Food & Drink Editor
As promised last week, I visited Ridgewood’s newest addition, Queens Brewery.
Queens Brewery at 1539 Covert St. is Ridgewood’s only beer hall, since the heavy metal-themed Bierleichen closed suddenly early last year. Please don’t start shouting at me about Gottscheer Hall — it’s a great spot and a pillar of the neighborhood, but it’s more a bar with a banquet hall than anything that could be rightly called a “beer hall.”
So what did I think about Queens Brewery? I think that…it has promise.
Let’s talk about the beer first because, really, that’s probably what we’re all here for.
Queens Brewery currently makes three brews: Queens Lager, Queens Blau, and Queens Blvd — a lager, an ale, and an IPA, respectively. I sampled each of them, and they’re all really good.
I’m not much of a lager fan, particularly the more common paler varieties. To my palate they all taste a lot alike with that weak, kind of sickly flavor. Queens Lager does not taste like every other lager, however: It’s bright and refreshing, very drinkable, and has lovely, sweet fruit notes. I was really surprised by this one.
More to my taste is Queens Blau, an ale that’s fermented with fresh highbush blueberries (who knew there were different varieties of blueberries?). It’s fair for you to be wary of fruit-fermented beers, as they often end up cloyingly sweet with a decidedly artificial flavor. Queens Blau also does not taste like every other fruit-fermented beer. You get the natural blueberry flavor up front, where it says hello before retreating respectfully to the background so you can enjoy your strong, full-bodied ale.
Right up my alley is Queens Blvd, an IPA, brewed with Mosaic, Mandarina Bavaria, and Topaz hops. I tasted each of the hops, but at varying strengths. The most notable was the foresty-pine flavor from the mosaic, which I got at the start. There was an earthy quality to it, likely from the Topaz. Then I got a very faint kick of the Mandarina’s signature citrus fruit before that characteristic hoppy bitterness came in for the finish. A strong and well-rounded IPA, if not necessarily a standout.
As a brewery, I think Queens Brewery has got it. Brewmaster Paul McErlean has an extensive resume and it’s clear that he’s putting a lot of thought into his brews. In this regard I’m not worried about them at all, and I think its only a matter of time before we’ll be seeing them everywhere.
With such a strong starting lineup of beers, why would I describe Queens Brewery as merely “having promise”? Well, it’s the space itself.
It was originally reported that Queens Brewery would begin brewing operations at their Ridgewood location back in 2015, with an open-to-the-public beer hall to follow shortly. The brewery moved, but the beer hall never opened. Instead, the Queens Coffee window opened in mid-2017, and we are only getting the hall now.
But should we be “getting the hall now?” Despite the time it’s taken, your sense of the Queens Brewery beer hall upon walking in is that its not finished. And a quick look around will reveal that it is, in fact, not finished.
Of the space — and it’s a huge space — not taken up by production equipment, only about a third of it is accessible to beer imbibers. The rest is a construction zone dominated by half-built tables, power tools, and other construction detritus. Why owner Nelson Rockefeller went ahead with the opening before the space was completely finished is beyond me, but its honestly kind of…weird.
That said, from what has been completed, it’s easy to see that the fully finished Queens Brewery beer hall is going to be quite a special place. It’s a truly cavernous space, and I’d imagine on a warm summer night it’ll be a breezy, cool oasis. Its aesthetic is the tried-and-true reclaimed rustic-industrial vibe dominated by massive wood trusses salvaged from a Greenpoint warehouse and strung lights hanging from the rafters. While not an entirely unique look, it fits the space and is one I find quite pleasing.
There’s a stage for live acts and karaoke, the bar is huge and prepared with more taps than you can shake a stick at. They offer food, which is a rarity for breweries. They have board games, giant Jenga, and time-killing classic yard games like cornhole.
Plus, on top of those things, there are plans in the works: finishing construction of the monolithic wood tables, building a proper setup for food, and opening up the rest of the space, to name a few.
If you visit Queens Brewery before these plans are completed, you’ll only be visiting part of a beer hall.
But boy are the brews good.
Cover photo by Andrew Tobia