LIC Beer Project — Belgian beer in New York City

After getting in touch with the guys at the LIC Beer Project, it was time to learn about how they got started… this is how it began.

What initially got my attention was the name and strong branding. Naturally, curiosity got the best of me, and of course… anything in the name of good beer.

Welcome to Long Island City (the “in-between” Manhattan and Queens)

Located only 2 stops into Long Island City on the F line from Manhattan (also nearby: 7, N and Q), in a big industrial building, is the LIC Beer Project. They opened to the public in June of 2015, and after just 3 months were on a steady track for experimenting with barrel aging and Belgian-inspired ales — something that isn’t as common in the area as you might think, at least not brewed with the approach they’re taking. While hop-dominance has been trending lately, as seen by the guys at Other Half — who are doing an amazing job with IPA’s by the way — it was nice to see a different direction, especially with wild fermentation and the coolship they’ve installed for really making things interesting.

The Staving Strategy

In my chat with Operations Manager, Damon Oscarson, he explained that the direction and approach they’ve decided to take is something similar to what you’d find at breweries like Allagash and Oxbow (both friends of the LIC BP guys). As I was told, the goal is to aim for a monastic brewing style which came as no surprise to me considering Brewmaster Dan Acosta, who got his brewing degree at the Siebel Institute, would focus on this strategy. In other words — utilizing his experiences from a place where the wild yeasties have been tamed. As such, his travels around Europe were an inspiration, where IPA’s aren’t exactly the most common styles to be found. Hitting the point home, Damon did mention that they don’t really want to brew the standard American IPA that can be seen in most breweries as of late. It’s simply not in their business strategy and they’re hoping that sticking with the Belgian-forward beers will get them some national attention.

That’s great news for me… and for beer nerds, because let’s face it we can’t only drink IPA’s. At least not all day. Okay… maybe we can, but it’s nice to have variety.

During my visit to the brewery, there were 3 beers on tap, all in the Saison category — though they do, and have brewed more. As they’re continuing to ramp up operations and brew more experimental stuff, the beer list will begin to expand and change often, which is also good. As a home brewer always trying for new things, I’m all on-board with that.

During my visit Damon was kind enough to get me a sample of what they were working on next, right from the tank. This was their latest 100% Brettanomyces beer, Modern Aberration. Just look at this beautiful beast.

More about the Beer

In addition to fresh from the tank beer, in kegs that day, there was Ardent Core, the main flagship, which is a crisp dry golden/pale ale that hits the charts at 6.5% ABV. Also on tap that day were Trigger Rye Saison and Glassjaw Bully. Glassjaw is a Belgian brown ale dryhopped with Zythos hops, making it a really unique hopped brown Saison, super tasty and unique. You’ve gotta try it!

Custom Machining

As we walked around the brewing facility, it was clear that they were working with something somewhat unique. In addition to the barrels and layout, the brewhouse was custom designed by Metalcraft for Dan’s specifications, including this brew kettle with triangular base. (Pictured below)

In terms of operational scale, they’re on target for about 3000bbl/year in size, and hoping to achieve 1,500bbl in production for the first year, but are able to expand if necessary — into the space next door, though that wasn’t in the plans at the moment. It’s always nice to have that extra space, versus stacking and cramming things in or worse — having to move.

In addition to the size, barrel space, and classy coolship, they’re building a yeast lab so that they can really nail down the specifics of the bugs that develop as well as keep track of yeast — and as such, this will allow them to truly push the envelope forward and create consistent and interesting things. They’re already headed in this direction with a few barrels happily working their magic, but it’s always good to have the science and lab behind that, to make it all possible.

A slice of Long Island City and the Next Steps

The future seems bright for the LIC Beer Project. They have a wonderful brewing facility with stylish tasting room, lots of space to grow, food and possible outdoor seating to be announced soon — with a bunch of barrel aged releases 7 months into their cycle — you should all head over on bottle release days when they’re announced because it’ll be worth the visit.

Actually, just go any day now. The taproom hours are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. What are you waiting for?! Also, if you’re a fitness buff, they even have some brewery yoga events on the pristine brewhouse floor.

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