The recent brewery surge in NYC is extending to the Bronx, where Gun Hill Brewery looks like it will be the first to open a physical location in the northernmost borough since Rheingold left in the 1960s (the Bronx Brewery started contract brewing in 2011 and expects to open a brewery in the Bronx this year as well). Gun Hill is founded by Dave Lopez and Kieran Farrel. Chris Sheehan, formerly the head brewer at Manhattan’s Chelsea Brewing Company, is the brewmaster. BeerUnion got in touch with Lopez to see how things are going and what the new brewery’s focus will be.
How did you get into brewing?
The idea to get involved in the beer world actually came from a mutual friend of ours, Dan. All three of us met playing on a semi-pro baseball team here in NY (Kieran and I still play on this team together). Our mutual friend was very into home-brewing and actually brewed his own beer for his wedding. After the wedding, I encouraged him to consider making his beer on a much larger scale so that more people could enjoy it. About two years later, Dan decided he wanted to think about pursuing this, so the three of us tried to brainstorm the best way to make it happen. Unfortunately, Kieran and I had a slightly different vision than Dan did, so we weren’t able to come up with a plan that appealed to all three of us. Kieran and I decided, however, that we were too excited and invested about the idea of bringing a great brewery to the Bronx, so we set out to bring in a professional brewer who could make the dream become a reality. That’s how we ended up meeting Chris, and the rest is history.
What was the first beer that you brewed?
Neither Kieran nor I actually brew beer. We leave all that up to Chris. The first beer Chris ever brewed was a pale ale in 1986. His first beer brewed as a pro was Red Top Ale at Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley, CA.
Where are you in the process of getting the brewery started? When do you expect to open?
We are currently finishing the build out of our tap room. Chris has been hard at work cleaning all of the tanks, so we should begin brewing very soon. We anticipate having beer in the market by late February. Once our beer is out in the market, we will have a soft opening at the brewery (including hosting an event for beer week). We’re shooting to have our grand opening party on March 15th.
Does Gun Hill have a particular focus on certain styles or a philosophy you are looking to bring to your beers?
Our brewmaster Chris is renowned for his stouts (6 GABF medals for stouts), so we will definitely have some different varieties for people to choose from. In addition, Chris is very much a hop-head, so everyone can expect some great IPAs. We have one of the new farm brewery licenses, so we will be looking to include local ingredients whenever we can in all of our beers.
What beers are you starting with?
We will be starting out with two flagship beers: Gun Hill Gold, quaffable ale generously hopped with German-type varietals but light on bitterness; and Gun Hill IPA, featuring an abundance of American hop characteristics. In addition, we will be opening up with the Thunderdog Stout, a sweet style stout built with a variety of different malts, and Frosted Hop, a strong ale made with Chris’ latest harvest of wet hops grown upstate but kept frozen to preserve their freshness.
Why did you choose to open a brewery in the Bronx?
We chose to open a brewery in the Bronx because Kieran and I have strong ties to the area, and when we began this whole process, there was no brick and mortar brewery in the borough. Kieran was born in the Bronx and lived in the borough for a little over 10 years, including college at Manhattan College. I went to school in the Bronx from Kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition, our baseball team plays all of its home games in the Bronx.
What breweries have inspired you? Why?
We both have been inspired by breweries like Stone, Southern Tier, and Cigar City – breweries that started out producing on a smaller scale and then managed to build themselves up without sacrificing the quality of their beer. We feel like these breweries continue to keep the end consumer in mind.
What do you see Gun Hill Brewing bringing to the New York beer market?
Gun Hill is going to bring high-quality, hand-crafted beer made directly in the Bronx. Every beer we produce will be made with care and give strong consideration to the end drinker.