Good Beer Hunting

I'll Have Another — Other Half Eyes Fourth Taproom Location

Matt Monahan and Sam Richardson of    Other Half in 2015.    Photo by Cory Smith.

Matt Monahan and Sam Richardson of Other Half in 2015. Photo by Cory Smith.

THE GIST

Renowned hazy IPA-maker Other Half is expanding again. Eater New York first reported this week on the Brooklyn brewery’s plans to open a new, 3,600-square-foot brewery in the Williamsburg neighborhood, about six miles north of the Other Half HQ in Red Hook. It’ll be part of a mixed-use building, according to the site, which includes a pizza restaurant and other businesses.

Eater reported the brewery would “serve its classics as well as some new beers,” with “classics” perhaps referring to the continued rotation of hop-forward, hazy IPAs. Other Half is well known for its collection of new offerings, often variations of “DDH”—double dry-hopped—beers. With the recent hire of Eric Salazar, a former wood-aged beer specialist at New Belgium, the “new beers” could also intimate his involvement with the Williamsburg brewery.

The brewery opened a second location in East Bloomfield, NY, just outside of Rochester, in fall 2018, and has been doing weekly can releases, but won’t start brewing beer until this spring. A fourth Other Half spot has also been reported when Urban Turf announced that the company would have a location a stone’s throw from Atlas Brew Works in Washington, DC on Okie Street NE. That 13,340-square-foot space would have “cellar-level distribution” and “a ground-floor bar and production space.” Like the Williamsburg plan, Other Half would open in a mixed-use building that would include a coffee shop, restaurant, and possibly an axe-throwing lounge.

WHY IT MATTERS

“You look at what happened last Saturday,” says Will Cleveland, a reporter for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (and recent GBH podcast guest), about a recent event at the Rochester site. “They released all their fifth anniversary beers and by 8 a.m. there were more than 300 people in line.”

“It was pretty crazy,” Cleveland adds, “but there’s no question that Rochester is thirsty and ready for it.”

According to previous reports from Cleveland and others, a goal for Other Half would be to reach around 25,000 barrels of production in 2019, but the business’ ambitions obviously are far greater than that. By staking out additional points in its Brooklyn home, and corralling beer fans from across Upstate NY in Rochester, Other Half is becoming a poster child for the modern beer industry business plan. By harnessing the power of own-premise sales, the company maximizes its margins while cultivating a rabid fan base that includes everyone from beer geeks to Wall Street financiers.

Cleveland says that one of the biggest benefits of the Upstate spot is that people are talking about Rochester. Genesee Brewing Company has been around for 141 years, “but there’s no brewery with international cache that’s drawing attention to the Rochester area,” which instantly happened when Other Half announced its plans for the site last summer. Even more, the business is working to be a good steward to the region. Along with local collaboration brews with Rochester-area breweries, it’s also hosting an Upstate tap takeover event Feb. 17-20 in Brooklyn, including Mortalis (Avon), Naked Dove (Canandaigua), Prison City (Auburn), and Fifth Frame (Rochester).

Cleveland called the kind of goodwill Other Half has brought and given back a “tidal wave” of positive reactions that has rolled across the area’s beer scene.

While the brewery may not need to convince New York City residents to come out, the new outpost, as well as potential DC location, add to Other Half’s growing influence. Following the trend of additional taprooms, it also doubles down (or in this case, quadruples down) on the benefit of having physical spaces to brew and control the flow of its own beer. For a brewery that excels with the short life of hazy, New England-style IPAs, it’s an ideal situation.

Other Half has continually been listed among the best breweries in the world—recently landing at #27 in RateBeer’s annual collection—and the kind of direct customer connection the company continues to form only bodes well for continued expansion efforts.

Words by Bryan Roth