Glendale Beermaker Builds On Area’s Sudsy History
Nestled at the far end of a cozy, tree-lined street lies the Finback Brewery, an artisanal microbrewery in the heart of Glendale.
Co-founders Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford first opened Finback Brewery in January 2014. After searching throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan, their realtor took them to Glendale where, according to Lee, they “fell in love with the space,” and the neighborhood as well. They began by producing three types of beer, but quickly expanded to a larger roster of over 10 different microbrews, each with its own appetizing flavor profile.
The large space of the brewery allowed Stafford and Lee the chance to implement a unique barrel-aging program in which beers such as their flavorful “BQE” (Brooklyn Queens Espresso) imperial stout, are blended with unique ingredients like roasted coffee and cocoa, and then aged in bourbon barrels. This process imparts a rich, complex flavor along with added hints of smoke. The spaciousness of the facility also lends itself perfectly to future expansion and experimentation.
In addition to their barrel-aged brews, Finback also has space dedicated to the brewing of sour or “funky” beers, such as their popular Saisons, as well as added room to create unique seasonal blends, including their upcoming pumpkin IPA (India Pale Ale) set to debut this fall 2014.
When asked about the creative process behind their brews, Lee explained that both he and Stafford are often “inspired by food or combinations of different ingredients.”
“We start by brainstorming about an ingredient or flavor,” Lee added, “and then craft the recipe around it. Then, we’ll branch out, adding a touch of spice or smoke.”
This personal attention to detail and dedication to crafting new and exciting flavors is part of what sets the Finback label apart from the larger, massproduced brands on the market, it was noted.
Another unique aspect of Finback Brewery is its openness and accessibility to the surrounding community. Free tours of the brewery are offered at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. These tours offer local residents and beer connoisseurs alike the chance to actually see where and how their beer is produced. It also offers visitors the opportunity to meet and connect directly with the people brewing their beer.
This one-to-one experience is yet another way in which Finback Brewery, and other small-batch businesses like it, are revolutionizing and revitalizing local economies with a focus on small, community-based industries and trades.
Good company & good brew
In May 2014, Finback opened its bright and spacious tasting room to the public. Large, wooden slab picnic tables and benches are available throughout the tasting room for people to gather, chat and play vintage board games.
Stafford and Lee opened the tasting room at Finback as a place where people could “visit, hang out, enjoy beer and be with good company.” This motto was on full display on Friday, Aug. 15, when the brewery hosted the inaugural meeting of the Ridgewood Beer Society, a new beer appreciation group created by Ridgewood resident and local beer enthusiast Stephen Calebro.
Originally from New Hampshire, Calebro has lived in New York for the past decade and is very proud to call Ridgewood home. As a buyer for a beer hall in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, Calebro is able to turn his interest in beer and uniquely crafted microbrews into his profession. He created the Ridgewood Beer Society as a way to “do something social” with his biggest passion.
Calebro favors small-batch breweries such as Glendale’s Finback because they are “locally sustainable” and represent the spirit of “community-based innovation.” This focus on locally produced, artisanal goods harkens back to the economic downturn of the previous decade.
“The number of small craft breweries in the U.S. has greatly risen the past couple of years,” Calebro explained, “in part as a response to the shuttering of the economy back in 2008.”
Guests sampled the many different offerings Finback has on tap. All tasting glasses are $2 each, with larger 32 oz. and 64 oz. glasses available as well. The brewery also offers growler fills to go, so that patrons can enjoy their favorite brew at home.
During my visit, I sampled the popular “Bitter Chris,” sharp, “hoppy” pale ale, as well as the “Coasted Toconut,” a rich, dark milk stout featuring a delicious blend of roasted coffee and toasted coconut flavors.
A taste of the past
Both Finback Brewery and the Ridgewood Beer Society are appreciative of the neighborhood’s artisanal roots and history as a brewery-based town. This is evident by the recent renewed interest in neighborhood icons like the Gottscheer Hall and the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House by the new wave of artists and artisans who now call Ridgewood home.
Originally settled by the Dutch in the 18th century, Ridgewood began as an agricultural town. By the advent of the 20th century, locally owned and operated breweries and knitting mills fueled Ridgewood’s economy. German and Bavarian immigrants flocked to Ridgewood seeking employment while creating a rich cultural legacy for generations to come.
A growing interest in local craft brewing, and artisanal creations in general, is what drew the Ridgewood Beer Society to Finback Brewery for their first meet-up. Calebro’s goal for the newly formed social group is simply to “sample good beer, have fun and enjoy.” He hopes to host future bottle sharing events where members bring bottles of craft brews to the meet-ups to sample.
Calebro also looks forward to organizing “beer dinners” in which different microbrews are paired with complimentary courses throughout the meal based on unique flavor profiles.
Calebro was joined at the brewery by several other local beer and brewing hobbyists. Many attendees, such as Ridgewood residents Emily Heinz and Cody Cardarelli, are new to the neighborhood and looking to connect with others through mutual interests like the microbrew movement.
Cardarelli is one of the crafters at Kombucha Brooklyn, a local purveyor of open-air, non-alcoholic fermented teas used for drinking, cooking and even in some beauty treatments. Cardarelli oversees the production and sale of home brew Kombucha kits, which allows the public to replicate the artisanal fermentation process in their own kitchens.
The unique yet growing popularity of this blend caught the interest of Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern, who interviewed Cardarelli at his home in Ridgewood and filmed him for an upcoming episode of Bizarre Foods America.
It is thanks in part to this renewed focus on handcrafted, locally produced goods that the community at large is experiencing a revitalization of sorts. Champions of well-made local food and drink such as Finback Brewery and the Ridgewood Beer Society are both offering the community a taste of something unique and extraordinary, while casting a respectful and reverent nod back to Ridgewood’s own rich history of craftsmen and artisans.
Finback Brewery is located at 78-07 77th Ave. in Glendale. For information, visit www.finbackbrewery.com. The Ridgewood Beer Society can be found online at www.facebook.com/RidgewoodBeer and is open to anyone who wishes to join.