“Opening a brewery in New York City was one of the best ideas we’ve ever had,” says Samuel Richardson. He and his business partners Matt Monahan and Andrew Burman launched Other Half Brewing Company in Brooklyn in 2014. “When we opened, we were the first brewery to open in Brooklyn in nine years, and prior to that, there were only Brooklyn Brewery, Six Point, and Greenpoint Beer Works.”
New York City, says Richardson, is an under-served city when it comes to local beer. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, and came to New York by way of Oregon State University’s Fermentation Science program, The RAM Restaurant and Brewery in Seattle, and Pyramid Brewery in Portland. Compared to the Pacific Northwest, New York’s “beer drinkers didn’t have local breweries to call their own.”
Richardson moved from the Northwest to Brooklyn to work at Greenpoint Beer Works, where he would meet Matt Monahan. “Matt came in looking for a job as a brewer because he’d been working as a chef and was sick of those hours,” Richardson says. “Matt and Andrew, both trained chefs, met when they were working together in kitchens. Having people around who are interested in good food and flavor comes in handy.”
Richardson, Monahan, and Burman filled New York’s craft-beer void with Other Half Brewing on the edge of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. And then they filled their fermentors with IPA.
India pale ale comprises 85 percent of Other Half’s current production, Richardson says. His only year-round beer, Other Half IPA, is modeled on what he remembers of West Coast–style IPAs in the 1990s and early 2000s. “Those IPAs are more focused on bitterness [than IPAs from other parts of the country], and they tend to employ Old School hops such as Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook,” he says. Other Half IPA is additionally focused on aroma with nuanced notes of fresh citrus, pine, stone fruit, and malt sweetness.
Other Half also brews the Forever Ever Session IPA, Hop Showers IPA, Green Diamonds Double IPA, and the 10.5 percent ABV All Green Everything “Triple IPA, for lack of a better name,” Richardson says. These beers are canned regularly enough that they are almost year-round offerings. The other canned varieties, Richardson says, are always changing.
“By default we’ve focused for our first few years pretty heavily on IPA,” says Richardson, explaining the unexpected growth that Other Half experienced upon opening. In addition to their own IPAs, they’ve also brewed many as collaboration brews. With Cellarmaker Brewing Company (San Francisco, California), they brewed an imperial IPA; with Trillium Brewing (Boston, Massachusetts), they brewed Street Green—a dank, juicy IPA with Amarillo, Simcoe, Galaxy, and Equinox hops; and with Tired Hands Brewing Company (Ardmore, Pennsylvania), Oat Overdose IPA—brewed with oat malt, honey, Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy, Azacca, and Amarillo hops.
“We started doing collaborations because we love to hang out with new and old friends and have fun doing what we all love to do, make good beer,” says Richardson. “Collaborations are a good way to introduce new people to your brewery even if you don’t have any plan to ever sell beer in the market of your co-collaborator.”
“We will always make lots of IPA,” he adds. “But we plan to diversify.”
That diversification will be in the form of Other Half’s barrel-aging program. The brewery is already undergoing expansion to add more capacity not only for clean beers, but also for wood aging. When the expansion is complete later this year, the brewery will have fourteen foeders in which Richardson plans to develop a house yeast blend. “We love making barrel-aged beers, especially with mixed fermentations,” he says. “I don’t know yet what the house blend will look like, but I plan to start fine-tuning it soon.”
Developing his mixed-fermentation barrel program, Richardson says, is a lot like Brooklyn’s beer scene in general: experimental. “The scene here is so young, and I think everybody is still trying to find where they stand, what their business is,” he says, adding, “newer breweries are trying to make more exciting beers.”
Whether they’re making traditional styles or unexpected, experimental batches, the country’s craft brewers are working together to change the shape of America’s beer industry. That’s the sentiment that the founders of Other Half wanted to capture in their brewery name. “There’s this struggle between the two sides of the industry—macro versus craft,” Richardson says. “I have this aspirational idea of being the other half of the industry. I like the idea of craft brewers equal to the big guys. We’ve been able to make strides despite the fact that we have no money compared to them because there’s support among brewers on the craft side. There aren’t a lot of other industries with that camaraderie and knowledge share.”
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PHOTO: MATT COATS