By James Reddicliffe
Like most people, I don’t like standing in line. In a city that hums with energy, it seems like a waste of time to wait a couple of hours for anything. But one recent Saturday, waiting in an extensive line is exactly what I found myself doing. Early in the morning, the sky gray with the threat of rain, my buddy Connor and I hustled to Other Half Brewing for a release of three limited edition beers. These specialty IPAs, and the thrill of the chase, brought hundreds of people to a quiet corner of Red Hook. Other Half is Brooklyn’s preeminent brewer of hopped-up IPAs, and its reputation is known well beyond the bounds of King’s County.
From the heights of the video game like Smith-9th Street subway station, the line stretched serpent-like around the blocks surrounding the brewery. It was 7:45 a.m., a good two hours before the brewery was actually set to start releasing the cans. Cursing the line and the ever-unreliable weekend G train service, we took the stairs two at a time. We aren’t the type of guys to get up at 6 for beer, but once we’re up we’ll be damned if we won’t give it our best effort. Once safely in line we started to play the “what if” game. What if they run out of beer? What if they tell us they can’t guarantee us beer? What if we have to go the bathroom? All these questions would be answered shortly, when a brewery representative came around with wrist-bands that guaranteed that anyone wearing one would get “the full allotment,” or the maximum amount of each beer advertised on Instagram.
Beer guaranteed, the waiting began. Limited releases are notorious in beer circles around the country for disorder, anger, and even fights. But this event was downright civil. Most people who made the effort to get to the brewery were rewarded with wristbands. When someone had to make a McDonald’s run for coffee or to use the bathroom, other beer-seekers held her spot in line. People read novels, or the Times. I dare say, it was boring.
We slowly but surely made our way to the front of the line and the brewery. Other Half isn’t much of a looker; in fact, if you didn’t know where you were going or what you were looking for you’d certainly miss it. Across from a McDonald’s and around the corner from a large recycling center, it has the industrial part down, if not the chic. The taproom itself is the size of a New York City living room and can be filled by only two parties. Next to the taproom is the warehouse from which they sling breakfast sandwiches and distribute the beer. With its cement floors and high ceilings it’s about exactly what you’d imagine an old factory space (with the addition of brewing equipment in the back) is like. The staff is friendly, but not overly so, and they keep the handoff transactional. How much do you want and how do you want to pay are the only questions. Beer in hand, swipe your card, sign, be on your way.
Once we had time to reflect we realized we got the experience we had been so curious about. Waiting for vaunted beers in a crowd of like-minded folks. I’m glad we went because it was an experience that we had both wanted to have. The beer ended up being delicious, but was it better than a fresh draft nearby, or a more readily available tasty brew? Probably not. Would I recommend you wait in line for these hyped beers every time they are released? No I wouldn’t-- there are so many delicious suds more easily accessible these days. Drink what you like, drink it fresh and local, and leave the lines for the other half.