Taking the Urban Oyster NYC Brewery Tour

This story has been updated to reflect the closing of Paulaner Brauhaus

As the craft beer movement grows and expands, many enthusiasts have called for a return to a beer culture focused on local breweries – a landscape that looks similar to the period prior to Prohibition.

New York City  has a unique and strong beer history. Neighborhood tour company Urban Oyster, since its launch with the Brewed in Brooklyn walking tour, has always sought to view current beer trends through a historical lens. How did breweries fit into communities? How did immigrants impact brewing and drinking? Now Urban Oyster’s NYC Brewery Tour, the first to be a dedicated tour of breweries, and also the first by bus, is continuing this mission. David Naczycz, founder of Urban Oyster, says he has gotten a lot of requests over the years for a brewery tour, but not until now have there been enough breweries in the city to do such a tour.

In the early 20th century New York City brewers were tied to the city so tightly that they were left in the dust once big Midwestern brewers used their superior distribution network to flood the New York market. While local brewers large and small were slowly stifled at that time, the 21st century has brought brewers of all sizes back to the city’s landscape. The NYC Brewery Tour covers breweries that fit different niches within New York’s new beer world: brewpub, production brewery, and nano brewery.

While the original incarnation of the tour began at Paulaner Brauhaus, the brewery – which was the first U.S. location of the German brewery chain – closed in early April for renovations. Now all tours will begin at Brooklyn Brewery, which has led the charge for craft beer in New York City. Tourgoers will enjoy pizza from Williamsburg favorite Fornino, and learn about the intricacies of the brewing process.

After tasting a Brooklyn brew and enjoying some pizza, the tour group piles into a bus and travel to the outer boroughs. While all the tours will begin at Brooklyn and end back in Manhattan at 508 GastroBrewery, the two middle stops will vary each time. The inaugural tour continued to Brooklyn’s newest brewery, Other Half Brewing in the Gowanus neighborhood, which is not yet open to the public. “It’s the first brewery to open in Brooklyn in nine years,” explained tour guide Brian Hoffman, below.

Owners and brewers Sam Richardson and Matt Monahan pour samples of their beer and take tour goers around their substantial brewhouse, while explaining what makes their operation different from the other New York breweries, and the inspiration behind their brews. “We really want the beers to be complex and interesting mouth adventures,” says Richardson, pictured below.

Once back in the bus, the tour traveled north to Rockaway Brewing Company, a nano brewery founded by Marcus Burnett and Ethan Long in 2013 in Long Island City, Queens. The smallest operation seen on this tour, the brewing room at Rockaway was just big enough for the group to stand in. “This time for craft beer in ny is really amazing,” says Burnett, seen below.

The bus then makes the trip back into Manhattan for the final stop at 508 GastroBrewery, where tour goers are taken down below the restaurant to see brewer Chris Cuzme’s (below, right) subterranean brewhouse, spread out over a few rooms in the basement of the brewpub. The four different breweries together provide a full picture of the current state of New York City beer: the German roots, the production brewery, the nano brewery, and the brewpub.

It’s a chance to talk to brewers, taste some of the best beer being made in New York City, and get a sense of how it all fits into beer history.

“Breweries are like oysters,” says Naczycz. “They’re treasures that need to be cultivated and grown.”

Indeed.

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This post was sponsored by Urban Oyster 

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