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Gun Hill and the history of brewing in the Bronx

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The BTBT crew recently had a chance to hang with Dave Lopez co-owner of Gun Hill Brewing Company located at 3227 Laconia Ave,  in the Bronx, whose once rich brewing history is seeing somewhat of a resurgence over the past few years.

New York’s northern most borough’s brewing history can be traced back to a Sweedish merchant in the 17th century, however, brewing didn’t fully take hold until the late 19th century when a wave of German immigrants brought their rich brewing traditions with them.

At the boroughs heyday facilities like the Ebling Brewery Company in Melrose, the Hupfel Brewery near East 161st Street and St. Ann’s Avenue and the Eichler Brewery on East 169th and Third Avenue, along with their neighbors Zeltner Brewery across the street, thrived in a rich beer drenched culture.

The illogical prohibition act didn’t kill the scene per se but it dramatically altered the fate of craft beer in the borough and the state alike. During prohibition the facilities that didn’t close down were forced to make ‘near beer’ which was legal at below 3.2%. There was of course the boot leggers; Jewish gangster Arthur Flegenheimer, also known as Dutch Schultz for one, had a brewing operation out in the midwest, which brewed beer and shipped the fruit of its labor to the Bronx in a fleet of WWI trucks.

Around 2009 the NY craft beer revolution began to take hold and shortly there after breweries started to spring up all over town (and thankfully still do!). When Gun Hill opened it became the first micro brewery in the Bronx since 1962 when the Rheingold facility, then operating out of the historic John Eichler Brewery, closed down. Gun Hill is one of three craft breweries currently in the Bronx; they are a farm licensed brewery that focuses on utilizing the best, fresh, local ingredients to create hand crafted brews.

The concept for Gun Hill originated on a baseball field in early 2004. Dave met long time friend and co-founder Kieran Farrell while playing for the ThunderDogs, a semi-pro baseball team based out of Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx. At the time Kieran was managing the team and Dave earned a spot as a walk on during a try out. After a decade of taking the field together, Kieran and Dave decided to team up and enter the wonderful world of craft beer.

Fast forward a few years (and insert all the typical trials and tribulations associated with owning and operating a small business) and Gun Hill Brewing Company was up and running. Being in operation was a victory all unto itself but they didn’t hit their full stride, not yet anyway. Despite having a Great American Beer Fest winner for the Void of Light Stout, a tantalizing brew suitable for all seasons, things just weren’t quite right.

Dave and Kieran decided to split ways with original brewmaster Chris Sheehan, and subsequently brought in Chris Prout, formerly Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. in April of 2016. Prout’s focus has been on thoughtful creativity and experimentation. The relationship seems to be quite fruitful thus far, with much more planned on the horizon.

Admittedly Gun Hill is a bit out of the way if you’re traveling by public transportation but they are worth the visit. Get out there and make a trip to the boogey down bronx, you won’t be disappointed.

What’s in a Name

On January 25, 1777 a Revolutionary War battle took place not too far from where the brewery is currently located. Gun Hill Road used to be known as Kingsbridge Road by early settlers because it led to the King’s Bridge and the Kingsbridge settlement. This was an important east-west thoroughfare for both sides and particularly for the colonists because it was one of the only crossings to Manhattan at the time.

During this famous battle, the British were pushing the colonists east towards the river. While in retreat, a group of brave and quick thinking soldiers, led by Captain Bryant of the artillery, dragged a big cannon atop a nearby hill and fired on the charging Brits. That strategic position, which in 1875 officially became known as “Gun Hill,” forced the Brits to retreat west allowing the colonists to escape.

The actual Gun Hill is located in what is now Woodlawn Cemetery.

The brewery designed their branding, logo, and more then a hand full of beer names to pay homage to that era of history.

Gunhill’s Rise up Rye on Broadway

“Rise up!” is Alexander Hamilton’s rallying cry in the colossal smash broadway hit Hamilton. Rye, being a major crop in the colonial era , was a premier ingredient showcased in Gun Hills Rise up Rye. The beer was the first to be released as part of the Broadway Brews Project. Mark Aldrich and John Ludwig of The Happy Hour Guys came up with the concept of pairing Broadway shows and craft brewers to create theater-themed craft beers for charity.

You can also find Gun Hill beers at Madison Square Garden.

This was Dave’s second appearance on the show, you can catch his first one here.

To hear more about Gun Hill Brewery check out the latest episode here.

Have you been to Gunhill Brewery and/or have you had any of their brews? Let us know what you thought. Leave us a comment below!


Sources

Reliving the heady days of brewing in the Bronx - http://www.riverdalepress.com/stories/Reliving-the-heady-days-of-brewing-in-the-Bronx,43988

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