Brooklyn's Only Brewery-Restaurant Heads to Williamsburg Waterfront
WILLIAMSBURG — Standing in his work boots in front of 6,000 square feet of construction, Edward Raven had no trouble imagining the damp rugged sidewalk as the perfect outdoor patio.
And if all goes as planned, he'll have more than a few outside tables — he'll be operating a giant brewery-restaurant, the second brewery in Williamsburg and the first brewery-eatery in all of Brooklyn.
“This is where you’re going to find me every summer night, drinking a beer and watching the sunset,” he beamed outside his planned brewery by the Williamsburg waterfront. “That’s what this is all about.”
Raven’s business — currently unnamed but which he might call “Dirk the Norseman” after Greenpoint’s first Dutch settler — is hiring local home brewers to help him make his suds, which he envisions as hoppy IPA's and other classic European varieties "with a twist."
“All these guys are making beer at home and looking for somewhere to take it next,” he said about customers and employees of his specialty beer shop Brouwerij Lane in Greenpoint. “I’ve been selling beer for 25 years, and you watch these guys opening beer halls doing really well. I was just like, why can’t I do that?”
Raven plans to open his giant space — one-third brewery and two-thirds beer hall and restaurant — on North 15th Street in the early spring of 2013, with glass divides showing visitors the whole brewing process from milling the grains to kegging and bottling the different flavors.
“We’ll make about five or six flavors at a time,” he said, noting that his head brewer Chris Prout (a home brewer who works at Brouwerij Lane) would likely make “typical European hoppy IPA’s with a twist,” Belgian style sours and saisons.
As for the beer hall and restaurant, Raven said he was still ironing out details, but expected to accommodate about 270 people and to serve a wide range of local and imported beers. He said the fare would be “healthy food,” and that hours would be about 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Williamsburg Community Board 1 has approved Raven's manufacturing license, but has postponed approval of his restaurant and beer hall liquor license on the grounds that he did not yet have a solid enough plan.
"He wasn't sure about the number of bars, seats, tables, crucial information for us," said Mieszko Kalita, chair of the board's liquor license committee. "We said build a brewery, see how much space it will take up and then if you have a plan come to us for review."
Raven said he planned to return to the board in a couple of months with updated information, and that he was not worried about getting approval.
“The community board seemed to be skeptical with the occupancy number,” he said. “They want me to get a certificate of occupancy, which I’ll do."
One gift of the area, he said, was its seemingly remote location surrounded by other warehouses and right by the Kent Avenue bike lane and waterfront.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, but we’re really not,” he laughed about the spot, which is only a few blocks from Bedford Avenue’s strip of bars.
And Raven, who got his start in beer when he sold suds for Brooklyn Brewery in the 1980s, said that beer has been his life ever since then when he began working with the Williamsburg company.
“The beer is what got me into it...Brooklyn Brewery started in Park Slope, where I was living, and I went and knocked on their door and asked if they needed help," he reminisced.
His new venture came as no surprise to Brooklyn Brewery's founder Stephen Hindy, who praised Raven's years as a dedicated partner with Hindy's company.
"He was an important part of our early success. He was with us for over 10 years," Hindy said. "He's a great entrepreneur and always wanted to do his own thing."
And even though Raven's future watering hole is just five blocks from Brooklyn Brewery, Hindy said there was enough demand for both businesses.
"Of course it'll be competition but we can't really serve all the people who come to us during the weekends. There are people lined up around the block. It's crazy," Hindy said. "There's plenty room for everybody in North Brooklyn...I wish him all the best."
As for Raven, who abandoned a more lucrative career for a life in beer, he already seemed satisfied.
“I was in advertising and I left it and never looked back," he said. "These past 25 years haven’t felt like work.”