For several summers now, Rockaway Brewing Co. has been a fixture at the beach. Now the budding brewery is fixing to build a beach of its own, with a sandy oasis set to open near the Ridgewood/Bushwick border. Tentatively called Playa NYC, it’s one of three major projects in the works, the other two of which will be right on the brand’s namesake peninsula.
Come the first week of June, Rockaway Brewing Co. co-owners Marcus Burnett and Ethan Long will have transformed a large vacant lot at 176 Woodword Avenue, four blocks from the Jefferson stop on the L train, into a 5,000-square-foot urban beach, with 140 cubic yards of Long Island City sand, umbrellas, reclining chairs, a palapa (if they can find one), and possibly a beach volleyball court. Kiddie pool discussions are awash with liability concerns, so don’t hold your breath. But if they do happen to provide pint-sized pools, you’ll be responsible for ensuring you eat no less than 30 minutes before swimming.
Burnett and Long “just want to sell beer,” so this beach will be predominantly “BYOF,” with grilling stations available. In addition to their own beer there will be guest tap lines– they’re going to be reaching out to local brewers Big Alice, Gun Hill, Strong Rope, Other Half and Barrier. They’re also planning to collaborate with some street artists on a large mural, “so the beach will be covered in street art.”
“A beach in the middle of Bushwick is going to be nuts,” said Burnett. “It’s going to be so much fun.”
Meanwhile, in Rockaway, Burnett and Long signed the lease for a 3,600-square-foot space that will open in June and continue to be developed into a brewery and tasting room over the next two years. At 415 Beach 72nd Street, there will be a tasting room featuring Rockaway Brewing Co. beer styles, including the newly launched DaBEACH, a hoppy, half-wheat, “crushable” 4.8% summer ale. There will also be beer-to-go service, picnic benches outside, and they’re in talks with a couple local barbecue places, Tacoway Beach and others about food offerings.
Nearby, at the intersection of Beach 76th Street and Beach Front Road, there’ll be pop-up beer service seven days a week from noon to sunset in collaboration with a couple of food vendors. Two graffiti artists, “old-school dudes” Ink 76 and Sonic BAD, are going to be working on the look of both the brewery and the pop-up beer service, which Burnett hopes will be open during the second week of June.
Burnett and Long both surf and became friends after they bought bungalows in Rockaway about 10 years ago. They started experimenting with homebrew from their Far Rockaway backyards, but after Hurricane Sandy they decided to look elsewhere to build a brewery. Three years ago they settled on a scaled-down five-barrel microbrewery system in Long Island City, where brewmaster Long takes a traditional approach in brewing “chewy,” malt-forward American and European ales that are light on adjuncts like peppercorns or pineapple. Their beers have been distributed to bars around the city and to concession stands in Rockaway during the summer.
While the ales are a few SRM (Standard Reference Method) scale units away from the citrus-garnished cervezas and other pale lagers that advertisers have taught us are most appropriate for beach-side imbibing, Burnett said they’ve “trained up” the beer-drinking community one customer at a time, and last year their beer represented “like 37 percent of all beer sold” at the concession stands. “It was a huge majority.”
Having now become “maxed out of space” in LIC with “kegs falling out of every corner,” they’ve decided to upsize from one location to four, a move Burnett thinks is “going to blow the lid off the whole brewing community.”
Whether or not that ends up happening, the Rockaway expansion will be sweet. “It will be great for our brand and for our reputation and obviously for the local community to not only enjoy the beer on the beach but come to the brewery and say, ‘Oh, wow, these guys are making it right here,” said Burnett.
Playa NYC, located at 176 Woodword Avenue, will open during the first week of June, Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. until midnight, and Friday to Sunday from 12 p.m. until midnight.
The Rockaway brewery, located at 415 Beach 72nd Street, will also open during the first week of June, Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. until midnight, and Friday to Sunday from 12 p.m. until midnight.
The pop-up beer service, located at the intersection of Beach 67th Street and Beach Front Road, is tentatively set to open during the second week of June, from 12 p.m. until sunset 7 days a week.