BY SAM RAPPAPORT
This Friday marks the start of Queens Beer Week, a series of events meant to highlight the borough’s resident breweries. The festival, organized by the NYC Brewers Guild in collaboration with local breweries, is in its fifth year and rapidly expanding.
“When we started this five years ago, it was pretty small with only one large company—SingleCut,” said Dan Bronson, an organizer of Queens Beer Week and general manager at SingleCut, which is headquartered in Astoria. “The industry needed a little shepherding—it needed an advocacy event.”
This year, there are a dozen Queens breweries participating in events throughout the week. The largest single event of the week will be the Queens Beer Week Kick-Off Party on Saturday at LIC Landing. The party, which starts at 2:30 p.m., will feature live music, pop-up food stalls and an unlimited sampling of beers from breweries, including Bridge & Tunnel, Mikkeller NYC and Big Alice. All of Saturday’s proceeds will be donated to the Hunter’s Point Parks Conservancy.
“We basically throw a giant party on a sunny May afternoon,” Bronson said of the event. “And as the brewing scene here in Queens has grown and matured, we’ve morphed this event into a charity event.”
Over the past few years, Bronson said, the Queens brewing industry has expanded dramatically.
“Today, we have 12 breweries in Queens, with another few hoping to open in the next few years,” Bronson said. “It’s at least a $30 million industry, and that’s just in sales.”
Five years ago, there were 10 people employed at breweries across Queens, Bronson said. He asserted that, today, that number is at well over 100.
Mikkeller NYC, which opened shop in Flushing on March 25, is one such brewery that is aiding the industry’s expansion in the area and quickly making waves around the city. The brewery, which is attached to Citi Field, has focused on six “ballpark beers” as a core offering.
Those beers, Mikkeller spokesman Sam Speer said, debuted to great success this season at the stadium.
Speer said that Mikkeller, a Denmark-based company that opened its first U.S.-based brewery in San Diego in 2016, saw great potential in Queens’ nascent brewing industry.
“There’s a huge market for beer here,” Speer said. “There are so many great hardworking Queens breweries, and we want to be a part of that.”
However, Speer said that Mikkeller’s location in Flushing sets it apart from many of the other breweries.
“We feel there’s nothing like this in this part of Queens,” Speer said. “We felt like there was a void in this part of Queens, it needed a brewery.”
Rich Castagna—the founder, head-brewer and self-proclaimed garbage man for Bridge and Tunnel Brewery in Ridgewood—said that Queens Beer Week is an event during which he’s able to take stock of the growing industry and mark his progress within it.
“We’re the second brewery that popped up in Queens after decades of the borough being without a brewery,” Castagna said. “We’re an independent, family-owned, self-built brewery. We built everything ourselves from the ground up, and that’s how we still operate.”
Bridge and Tunnel produces 16 lines of craft beer, all of which will be available for tasting at Saturday’s kick-off party.
“When we do tasting events, it gives me an opportunity to talk with the public,” Castagna said, “and I’m pretty good at that.”
In addition to Saturday’s party, a variety of events featuring products from local breweries will take place at Queens bars throughout the week. A full list of the week’s events is available at NYCbrewed.com.