Jason Sahler, Strong Rope Brewery
BBR: Tell us about Strong Rope.
Jason Sahler: We got the NY State Farm Brewery license which means that we use 20% New York State ingredients now, 60% in 2019, and then 90% by 2024. So we’re pushing that right now in terms of using 100% hops and 90% to 95% of our malts from New York.
BBR: What’s the motivation behind that?
Jason Sahler: You know, I went to school for sustainability and it was a holistic look at sustainability. So a big portion of that is the ethics and environmental issues and so working with locals is something I always liked doing. Helping out the agriculture of the state and not seeing farmland become suburban house tracks. Helping farmers do something productive and making the land productive and not wasting it or destroying it that’s part of it. And then the idea of creating a product that is all New York that people can say ok this is of this area. We’re trying to create something unique. Everyone uses hops from the West Coast and you know, Europe and Australia and wherever and malts from wherever so there doesn’t seem to be a real sense of place in beer. What we’re trying to do is bring back that sense of place.
Let’s do local beers with local ingredients and not mess with anything like not mess with the water chemistry and all this stuff to really try to get as much of a sense of where we are. It’s a little tougher in beer because there’s so much manipulation and change over the process of brewing. It’s not like wine where you press it and it’s the vintage of that year and it’s very defined.
BBR: So you’re making a New York Style Beer.
Jason Sahler: We’re trying to. We tend to play around. We use a single yeast for everything. We use a Scotch Ale strain which is pretty clean in terms of the fermentation process. It can ferment pretty low in terms of temperature and ferment pretty high. So we’ve got a nice range and it can tolerate pretty high alcohol content so that allows us to play around. But our beers are all kind of centered around the Classic American English Style Ales. We don’t do Belgians, we don’t do Lagers, we don’t do Sours. We want to play around and showcase the malts and the hops. Part of that is that I’m the face of the brewery but we without the farmers none of this is possible. We want to give them as much of a face as possible. We want to build out our space and have profiles of the farmers and more information about that.
BBR: What were the biggest challenges of going from brewing on your own to opening your own brewery?
Jason Sahler: Finding the space in New York City was probably the biggest challenge. We started looking in 2012 and it took us 3 years to find this space. And cost. You know we’re a 64 gallon brewery, we actually got our system from Rockaway Brewing Company after they had grown out of it and expanded we took it off of them. It’s helped keep cost down and allowed us to open on a shoestring budget at least in terms of breweries.
BBR: In that kind of vein with this hand me down Rockaway brewery system, do you see, because clearly the market and number of breweries popping up in NYC is growing, do you see that as competitive or collaborative or maybe a little bit of both?
Jason Sahler: For the most part I think it’s pretty collaborative. There’s obviously going to be competition just because you're a business. But there are 4 breweries right around us. There’s three a few blocks away, Other Half just down the road, and Folksbier just opened up their taproom. I have no problem with anybody that comes in here because I know people come to the area because there are four breweries and they can do a tour and get four breweries in one fell swoop. It makes it a reason for people to come to us. Ideally we’d sell 100% of our beer inside the taproom and don’t have to go outside of here to sell. I think it would be awesome if bars around here had their own basement brewery and made their own beer. Make it a New York beer. Make it a regional thing. When I go to Portland or when I go to San Francisco or wherever…when I go to Muncie, I want to drink what’s in Muncie. I want to drink what’s there. Goes back to the idea of let’s try to create something unique to the area so that you’re not just coming in here and getting an IPA that everyone else is doing. People are starting drink local, eat local, people value seeing a face behind something and not a factory.
End of interview
To support Strong Rope Brewery and the New York farmers they represent in the craft beer world, be sure to check out their taproom at 574 President St. near the R train at Union St. Go taste New York with a beer that showcases New York’s strong and ever growing place among the craft industry.