According to the Brewers Association, a brewpub is a “restaurant-brewery that sells 25 [percent] or more of its beer on site.” During my first visit to Greenpoint’s Dirck the Norseman in mid-February, however, a vital component was absent from the just-opened brewpub: Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co., its five-barrel brewery.
This absence stops on Thursday, as Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. launches with six beers: Clifford Pl., Helles Gate, Mild, Ol’ Ironside, Tupelo IPA and Wallabout Wit. So I returned to Dirck — its building, which hugs Franklin Street on N. 15th Street, formerly housed Poly Craft Industries Corp. — last Friday, to sample with head brewer Chris Prout and brewer Erik Olsen.
Prout, who previously apprenticed at North Carolina’s Outer Banks Brewing Station, and Olsen, a homebrewer of three years, started beer-making for Dirck in January. Both are also employees of Brouwerij Lane, a nearby beer store on Greenpoint Avenue. Brouwerij’s owner, Ed Raven, has a beer-rich history in Brooklyn: He started as a salesman for Brooklyn Brewery during the 1980s, then founded beer importer RavenBrands and followed with Brouwerij.
Then he opened Dirck.
Before we sampled, Raven offered a tour of his 6,000-square-foot brewpub; its décor is a blend of The Addams Family’s residence, Saint Thomas Church in Manhattan and, still, its former incarnation, Poly Craft.
“Everything is either leftover from the old factory, which made plastic bags, or its reclaimed,” said Raven, admiringly eyeing grungy pipage, church pews and dissected kegs repurposed as light fixtures. His tour ended at a wood-burning stove. “This is my therapist,” he laughed. “It’s a must in my places.”
Dirck has sixteen drafts, and will pour a mixture of Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. — “probably about 10 taps or so,” said Prout — and brands imported by Raven, including Jever Pilsener and Gaffel Kölsch. While Dirck is a nod to Dirk Volckertsen, a 17th-century settler of Greenpoint, “most of [Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co.’s] beers are named with a Brooklyn historical edge to them,” Raven said. Ol’ Ironside, for example, refers to the USS Monitor, a Civil War steamship constructed in Greenpoint in 1862.
“We’re trying to make beers we like to drink, but also to expose people to different stuff,” Prout added. “Most people don’t really know what an English mild or a helles lager is.”
During our taste-fest, Prout provided a dissection of each beer pouring on Thursday:
Clifford Pl. — 6.0% ABV
“It’s an American pale ale named for a one block street in Greenpoint. It’s where my buddy, Andy, lived, and he let my wife and me stay there when we first moved to Brooklyn. This was the first five-barrel batch we brewed here, and a recipe that we hadn’t tried before on the homebrew scale. The beer is definitely dedicated to new beginnings. I wanted to brew a pale ale with balance, so you’ll find a nice malty backbone. We used Simcoe and Amarillo hops throughout, even for the dry-hopping. It has a nice, tropical taste and, while slightly bitter, the bitterness isn’t overwhelming.”
Helles Gate — 5.6% ABV
“It’s a smoked German-style helles lager — pale golden in color. This was the first 10-barrel batch, or double
brew, we made. I remember it being a 15-hour day. We used 40 percent beechwood-smoked malt and weren’t really sure what to expect from that, but I like the amount of smokiness — it’s there, but it doesn’t really linger. It has just a touch of hops, too.”
Mild — 2.9% ABV
“We used all English malt and an English yeast — it’s somewhere between an English mild ale and a brown ale. This beer just smells brown to me. It has these big caramel notes to it, and really makes the beer taste bigger than it is. We pulled a firkin from the fermentor for the party and dry-hopped it with Amarillo, which is interesting, because the hops have a huge orangey flavor. The beer, either way, is a keeper. Both versions will be available on Thursday.”
Ol’ Ironside — 4.8% ABV
“This is a brown porter, and I didn’t want a huge amount of chocolate flavor to it. I’m going more for the feeling of wet leaves decaying in the forest — something really earthy, maybe tobacco. There’s a little nuttiness and dark fruits to it, too. But I really like the earthy aroma to it. For all of my darker styles, I really want them to be approachable and easy to drink.”
Tupelo IPA — 7.6% ABV
“This an IPA brewed with Tupelo honey, which helps dry the beer out. I brewed this one originally in 2012, for a friend’s wedding, and I’ve been tweaking it since. He wanted something strong and hoppy. The honey was a nod to the story that mead was given to newlyweds to aid in happiness and fertility. Honey was also used to lighten the body. This IPA has a little less malt character than our pale ale, and it’s a little drier. It has a nice citrusy flavor to it—we used Pacific Jade, Citra and Centennial hops. I think the bitterness is a little too harsh right now which we’ll have to adjust. The hop utilization has been the hardest thing to get a sense of, as far as scaling up recipes from homebrewing to the new five-barrel system. We’ll probably scale the hops back a bit for the next batch.”
Wallabout Wit — 5.1% ABV
“It’s not really a true witbier — while it’s brewed with a Belgian witbier yeast, we also have 15 percent rye malt in the grist, which gives it a spicy, almost prickly mouthfeel. The finish is fairly dry, too. But mostly this beer is a platform for the yeast. It’s easy to drink — crisp and refreshing — and perfect for the approaching warm weather.”