As the only native on the Brooklyn Spirits team, I have given this matter a great deal of thought. I have no idea when it began; perhaps when The Beastie Boys unleashed “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” back in ‘86. Whatever the catalyst for our current state of pervasive “hipness”, there is no question that Brooklyn is in the midst of a renaissance. But why?
Chris and Pete asked the “Why Brooklyn?” question, in one form or another, to all of the people featured in Brooklyn Spirits, and their responses—if any—covered a lot of ground.
Bridget Firtle, CEO and founder of The Noble Experiment, NYC, looked past the hyperbole of “Brooklyn Fever” toward more practical matters:
“I never wanted to capitalize on the hype behind Brooklyn right now. I happen to be from New York. Both sides of my family are from Brooklyn; it’s the borough I know best. It’s also the borough that actually has space that you can do something like this. It has the proper zoning, and there is space available, and there is access to public transportation.”
Daric Schlesseleman and Sarah Ludington named “Van Brunt Stillhouse” for Cornelius Van Brunt, an early Breukelen farmer considered by many to have been one of the founders of the borough. They take the phrase, “Made In Brooklyn,” seriously:
“I have absolutely no desire in buying spirits from someone else and repackaging them. Everything that comes out of here right now is made here… If it’s not mashed here it’s not going to be sold here.”
Zachary Bruner and Dave Kyrejko, of Industry City Distilling, see through the Utopian myth of Brooklyn, and focus their energies on adapting their business to the harsh realities of actually running a business in the borough:
“There’s no longer a big, industrial waterfront; this (Industry City) is all becoming condos. So setting up an industrial operation like a distillery is actually pretty ridiculous . . .unless you have an ulterior motive. …In our case, as an R&D group, how can you take a fully functional, large-scale production and miniaturize it? How can you take advantage of your environment, as opposed to pretending that you’re a farm stand? … Our energy costs are three times the national average; our rent costs are more than that, so why would you try to be a farm stand? Go be a farm stand. But, if you want to become an urban distillery in an urban environment, you have to really think outside the box.”
Brad Estabrooke of Breuckelen Distilling — whose “Glorious Gin” was the first legal post-Prohibition gin sold in Brooklyn — marvels:
“I think it’s great what’s going on in Brooklyn… I cannot believe how many places are open. And I can’t believe that no one’s gone out of business yet, because – I mean I don’t know about for the other guys (but) it’s hard every single day.
We’re running out of space for today’s post, so the last word for today goes to Brooklyn Gin’s Joe Santos, who discussed the allure of Brooklyn with his business partner, Emil Jattne:
“I know with Emil I talked to him about what Brooklyn means in Sweden, and it’s actually more of a ‘cool’ factor. It’s the place where a lot of the top Indie bands come from in the U.S. So there’s sort of that artistic side of music. There’s also the artisanal side and the whole do-it-yourself movement. And that’s another aspect, I think, of why people are attracted to Brooklyn.”