The Beer Odyssey continues: Enter Rockaway Brewing Co
The Queens, NY craft beer renaissance began in 2012 with the opening of the Rockaway Brewing Company in Long Island City. And oh what a glorious moment it was. It was akin to the big bang of the modern day Queens beer scene and paved the way for nearly a dozen (and counting) other Queens breweries. Deeply rooted in the fine arts of home brewing, this craft beer explosion evolved faster than expected to the delight of many and Rockaway is one of the breweries at the forefront. Surf loving co-owners of Rockaway Brew Co. Ethan Long and Marcus Burnett opened their doors with a scaled down brewery system and a head full of ‘craft rules everything around me’ dreams. Just about 4 years later they quadrupled production and even recently completed building out a second location in Far Rockaway. It was in that very same neighborhood a decade earlier where the two cultivated their home brewing skills in the backyards of their bungalows.
Prior to that the borough was dry for almost 60 years; Yes, s-i-x-t-y! You’d have to go back to 1923 when E. and J. Burke, Ltd., which handled the distribution of Guinness stout in the United States, opened up its Long Island City locations. E. and J. was eventually acquired by Guinness and remained in operation until 1954. Then darkness beseeched this great borough; it was a venerable craft beer waste land until that fateful day in 2012 that ignited the spark that has tantalized our taste buds ever since. Fun fact - Rockaway’s Nitro Black Gold Stout 5.6% ABV, a dry Irish Stout, with chocolate and espresso notes on the nose and tongue, served from a nitrogen tap for a creamy finish, is an ode to the history of Guinness in Queens.
I have to digress for a moment and give a shout out to the Uber driver who drove me and Mark, our resident videographer/photographer, to LIC. Not only did he have an I-phone charger for Mark but also a much needed Android charger for my dying cell. If that weren’t enough he also had an aux cable and we were pumping Tribe Called Quest, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Nas. Needless to say when we stepped out of that cab and onto the corner into the cool breeze we were ready for action. It was about 6:45 when we met up with Pete and Darwin, the sun had already set and the evening was slowly taking form. After a few beers this fall chill would be an afterthought and we’d be in a New York State of mind. With our Podcast equipment in tow we strolled into the joint and were greeted warmly by the staff behind the bar. The crowd was mingling and mixing and you could sense a subtle electric vibe in the air. The kind of vibe derived from the communal sense of bonding over local craft brews. It’s always an experience walking into a brewery and this night was no different. I could almost hear my inner alcoholic whispering, ‘Let the good times roll’.
Flint a ginger Rockaway OG essentially there since its LIC inception, and newcomer Xavi were waiting to chat it up with the BTBT crew. Flint keeps the day to day ship sailing smoothly and is a genuinely cool and informative dude. Xavi, who we met for the first time actually popped his brewing cherry earlier that day. Xavi’s first official brew, El Cuco is a delicious nitro stout with definitive notes of dark chocolate and a hint of sweetness. Well done Xavi! In case you’re wondering, the name derived from the legend of the chupacabra; and yes it’s true a goat sucker makes everything more interesting. Equal parts joke and legitimate phenomenon, it also happened to be quite fitting given that this was Halloween weekend and that the chupacabra is believed to have originated in Puerto Rico, Xavi’s place of birth.
Our conversation consisted of pure beer geek delight. It was a bunch of beer goons getting giddy over the art of the craft. If you had to add a hashtag it would be #beerporn. We gleefully sipped and sampled our way through almost everything Rockaway had to offer. We were provided a diverse sampling of exceptionally well-constructed beers which explored a wide and complex flavor range. To a drop not a single libation disappointed, simply put these were damn good beers. What makes them stand out is not just the fact that each batch is handcrafted often utilizing local ingredients; it’s that they don’t just cater to a specific style. On the contrary they offer a multitude of flavor offerings sure to satisfy the broadest of tastes. Taste is of course subjective and just about anything you put in your mouth can impact how you perceive flavor. Even the way you feel when you wake up first thing in the morning can affect your drinking mood. The brewers at Rockaway try to remain cognizant of this fact as is indicative by their craft consumption options. You can always find something for every beer drinker on the menu; from saisons to stouts to pale ales to cask ales, Rockaway has got you covered.
Here are some of the other beers that we tried that night:
Original ESB 6.4% ABV – Their flag ship brew is an English-style ale with Rockaway’s American twist. It pours an amber hue in the glass and leaves a nice balance of malt, hops and sweetness on the tongue.
Don't Hassle Me I'm Local 6.5% ABV – This zesty saison / farmhouse ale is made with local corn. Aside from being my favorite beer name of the night, it’s also a quite drinkable beer. This was surprising for me since saisons are not typically in my wheel house.
Fall Pale 6.6% ABV – this brew is Mellow, with local whole leaf hops, quite drinkable and enjoyable. Mark gulped his down before we even finished setting up our equipment.
Blame it on the Maine 8.5% ABV – Quite possibly the best beer of the night, this juicy and floral double IPA was brewed in collaboration with Joshua M. Bernstein, to celebrate the recent release of his new book, Complete IPA! We went back for seconds and thirds! This one is up there with their infamous Hawaiian Pizza IPA. What can I say other then so, so GOOD.
Premier Beer 4.0% ABV A lovely and aromatic lightly hopped English Mild which Rockaway Brew Co. says is brewed to be enjoyed with Premier League Football. The low ABV is perfect for day drinking! Or in the case of the EPL games on the east coast, early morning drinking (some games kick off around 7:30 am). Come on Chelsea, Come on Chelsea! (For you non-soccer fans out there, I’m not being inappropriate I’m supporting Chelsea Football Club, one of the English Premier League’s finest!)
Brownie- 5.4% ABV - An English-style brown ale brewed with English breakfast tea that’s surprisingly noticeable and tasty. This one is brewed in collaboration with Sixpoint Brewery for "Beer for Beasts". A portion of sales on this beer are donated to BARC in Williamsburg. This yearly event sees Sixpoint team up with various collaborators to help create dozens of unique brews, served at Beer For Beasts. These limited small batch, one-time offerings are formulated exclusively for the Beer For Beasts event and 100% of the event proceeds go to the Humane Society of New York. As if we needed another reason to drink, well how about drinking for animals! Count us in!
Wild American 8.3% ABV – This one is a delightfully tasty bourbon barrel-aged American Wild Ale that has a remarkably smooth finish for its alcohol content.
We delve deeper behind each beer in our upcoming podcast so be sure to check that out. Rockaway was a great time and we’ll definitely be back soon!
Let us know in the comments if you’ve been to Rockaway Brew Co. and which of their beers you like the most. And send us some feedback on the new LOGO –we’d love to hear your opinions!
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46-01 5th Street, Long Island City, NY, 11101
Tasting Room Hours
Monday: 5 PM - 9 PM
Tuesday: 5 PM - 9 PM
Wednesday: 5 PM - 9 PM
Thursday: 3 PM - 9 PM
Friday: 3 PM - 10 PM
Saturday: 12 PM - 10 PM
Sunday: 12 PM - 9 PM
Rockaway Beach Location:
415 Beach 72nd Street, Avenue, NY 11692
Photo Credits: Mark Villacis
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