New York, Philly or Boston as that is just about the only place you can find it right now. Sixpoint doesn’t bottle their beers and if memory serves me correctly (the tour was a few days ago – which is reaching the limits of my memory span) they are currently in about 600 bars and send out 80-120 kegs weekly. More on that later, but in a nutshell they have maxed out the capacity of their facility lately and are trying to figure that out as we speak.
What stood out to me on the Sixpoint tour was the honest pride, love and passion they have for good beer & their beer. These guys seemed like grown up home brewers and beer lovers above everything else. They were most concerned with making good beer. A lot of breweries might say that, but you could tell by the laid back unscripted walk through their facility. This was their passion and they loved what they did. That being said the brewery was relatively small, had a family atmosphere and I think only employed 4 full time, 4 part time and some interns.
Sixpoint found itself in Red Hook almost by accident when the brew master found himself at a bar next door a few years back, Rocky Sullivan’s of Red Hook, and it was mentioned there was an old brewery right next door. Long story short, a brew master was shopping around for a brewery, came across and old one in Red Hook and the rest is history – Sixpoint was born. (I’m leaving out the part about how much work they probably had to do cleaning it up, retrofitting and all the other stuff – although it was mentioned that this was a preferred alternative to the 1.5 million it might take to start a brewery from scratch – you do the math). Again, my memory sucks and I took no notes on this tour, but I think the facility used to be the Park Slop Brewery or something and had been shut down for years but had all the equipment to brew. There was a good re-cap of the nasty beer left in one of the tanks they avoided cleaning out until they absolutely had to, and how funky it was.
Sixpoint has recently maxed out the capacity of the facility (people can’t get enough of their awesome beer) and is now trying to figure out what’s next. We all know NYC real estate is ridiculous, although I got the impression they really wanted to stay if at all possible. They said it doesn’t take much more labor to produce 2-3 times more beer than they do now and that the limits on the facility were really forcing this issue as they have literally maxed it out. My favorite quote was the statement “people want to drink more of our beer and we don’t have enough of it. That is a problem”. At any other brewery you might get some business schpiel about cost/supply/demand blah blah blah but here it was all about providing good beer to people who wanted it. This to me really summed up the core mission they have to make quality craft beer.
Some quick takeaways were that every Sixpoint beer you drink is never older than 7-10 days, maybe 14 at most. That is as fresh as it gets my friend and very awesome. On top of this, almost all of the Sipoint beer produced is a pure, unique batch from start to finish. This pretty much defines craft to me and works something like this; Sixpoint brews 30 gallon batches (with the exception of one 60 gallon tank that they occasionally double up on with two of the same types of beer batches) meaning that every beer might have subtle features and uniqueness to that batch – even though it is the same beer recipe. Large breweries might make multiple batches of the same kind of beer, then combine them all together to bottle/keg at which point it will more or less become a big mix of the same type of beer, but the subtleties of each batch get lost. Every time you lift a Sixpoint to your lips know this – It is almost always totally unique to one batch and a few days old. No wonder it is such good beer.
The tour we took was one of a few awesome New York City neighborhood tours offered from Urban Oyster. We talked with one of the partners/founders of Urban Oyster afterwards over some beers as he attends most of the tours and the company offers a lot of cool, New York Tours that are worth checking out. This tour also included an hour long open bar afterwards with all the delicious Sixpoint beer you could drink at Brooklyn Ice House – a sweet neighborhood bar down the way with a nice backyard area and 2 for $5 pulled pork that was the bomb. Thumbs up to the beer, the tour and the visionaries that make Sixpoint happen. Word up.
-Article by Travis Melvin