Find Complex, Hop-Centric Brews at Other Half Brewing Company
Lurking on the fringe between Red Hook and Gowanus is one of New York City's newest breweries, an industrial space with a pocket-sized taproom featuring a mounted kudu head and a bar that once went on tour with the Rolling Stones. Other Half Brewing Company (195 Centre Street, Brooklyn; 347-987-3527) has quietly been making mostly IPAs since January, pouring at shows and in a few bars. Now, as summer begins, it's just opened the taproom and is poised to bring the city's hopheads a new source of delight and satisfaction.
All photos by Susannah Skiver Barton
Co-founders Sam Richardson and Matt Monahan met while working at Greenpoint Beer Works, where Richardson had taken a job as head brewer after several years of experience (and a degree in fermentation science) on the West Coast. Opening his own brewery was always part of Richardson's plan, and partnering with Monahan, a former chef, proved to be a wise choice. "He has a really good palate so you can always count on him to have a strong critique no matter what," says Richardson.
The importance of a sensitive palate comes to the fore with Other Half's stable of IPAs, each subtly tweaked to reflect a different flavor profile without muddying the overall quality. Monahan and Richardson focus on IPAs simply because that's what they like. "If you make something you like," Richardson points out, "you're going to do it well. If you're trying to please somebody else, I feel like you're going to miss the mark."
From the crowd in the taproom on a recent Friday night, Other Half's beers hit the spot for consumers as much as for the makers. It's a promising sign for a company that, like the other breweries that have recently sprouted up in the city, has faced an uphill battle just to open. "The reality of being a manufacturing company in New York City is that it's ridiculously hard," says Richardson. "Space is extremely expensive and usually with manufacturing you have a lot of startup costs. You see all this money going away before you open -- it's difficult."
Even with the taproom now open and the brewery self-distributing kegs in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, Other Half still has challenges to overcome. There are farmhouse ales sitting in French oak casks waiting to be bottled, and the partners want to start canning soon, too. They need more employees and more hours in the day. But they also aren't willing to compromise the product to suit demand.
"Our goal is grow the company organically and try to do it at a pace that we can manage," explains Richardson. "I don't believe that you have to be a tiny brewery to make good beer and, ultimately, I think it's good if you can have a brewery that provides jobs. But we don't want the quality to slip just because we're trying to grow."
High-quality might be one of the first adjectives you think of when tasting Other Half's brews, which, at $14 per growler, are a steal. They tend to be hop-centric and complex, real "beer for beer nerds." As Richardson put it, "There are definitely stepping stones to craft beer, and I feel like we're not necessarily a beginner craft beer. I'm not saying I don't want people to try it that are new to craft beer, but typically people are going to have Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams, things that are more readily available and accessible. Then after they try those and get excited about it, then hopefully they're going to find us."
Other Half is worth tracking down, either in the taproom or at watering holes such as Proletariat, Jimmy's No. 43, Fool's Gold, and Tørst. What's on tap rotates, but check out tasting notes for some of the current offerings below.
Hup! Hup! Hup! (5.5 percent ABV)
A hoppy (Cascade, Chinook, Comet, Crystal) Belgian pale ale with a crisp, refreshing palate of lemongrass and hay. Slight honeyed sweetness leads into a bone-dry, bitter finish.
Hop Showers (7.4 percent ABV)
A bright nose of tangerines and pineapples thanks to the use of Citra hops (one of three hop varieties, along with Amarillo and Ahtanum) creates a juicy, fruity palate with slight minerality and pleasant astringency.
Galaxy IPA (6.5 percent ABV)
Main hop Galaxy lends its signature tropical fruit notes -- mango, orange -- to a sweet, juicy beer with a slightly bitter finish. Crisp and slightly prickly in carbonation, it's perfect for a muggy summer afternoon.
All Green Everything (10.5 percent ABV)
This dangerously easy-drinking triple IPA boasts flavors of lemon and grapefruit mingled with malty sweetness and well-balanced bitterness. If you try only one Other Half brew, make it this one.