the very word underground makes us come a-runnin’. underground dance party? bury me baby. underground sex club? my pants are already down. underground dinner society? tease me, please me, feed me.
so an underground brewery is, of course, right up our alley in brooklyn. and as luck would have it, it’s right down the street. keg and lantern, neighborhood mainstay and a bar more-or-less known for its sports bar leniency, it’s honest service, and that wall of beer cans that feels unnecessarily nostalgic… but also might be something that they know and we don’t know about sports acoustics, or simply a rather inventive detour to navigating the oh-so-complex recycling rules in the city. …
and it may be the brooklyn beer enthusiast’s best kept secret.
I’ve always admired local haunts that make a smart and calculated transition with the neighborhood. Instead of fighting or denying gentrification, hoping that the business will keep coming even amid drastic changes seen and felt in tastes of new residents, the inevitable exodus of the regulars who keep them afloat, and those people coming over from across the river that deliberately notify everyone about how underwhelming the beer menu is… instead, some establishments strategically evolve, making themselves seem relevant to newcomers while somehow not denying their roots.
greenpoint’s keg and lantern has done just that.
this unsuspecting neighborhood sports bar has a secret. underground. it’s a secret that it wants to share, and has been slowly fermenting since august 2014, when owner kieren breen decided to transition the basement into a full working brewery. after posting an ad to Craigslist, local homebrewer patrick allen answered with a resume that boasted a lot of hopeful suds and a rather infamous stint at local beer mecca brouwerij lane. he accepted the position with nearly no hesitation. taking the beer-making in-house was a risk for a bar that was well-known for its unknown ales, but they attacked their plan of turning a dirt-floor brooklyn basement into a full-scale brew-making establishment… which began with digging out the floor of the basement, which as it turned out, wasn’t deep enough for the casks.
after more than a few unexpected setbacks, thanks to the core values inherent to success in this neighborhood- equal parts ambition, intuition, absolute rejection to limitations- keg and lantern has transitioned into an underground brew-pub serving tenacious beers that you can’t find anywhere else, straight from the source.
manager and head bartender alex holt has seen the bar intentionally transition with the neighborhood. beer aficionados and regular patrons alike, while infiltrated effervescently with other so many other beer-centric bars popping up in the neighborhood, keep coming back. “there’s a reason most of the staff has been here for 4-5 years,” he said. “we’re a crossroads of the neighborhood, welcoming to everyone. people come for the sports, sure, but they don’t realize they’ll be drinking a beer they can’t find anywhere else,”, he said. “and between plays, you’re having a discussion about politics, about life, about music. people might be coming to watch their team play but they stay for a lot more.” he said. “we mean something to the neighborhood.”
if for some odd reason this doesn’t tempt you to come in and enjoy a pint, come on saturdays for an tour of the underground brewery and get the chance to pick master brewer Patrick’s brain, as we recently did.
read our exclusive interview below. get inspired. then go drink.
*note to readers- since this interview, patrick has moved on to greener pastures and hops with West Kill Brewing, and has passed the torch (and his recipes!) to Jeff Lyons, local micro-brewing visionary.
BiT what got you into brewing?
PA A love of beer, which is a bit vague but beer is such an all encompassing beverage. Its culture, history, science, creativity and art all wrapped into one beverage. The art and process of fermentation, and creating something enjoyable from scratch that can be shared and enjoyed is fascinating… And my wife bought me a homebrew kit, so its a good thing she likes beer.
BiT what is your favorite beer (at keg and in the world) and why?
PA My favorite beer in the world is usually the next one Im drinking! Its really hard to pick just one. Its very much related to the time, place and company that Im in. For instance there is something about drinking a black ipa outside when its snowing that just does it for me or a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale at Thanksgiving with friends. Like food, sometimes you want a burrito, sometimes you want pizza, and sometimes you say fuck it give me sushi.
BiT what was the biggest challenge you ran into making the brewery downstairs?
