There are a lot of “citizen beer bloggers” out there who happily work for free stuff. Admittedly, as an accredited member of the press, I don’t mind the perks of the job, but I do expect to be paid more than just my (not inconsiderable) weight in beer. Thus it is that only once in awhile is there some event that I deem truly worth my money. Yesterday, I got to participate in such an event as I—and roughly three dozen other beer lovers—were the first folks in a century to tour the historic Nassau Brewery lagering caves as (paying) guest of author and beer tour guide extraordinaire, Josh Bernstein.
Josh dubbed his tour, “Cold Comfort,” but in fact compared to the blustery temperatures outside the building’s seemingly innocuous facade, the lagering caves were practically balmy by comparison. Joined by owners of the building, husband and wife Benton Brown and Susan Boyle, Josh brought in a half-dozen professional brewers with lagers ranging from a 1/2 Pils (Brooklyn Brewery) to a hop bomb in the guise of a lager (Bunker Brewing’s Cypher Hoppy Lager… delicious, but unexpected amongst the competition).
Mostly though, it was about the caves. Susan read from an 1884 Brooklyn Eagle article that noted the caves would be “a good place to murder someone.” In fact, Benton and Susan plan to age cheese in one of the four caverns, while renting out the other three. They’re pitching to butchers who’d like to age meat, mushroom growers (yes, there were a couple jokes about the type of mushrooms one might grow in a Brooklyn cave), or a brewer with a small-batch lager system.
Josh conducted the tour both as a curiosity and to remind us, “Lagers are truly a beautiful beer style that revolutionized beer around the world.”
Dating back to the 1860s, the lagering caves once were used to produce 90,000 bbl each year for Nassau Brewing before succumbing to Prohibition in 1914. Josh had been wondering about the caves when Benton caught him (and Josh’s very pregnant wife) on the street a few months back and offered them an impromptu tour of the caves. When Benton and Susan purchased the building just after 9/11, they knew the caves where there and saw the potential, but it’s taken a dozen years to outfit the caves with electricity and a spiral staircase for (more or less—hey, an 8.5-month-pregnant woman could do it!) easy access.
It’s unknown if future tours will be available to the public, but keep an eye on Josh’s website and buy fast if you get the chance. This tour sold out in under three hours, and was worth every last cent I paid to attend. For all my photos from the tour, please check out (and like!) my Facebook page.