Since the addition of a small-scale brewery in the basement of Greenpoint’s Keg & Lantern in August of 2014, the bar — a casual sports-on-television spot that has always offered good beer (including a certified cask-ale program) and attracted both the neighborhood locals and transplants — has become a destination brewpub with a wide selection of flavorful house beers.
It was Keg & Lantern’s owner, Kieran Breen, who conceived and built the brewery in the low-ceilinged space. But this evolution is largely due to the deft work of Patrick Allen, the brewmaster, whose recipes — from crisp, brilliantly clear pilsners (Three’s Company) to soft, juice-bomb IPAs (Gastronomical) to barrel-aged saisons infused with apricots (Into the Wild) — aim to satisfy every beer loving customer.
“We went from having four or five [of our beers] sharing the taps to between 10 and 15,” Allen says. “But as we’ve replaced outside beers with house beers I feel like we’ve been able to keep the same crowd coming, which is pretty cool.”
Whoever the drinker, the rotating basement-brewed beers are being consumed faster than ever; a batch, about 90 gallons, now disappears in about a week. As a result, a second brewer was recently hired (Benjamin Stutz, former owner of Brooklyn Homebrew) to keep Keg’s 10 three-barrel fermenters filled. The pair is currently brewing four times a week, though Allen believes that number could increase soon due to a new offering introduced last Friday that enables customers to take suds out of the brewpub for the first time: the Crowler, aka a one-use, poured-to-order 32-ounce can growler.
While packaging draft beer to-go is nothing new, Keg is New York City’s first brewery — and one of only a few businesses period — to start selling the increasingly popular Crowler, which was designed by Longmont, Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery (a trailblazer in the canning of craft beer) and the Ball Corporation.
The preparation and filling process, as explained by CraftBeer.com:
“A Crowler starts its life as an open can — one without a lid. It is then hand-labeled and the beer name is written on the label. In order to fill it, a tube is placed from the beer faucet to the bottom, and the vessel is filled with CO2. After purging, the empty Crowler is then filled with beer and quickly seamed. The end product is a 32-ounce can of beer.”
Crowlers are sealed by a tabletop machine made by the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry and sold through Oskar Blues. Keg’s is behind the bar, and Allen has already capped dozens of aluminum cans since last week (including one by me). He isn’t surprised by the initial success. “We’ve always had requests from our customers to sell [growlers]. It was always about finding the right way to do it without sacrificing the quality of the beer,” he says, referring to the Crowler’s benefits over using glass growlers, the industry standard. These advantages, which are nearly identical to the reasons craft breweries are canning their beer more than ever, include aluminum’s higher effectiveness at blocking light and oxygenation, as well as its better portability.
There is also the cleanliness major issue. Another excerpt from CraftBeer.com to explain:
“The reusability of a glass growler can … work against it: Folks who do not take their growlers in to be cleaned often enough risk a residue or funk forming in that growler, contributing undesirable flavors to the beer. A one-use Crowler is cleaned and sanitized each time, allowing for every beer it contains to shine.”
Here’s Allen on five of Keg & Lantern’s latest beers, each available to take to-go via the Crowler:
Mr. Red (7.0%)
This was both the first sour and the first barrel-aged beer I made at Keg & Lantern. Named in the spirit of Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Red is a sour red ale fermented in a stainless tank with a clean ale yeast and then aged in a red wine barrel with 20 different strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for 14 months. Complex with a mellow acidity and layers of black cherry, sour fruit, wine and oak.
Gaslight Black Lager (5.4%)
A brewpub is very much a place for beer education as our customers range from craft beer aficionados to drinkers just trying a given beer style for the first time. For the latter crowd, the schwarzbier is a great style as it helps break down the age-old misconception of dark beers only being heavy and high in alcohol. Our schwarzbier is Gaslight: dark in color, smooth and soft, notes of roast, chocolate and coffee. It’s light enough to please drinkers that say “I don’t like dark beer” while also still dark and complex enough for those that are looking for that. We’ll also be tapping a German chocolate cake version of this soon, infused with cacao beans, coconut and pecans.
Black Oyster Stout (5.8%)
An oatmeal stout brewed with two dozen Noank oysters sourced from Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., which is only a block away from the brewpub. Before I made this beer I sampled all of the oysters there before picking the Noank, which has a nice balance of briny, sweet and fruity. I add the oysters whole to the boil so they can open up and add more flavor. Customers are surprised that the beer is not fishy and really enjoy the added mouthfeel and touch of brininess the oysters give.
Gastronomical IPA (7.0%)
A soft and juicy Northeast-style IPA which serves as a counterpoint to the crisp and bitter West Coast style. While not new, this type of IPA has grown in popularity over the last few years with several breweries, most notably in Vermont, putting it on the style map. For ours, I use an English yeast, which has more complexity then its American counterparts and some fruity esters that really boost the perception of the Galaxy, Citra and Equinox hops featured. Adjuncts like wheat and oats add to the softness and haze of the beer as does late hopping in the kettle.
Dark City (9.2%)
A rich imperial stout that hides its alcohol well and lets the dark chocolate, espresso and dark fruit flavors stand out. I split this beer into several kegs and casks and will be tapping them throughout the winter. We have a coconut-infused cask version on right now, and for draft expect a whiskey barrel-aged Dark City and one with chocolate and habanero peppers soon.
Photos courtesy of Keg & Lantern.