By James Reddicliffe
Most of the breweries in Brooklyn start as small operations with spaces that seem more suited for a studio apartment than a taproom. That is certainly not the case for Five Boroughs Brewing Company of Sunset Park Brooklyn which has 15,000 square feet in a facility that used to manufacture steel ties. When the owners of the brewery started construction on the place there were still railroad tracks in the building and it’s easy to imagine the cars rumbling through when you stand beneath the 30 to 35-foot ceilings.
Around 2,500 of those square feet are reserved for the spacious taproom, which has a loft for eventual live music, a dedicated corner stand for merchandise and ample seating. It feels spacious and open because of the high ceilings, and the large windows in front let enough light flood through that you don’t have to squint when you walk outside again (unless you’ve had one too many). The bar serves a wide variety of beer brewed in house. It includes their “core” beers--IPA, Pilsner and Gose, all three of which you’ll be able to get in cans and at bars around the city soon. Other taps will be reserved for brewery-only releases and experimental recipes brewed on their smaller 5 barrel system.
On my visit I had the Pilsner, a “Tiny” IPA and the Mango Saison. The Mango Saison hit the mark as it was neither overly sweet nor overly bitter, and the tiny IPA had a nice hop flavor despite it’s low ABV (don’t call me tiny!).
In this space the Tiny IPA is the only thing that qualifies as small because the enormous brewing facility is so unusual in today’s New York. Forget mom and pop, these guys brought the entire extended family. In the 12,500 square feet they’re churning out over 35 barrels of beer at a time on their main system and they’re already set for expansion when they decide it’s time. To top it all off, there is a laboratory that will eventually allow for in-house yeast creation and quality control. Another person on my tour said the lab had a “Breaking Bad” feel. It was a stretch but there is no doubt these guys want to be experimenting for years to come.
Owners Kevin O’Donnell and Blake Tomnitz spent nearly two years finding and renovating this place with the goal of creating a city united by beer. It’s a lofty ambition but with the space to do it, and a burgeoning beer scene in Brooklyn, they may have picked exactly the right time to try.