These days, Bushwick is generally regarded as the land of artisan pizza and warehouse parties, but let’s not forget that it was once the beer capital of the Northeast. If Eric Feldman and Marshall Thompson get their way, they’ll open the first brewery in Bushwick since Rheingold closed its doors in 1976 and the neighborhood may relive its glory days as the site of Brewers Row.
“We want to be the first,” says Thompson, sporting a black t-shirt emblazoned with the company’s logo, the Braven. “But we definitely don’t want to be the last.”
Last night, the pair celebrated the Kickstarter campaign for Braven Brewery with a launch party in the cozy depths of St. Mazie. It was a way of recognizing the friends who had helped them already reach the one-third mark of their $20,000 goal and curious neighbors who can smell a new source of alcohol from a mile away. To kick the evening into high gear, they brought in Flyrite Tattoo’s Mike Lucena to sling ink on-site and local rock outfit Las Hormiguitas to play a set. Meanwhile, Feldman and Thompson handed out samples of their flagship brews, Braven Black and Braven White, which are both hop-infused IPAs that go easy on the taste buds. A certified beer judge (who showed up of his own volition) gave them his express approval.
“It’s not as punchy as most IPAs,” says Feldman. “We’re aiming for it to come in as a bit more easy drinking.”
Feldman and Thompson began brewing together four years ago as an escape from their less than satisfying day jobs as a lawyer and an MBA student, respectively. They launched the East Village Brewing Company, but described their first venture as nothing more than an excuse to “make the worst photoshop ever.” In the last year or so, they’ve become more serious about the business and renamed it Braven after a tattoo Thompson sports on his left shoulder of a raven/buck hybrid. While Thompson formulated their brand’s vision of “bringing brewing back to Bushwick,” Feldman perfected their starter beers. If the duo reach their Kickstarter goal by November 20, they plan to use the funds to rent a small space and begin filling kegs instead of unlabeled bottles.
“This is really a proof of concept to make sure we have enough support and interest,” says Marshall. “And if we can’t do that, then people won’t buy our beer and we probably shouldn’t make it.”
Though they plan to do further rounds of investment, the pair always wanted to start raising money on the local level with the help of their closest allies: their neighbors. The word-of-mouth campaign will continue with another launch party on November 1 at The Passenger Bar where they’ll debut their fall beer, Dia, a chocolate orange stout with a stinging hint of habanero pepper. Beyond that, Feldman and Marshall imagine they’ll name Braven Brewery beers after Bushwick streets like Starr, Wyckoff and Stanwix.
Near the end of the night a friend hunts them down to alert them to the fact that a petite Australian woman is actually getting their logo tattooed on her wrist. So far, Thompson had been the only one to brave the needle, having BSHWCK (“because fuck vowels”) tattooed on his lower arm, so this was a big moment. It’d be nice to say that’s all the approval they needed, but they’ve still got $12,820 and 28 days to go. Even so, the (permanent) gesture seemed good enough for tonight.