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Brooklyn Homebrew

163 8th Street [just off 3rd Avenue]

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Yes, Benjamin Stutz, who with his wife Danielle is the owner of Brooklyn Homebrew, does enjoy quaffing a few from time to time, this writer surmises. And, yes, he has an abiding interest in beer-making.

But, those are not the primary reasons he started Brooklyn Homebrew. It’s been a much more complicated journey.

Mr. Stutz and his wife, while working in Chicago as chefs, became interested in beer while cooking in restaurants. Benjamin began making microbrews as a hobby, and would buy supplies for brewing the beer.

When they subsequently moved to New York, Mr. Stutz discovered there were no retail outlets to buy the necessary brewing equipment and raw materials. [To this day, besides Brooklyn Homebrew, in New York City, there’s only a small operation in Queens, but that’s it.] It was six months, in fact, before Ben started making beer for himself again.

After a couple of years, Ben and Danielle realized that they could buy and store materials from wholesalers, so he began selling beer-making equipment, including bottles and kettles, and raw materials [yeast, hops, spices] out of his apartment.

Business grew rapidly, Ben says, but “we took it slow.”

Six months later, the Stutzes were confronted with a wonderful problem: demand was getting very strong, and the business quickly outgrew available space at their home.

So, voila, Brooklyn Homebrew opened in its present 2,000-sq-ft location in January 2009. And, it’s been going great guns ever since, or as Ben puts it, ‘Homebrew “is growing pretty quickly.”

Ben says there are limits to buying beer-making materials online: at his store, for example, a customer will get prompt answers to problems that crop up in the brewing. Yeast, perhaps the most important but fickle ingredient, is shipped to Ben on ice for next-day delivery, ready to be sold to customers. Yeast is very sensitive to temperature, which could be problematic if bought online and then shipped late. If Mr. Stutz ships to customers, it’s done within that week, not months after.

There’s much to choose from on the Brooklyn Homebrew premises: this writer noticed stacks of boxed ‘recipe kits’ – everything a neophyte would need, including instructions, hops, sugar, malt extract [a short-cut step], the ensuing process capable of producing five gallons, or 2 cases, of beer. Hardware and bottles are extra. Individual flavors include Cascadian Dark Ale; Belgian Blond; San Francisco Pale Ale; and California Commonwealth [tastes like Anchor Steam].  Birch beer, mead and sake ingredients are at ‘Homebrew’ as well.

Brooklyn Homebrew also offers a one-session class of two or three hours for beginners. The class makes five gallons of a particular beer, and at session-end, each participant takes home a  bottle or two of brew from a previous class [beer has to age a bit, after all]. That’s offered twice a month, and costs a very reasonable $35.00.

For more advanced students, there’s an “all-grain” class, which involves a more difficult process and more steps. There’s also a class for even more sophisticated beer fanciers, a yeast tutorial taught by a Columbia University microbiologist.

Mr. Stutz said his typical customer earns a slightly higher income than average; is male, and slightly older, in the 25-40 year range. Before moving into the Park Slope location, the Stutzes looked at Bay Ridge as well. Curious fact: 50% of the customer base is from Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the remainder drives in from New Jersey, Long Island and surrounding areas. Even individuals from Italy, Brazil and Israel stop in to purchase and take home supplies.

This writer has a firm sense Benjamin and Danielle Stutz know what they’re doing: in fact, a possible online business looms in the future. In the interim, in its measured and careful fashion, Brooklyn Homebrew, I suspect, will continue to grow and flourish.

By Jim Israel
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