Behind the Beer at 508 Gastrobrewery, One of the Only Brewpubs in NYC
Far out on the West Side, somewhere between the river and the most inconveniently located UPS Customer Service Center in Manhattan, there lies one of New York City's few true brewpubs, 508 Gastrobrewery. But despite the fact that it's somewhat difficult to access, resident beer guy Chris Cuzme doesn't begrudge the out of the way location. "It's a weird place to be," Cuzme says. "But to be honest, as the brewer, I'm totally thankful for that fact. Because if we had too much traffic, we'd be going through beer a lot faster, and I'm really not sure if I'd be able to keep up."
All the beer on tap at 508 has been made on the premises since 2011, when then chef Anderson Sant'anna de Lima decided to take his homebrew hobby pro. Chef-owner Jennifer Hill then hired Cuzme to run the brewing operations in a few converted wine fermenters in a small room in the Mediterranean restaurant's cellar. A recent expansion of that space now allows the brewer to make 80-gallon batches (up from the 55-gallon batches he was confined to at the outset). Because Cuzme prefers to constantly reinvent the beer wheel by inventing new flavors instead of recycling old ones, once a batch is gone, it's gone. And even though the spot is not in the center of a hopping nightlife scene, the most popular pale ale typically only lasts two weeks.
Whatever type of beer you prefer, chances are 508 has a variation that you'll like. A delicious range of brews is currently on tap, including the pale My Little Pony-inspired Friendship Is Magic and Fluttershy ales (shout-outs to this city's bronies--bros who like ponies), the wheat Tamarind Sunburn wheat, and the hoppy Steel Dreamin' IPA. More adventurous beer drinkers might try the sour Catalina Gose, made with actual Catalina seawater that Cuzme collected, which gives the beer a salty finish.
A collaborator by nature, Cuzme also invited all the homebrew clubs in the area to come brew a beer with him; that led to, among other brews, the currently tapped Bump n' Grinds, which is made with coffee beans from Staten Island's Pour Standards. "We designed this beer to be a cold brewed coffee that just happens to be a beer," Cuzme says. That explains not just the taste, but also the low alcohol level, which is just 3.8 percent. Thanks to the caffeine in this beer, it almost seems like you should be drinking it in the morning to wake up instead of in the evening when you're winding down. The beer also benefits a good cause: A dollar from each pint sold goes to the Huntington's Disease Society of America.
Drinkers here shouldn't skip the food menu, by the way. Says Cuzme, "We call ourselves a gastrobrewery because we're as serious about the food as we are about the beer." And not least because this was a restaurant before it was a brewpub. 508 keeps a Mediterranean menu; highlights include the fresh bufala ricotta and honey on country bread or the four cheese pizza made with truffled ricotta, smoked sea salt, and fried sage. Both pair nicely with a cold pint.
508 will be pouring at the Brooklyn Pour craft beer festival in Fort Greene on October 12, but Cuzme says he's not yet sure what.