By Max Madler
The Bronx is often synonymous with the New York Yankees, the world’s largest metropolitan zoo, and the literal act of burning. However, NYC’s 2nd largest borough is currently undergoing a renaissance and rising from the ashes of the 1970’s when the majority of the area was the poster child for urban decay.
One of the large catalysts leading this revival is none other than craft beer. And while The Bronx Brewery was the first craft brewer to lay claim to Bronx roots when the brand launched in 2011, Gun Hill Brewing Company. is the first brewery to open a physical space in the borough in 50 years 1.
In true Bronx fashion, the brewery sits on a desolate and barren urban block surrounded by auto repair shops, equipment rental stores and a new and used tire depot offering flat fix services. You can’t be in the Bronx without being at least one block away from a flat fix joint. It’s a prerequisite.
But after walking through the wide open and inviting rolling medal door that just screams industrial warehouse, because, after all, it is an industrial warehouse, the sights and sounds that are so unique to the Bronx quickly fade away.
They are replaced with the accoutrement of a typical craft brewery. Wood paneling that adorns the walls complete with a spray painted brewery logo, table and bench sets that are more about utility than comfort, stainless steel conicals propped up in the back waiting to be fed, and the soft sounds of a yet to be discovered folk band playing over the brewery’s understated sound system.
Sounds familiar, right?
Ah, but if the Bronx was only familiar. See, in the Bronx, what you see is not always what you get. And in the case of Gun Hill Brewing Company, it isn’t the tasting room decor that separates it from all the other craft breweries I’ve visited. It’s who’s in it.
And on the sunny Sunday afternoon I was there, I wasn’t surrounded by what you’d consider the usual suspects of a craft brewery tasting room (need I go further?) I was surrounded by – wait for it – people from the Bronx. Local people, good people, all nestled around the homey wooden bar tasting and learning about each of Gun Hill’s five current offerings.
Relaxed yet interested, you could immediately tell that these folks were excited that someone finally decided to open something like this in their community. That someone wanted to invest in a borough that until now has been forgotten in New York City’s on-going revitalization. And they wanted to learn all about the craft beer revolution that suddenly appeared on their doorstep this past February.
With each taster or pint that was poured, questions were asked and each of them answered. On this day, that job was handled by Kieran Farrell, one of Gun Hill’s owners who just happened to be working the tasting room when I arrived. While my conversation with him was brief, you could tell opening Gun Hill was not just an idea conceived with his friend Dave Lopez, it was their statement that the Bronx deserved to have something like this and has for a long time. And I believe it’s the spirit of deserving that makes up the ethos of Gun Hill’s current stable of beers. The people of the Bronx deserve better beer and Gun Hill Brewing is here to give it to them.
The 30 – barrel brewhouse is led by veteran brewer Chris Sheehan, formerly of J.J. Bitting in Woodbridge, NJ, and an 8 time Great American Beer Festival medalist. His pedigree is evident in the quality of each beer as each offering delivers on the taste, texture, aroma and flavors as described in their respective profiles.
While I had a chance to sample each of the breweries five beers that day, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that to a seasoned craft beer drinker, several of the offerings make come off as entry craft beers. But maybe that’s the point. Opening up a brewery in an area that hasn’t had one in half a century is a very tough endeavor. People get used to what’s available. At the end of the day, the folks that live by a brewery will be the ones who keep you going long after the travelers from other parts of the area or country have come and gone. So, easing them in to the craft beer world with more accessible and palatable styles might just be the smartest way to go.
But with that said, each one of the offerings are great examples of their particular style even to the most diehard of craft beer junkies.
Tale of the Gun Hill Brewing Company Tasting Room
Gun Hill Gold (Golden Ale, 4.1% ABV) – Brewed with Mt. Hood hops, Gold is Gun Hill’s flagship beer and is meant to be a “session” ale which is all the rage these days. Bready and a bit spicy at the finish, this would be a fantastic lawnmower beer in the dead of summer. A good entry beer for folks looking to get their first taste of what a solid, well balanced craft beer can and should be.
Gun Hill IPA (India Pale Ale, 6.75% ABV) – Brewed with 5 different hop styles, most notably, Simcoe and Citra, this is a very solid IPA that leans heavily on its citrus and grass notes. Surprised a bit that it has 5 hop additions, including the aforementioned Simcoe and Citra via their hop back, as the beer is not overly hoppy nor bitter. So, while hop heads may not overly rejoice in this beer, people who are just getting into the IPA style will have no problem handling this one and asking for more.
Revolution Red Rye (Red Ale, 6.1% ABV) – Full disclosure here. I am not a fan of red ales. And, sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one. Brewed with Amarillo hops and balanced out with pale and caramel malts, the color is right, the taste is right, but it simply left me underwhelmed.
Thunder Dog Stout (Milk Stout, 5.9% ABV) – Six of Chris Sheehan’s eight GABF medals have come from stouts and it clearly shows with Thunder Dog. Easily my favorite of the bunch as this milk stout delivers major chocolate with subtle hint of lactose in a really great way.
Frosted Hop Strong Ale (Strong Ale, 5.9% ABV) – Made using Sheehan’s home grown hops from the Catskills, this beer took me by surprise with its big finish of strawberry. Even though it’s mentioned in the profile, I’m usually wary of sweet berry beers, this works and works extremely well. Complex with a tad bit of bitterness upfront but any lingering tang is completely washed away with the final sweetness of strawberry.
Gun Hill Brewing CO.
3227 Laconia Ave. Bronx, N.Y. 10469
Tasting Room Hours: M-Th 1-8pm, Fri 1-9pm, Sat 12-9pm, Sun 12-7pm
The Craftavore is Max Madler, writer, marketing professional , and lover off all things craft, especially beer.
Born and raised in Irvington, NY, namesake of the famous American author Washington Irving, Max is also an avid homebrewer, cook, and aspiring electric guitar player.
Twitter – @Craftavore