PA Brewing in a basement certainly has some challenges. We have very limited floor drains and brewing can be a very wet process so there is lots of squeegeeing on a daily basis. When your not looking down at the water on the floor its probably because your looking up at the thing you just hit your head on. The ceiling height is very low and there are pipes, lights and wires that you need to watch out for on a daily basis. Although after 2 years I think I can navigate it pretty well.
BiT if keg and lantern were a beer, what kind would it be? describe it.
PA It would be a barrel aged mixed fermentation. Brewed with Irish spring barley, Polish lublin hops, an American yeast primary fermentation and then transferred to the barrel with a dozen wild yeast strains along with the natural “bugs” (bacteria) in the barrel. After a year it would be dryhopped with Amarillo hops to freshen it up and would have a beautiful citrusy flowery lavender bergamot zest bouquet. Medium bodied and soft but with a dry spritzy and tart lemon finish. It would be a thing of beauty and then (see answer below) “a manhattan finance douche who can’t believe he had to walk 10 minutes from smorgasburg just to find a place that was showing the masters” would ask for an orange slice in it.
BiT from where do you draw inspiration for these recipes?
PA Other beers I have drank, books, magazines, food, dreams, history, seasons, and conversations with other brewers, friends, and my wife who has a culinary degree. The inspiration is fueled by the creative freedom I have had at keg so in the last 2 years I have made over 100 different beers.
BiT of which are you the most proud?
PA Thats like asking which child are you most proud of! Which of course means the most successful one. jk I am proud of all of them! Even if they were not the most successful they made me a better brewer through the experience of creating it and reflecting on what went wrong or how it could be better.
BiT have you ever made one that just really bombed?
PA We have been pretty successful with the clean beer but we currently have 2 sour beers in barrels that will likely be dumped soon if they do not make a turn for the better. Typically we blend barrels to create a final cohesive beer but these may be a lost cause. One barrels note reads tastes like a halloween mask and the other one says tastes like smokey vanilla cake. Neither of those sounds good in a beer.
BiT you got any recipes a-brewin that you maybe want to give brooklyn, i’m trying readers an exclusive preview description of?
PA Smash beers or Single Malt and Single Hop beers can be kind of one note and boring albeit very educational but for NYC Beer Week every year many of the Guild members will make one with a single NY state farmers malt and hops. This year we used New York Craft Malt 2 row and Willet Farms Cascade Hops in a standard American Pale Ale. We brought in a new yeast just for this beer and it really shines. Fruity and expressive but still lets the malt and hops shine through. Along with nyc’s excellent water, all 4 ingredients are really in harmony and its just going to be a damn nice beer to drink.
BiT pick a beer from keg & lantern to match each of these personalities.
the polish local, bitching about gentrification.
Knickerbocker Pilsner; Light crisp and refreshing. But lets be honest, we also have Tyskie in bottles which if he’s bitching about gentrification he’s probably going to drink a 12 pack.
the rabid sports fan who can’t take his eye off the tv (and perhaps might end up throwing his beer in the air if they make this conversion). Golden Ale. Still our number one seller and its probably partially due to people throwing it in the air during a game.
the girl/boy waiting for his/her tinder date.
Greeneyes IPA. Strong enough to loosen them up after only one, a name that starts a conversation about eye color with them staring into each others eyes, and an addicting hop profile that will make them order another without having to look back at the menu.
the charming southern expat regular.
Gastronomical IPA. It would remind them of a mix between their moms fresh squeezed Florida orange juice mixed with their Grandmas summertime Georgia peach cobbler and yet there is no fruit in the beer just big juicy hop flavors.
the manhattan finance douche who can’t believe he had to walk 10 minutes from smorgasburg just to find a place that was showing the masters.
Nassau Wit although we have not made it for awhile because he would say “wow this is better then blue moon can i have an orange slice” and then I would have to call him a douche.
the dad visiting from the midwest, catching the packers game.
The Atlantic Lager. Similar style to Brooklyn Lager or Sam Adams Boston Lager but with more bready malt character. It would pair well with his cheddar that he brought with him.