“Beer changed our lives,” says Erica Shea, who owns and runs the Brooklyn Brew Shop alongside Stephen Valand (pictured below). The two started their homebrewing kit business out of their apartment in Brooklyn in 2009. The Brooklyn Brew Shop has become so successful that they now distribute internationally. And now the couple, together with their production manager Tim Evans, are venturing further into the brewing world with EST Brewing Company, which they will launch later this spring.
EST will focus on seasonal beers. Their first offering will be a Jalapeño Saison, which they will serve up at Smorgasbar, the beer section of the Brooklyn Flea’s Smorgasburg summer food market. “Our philosophy is the same that has defined our [homebrewing] recipes: the one gallon scale and seasonal, small batch beers in whatever weird flavors are inspiring us from farmers markets, restaurant menus or Indian spice shops,” says Shea. “We always want to drink the beer on the menu that we haven’t had and so as a brewery we want to create the beer on the menu that you’ve never had before.”
The beers will also pair well with foods, Valand says. “Perfect styles for the dinner table or the restaurant. Beers that go really well with foods, maybe not all foods but foods that really shine.”
EST stands for Established (also the first letters of the founders’ names). “We thought it would be funny to call something ‘established’ when it was going to be completely nomadic and changing all the time. Just like tongue in cheek,” notes Erica. To start, the team will be traveling brewers, “finding the best facility for the style we’re producing and the way we want it produced. That’s really freeing us up to do really interesting small batches.”
Just as with their homebrew kits, Shea, Valand and their team will formulate and test recipes in their office. “We always have a bunch of test batches bubbling away. The brewery recipes will be tested out on a one-gallon scale first and then brought up and adapted to brewery levels,” Shea explains.
Though they will be starting the brewery, Shea and Valand will always focus on The Brooklyn Brew Shop. “We’re still first and foremost teaching people how to make beer,” Shea affirms.
“What we were most excited about was helping people realize they can make beer; making beer approachable without it being dumbed down. That’s really been our focus this whole time. It was always fun at beer festivals when people asked where they could buy it and we would say you have to make it yourself,” Valand says. “But [starting a brewery is] certainly a natural progression because no matter how hard we try not everyone will make their own beer. I guess this is for those last remaining souls.”
And as if they didn’t have enough going on, Shea and Valand are also working on their second book (The Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book came out in 2011) which will be comprised of recipes from their beer travels and will be released in spring 2014.
“Before we started Brooklyn Brew Shop we went on a seven week backpacking trip through Europe to drink a lot of beer and to make sure we liked each other enough to start a company. We really wanted to recreate that trip,” says Shea. “There will be a lot of recipes, a lot of cooking with beer recipes, a lot of interviews with incredibly cool breweries that are unlike anything around the world”
Education has always been the main focus for Shea and Valand. “One of the things we got a lot out of at Brooklyn Brew Shop was just being able to talk to people about beer intelligently, in a way that’s just understandable but not belittling,” Valand notes. “there’s a lot of jargon in beer. in a lot of ways that can be a barrier for entry. We never wanted there to be any barriers.”
The pair has noticed that once their customers start making beer, they explore more styles and types. “I feel in love with beer by brewing beer,” recalls Shea. “We have people who love craft beer already and want to learn how to make it themselves, but we also have a whole lot of people who are being introduced to good beer for the first time by making it themselves and are falling in love with the craft beer movement.”