New York summer madness seems to have gotten the best of me, so this is my first column in a couple of weeks. But hopefully I’ve got things under control now and will be sharing biweekly beer things with you again. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the local Finback Brewery (a 20 min bus ride from the Mytrle-Wycoff L/M stop) and am happy to spread the word on this great spot. The Brewery started distributing to beer hot spots, among them Bushwick’s The Sampler and Hops and Hocks, in January of this year. The on-site taproom opened about a month ago, letting adventurous aficionados sample a wide variety of the brewery’s offerings just feet from where it’s brewed.
76th Street, Glandale Queens.
Finback Brewery–a discreet warehouse from the outside, hiding the gem within.
Walk from the 76th Street bus stop down a road lined in quaint row houses with neatly trimmed flower beds and ceramic figurines of country girls and the Virgin Mary in the front yards, and you may think you’ve gotten off at grandma’s house and not the neighborhood of one of New York’s most exciting new breweries. But in the year and a half spent shopping around for brewery space, Finback co-founders Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford soon realized they would get way more bang for their buck by leasing space in the sleepy Glendale, Queens rather than Bushwick and other contending neighborhoods.
The result is a discreet warehouse space with high ceilings, concrete floors, and a surprisingly chic white/gray color scheme, including a white marble bar that dominates the central taproom. In the next room one can spy the hulking metal mash tun and fermenters wherein the magic is at work. “Aesthetically we’re going for something more clean and artsy than traditional breweries,” says Basil. “We’re going to get art up on the wall soon.” This speaks to the Finback Taproom ethos: collaborations with local artists in addition to local brewers to fill their walls, a large space to invite the local community in to experience the brewery through tastings and special events, and a backyard they are currently fixing up to hold even more events in during the summer. “This isn’t the kind of place where you’re going to have one beer,” says Kevin. “Ride your bike, come out, spend some hours here, order a pizza, and hang out at the bar.”
Beer tastings are $2 a piece and we recommend trying them all, but here are my top 3 picks for some truly unique tasting experiences:
#1 The Double Sess(ion) wietbier (4.5%)
This opaque gold brew is light and refreshing as a good wit should be, but spiced up–literally–with some interesting adjuncts including szechuan peppercorns, ginger, and chamomile. This adjuncts dominate the smell of the beer, but are surprisingly well-balanced within the slight spice from the wheat flavors found in the style.
#2 The Starchild sour ale (4.6%)
This translucent orange brew has a tangy grapefruit aroma. Finback calls it “tart and smart” and indeed, it has a wonderfully sour bite, balanced nicely by sweet flavors, both seemingly coming from the addition of grapefruit peel to the beer.
#3 The Coasted Toconut ‘summer’ milk stout (4.3%)
A dark, opaque brown beer with a light beige head, this has a lightly toasted coconut aroma that follows through to the first sip. On the tongue it’s full bodied and creamy like any good milk stout, complimented by the toasted coconut that finishes each sip off nicely.
“We like to focus on American styles, or American versions of a style,” said Basil. Case in point: Finback currently has three different saisons fermenting in the tap room that, while maintaining some key factors of the Belgian style, have distinct American characteristics as well that play with the traditional style and form. There’s Basil’s, which is brewed with lemon grass and rose petal adjuncts in a collaboration with Covenhoven; a smoked saison for which they teamed up with Kings County Brewing; and a black saison, Kevin’s experiment, a dark take on the typically light beer. Also in the works: a double IPA brewed with Moby hops, a black rye IPA, and a session white IPA. I know I’ll be back soon to try them all!
Finback Brewery and Taproom is located at 7801 77th Ave, Queens, NY 11385. Their hours are Fri 4pm-8pm, Sat 12pm-6pm, and Sun 1pm-5pm, with tours of the brewery at 3pm on Sat and Sun.
Bushwick Brews is a weekly column dedicated to the exploration of Bushwick’s finest beers and New York beer culture written and curated by brewista Erin Wicks.