Jamie Schmitz, owner of Bushwick’s new gastropub The Rookery, does not need to serve McNeill’s Firehouse Amber Ale on draught. In fact, brewed in small batches by a tiny Vermont brewery, the Firehouse is priced considerably higher than much of its competition. But Jamie’s respect for the beer and McNeill’s Brewery means he’s willing to take a smaller cut on pints served at The Rookery so that he can keep the craft beer on his menu at a reasonable price. Jamie has a personal attachment as well: he served the beer at his own wedding.
The Firehouse Amber pours a cloudy orange red, appropriate for October, with a nice white head. At first sip I was intrigued by the slightly sour citrus aroma of the brew – more intense than your average amber ale. The sourness carried over to the next sip, along with some nice toasted caramel flavors. The hops here are a little floral and pretty citrusy. At 5.6% alcohol, it has a light body to it and an easy finish.
For someone looking to drink something autumnal, but not interested in the dark and roasty taste of many go-to fall beers, McNeill’s Brewery‘s flagship ale is a strong bet. The beer has won 13 national and international beer awards since its conception 15 years ago by brewmaster Ray McNeill. The brewery has a casual pub on-site in Brattleboro, Vermont, the same town that in 2008 made put George Bush and Dick Cheney on its arrest list for violating the constitution. Their mission is “To make good beer. Drink good beer. Sleep well. Have friends over for good beer. Make new friends to meet greet old friends.” A worthy goal.
Upon entering The Rookery, it is hard not to be struck by the beauty of the space especially as it stands wedged between dilapidated warehouses on Troutman Street. Enter and you are transported by the high ceilings, dark horseshoe bar, and elegant floral wallpaper in deep shimmering tones. Upon leaving, you would be less surprised to emerge on a quiet alley in the posh Marylebone, London, than to find yourself on the industrial streets of Bushwick. Creating such an experience could only be a labor of love, and this extends to the choice selections of brews (like McNeill’s) that they feature on tap. They keep eight beers on tap with diverse styles and origins served in full imperial pint. In these lingering days of warmth enjoy your full pint out front on the bar’s patio protected from the street by a high, slat fence. It’s a lovely way to ease into the fall.
McNeill’s Firehouse Amber Ale 3/5 stars, 1 for smooth drinkability in a style well-suited to the season, 1 for intriguingly sour and fruity notes, and 1 for Jamie’s commitment to serve this scarce beer on draft at his fine establishment.
The Rookery is located at 425 Troutman Street in Bushwick. They are open daily from 2pm to 4am, serving food from 5pm to 12am. Draught beers range from $6 – $8. A pint of the Firehouse Ale will set you back $8.
Bushwick Brews is a weekly column dedicated to the exploration of Bushwick’s finest beers written and curated by brewista Erin Wicks.