A new feature in our editorial arsenal. We're taking a little time to check back in with some of our featured breweries over the past year to see where they're at. Some have gotten bigger, some have gotten wiser, and some have gone away.
We spoke with Dave Lopez, co-founder of Gun Hill Brewing Company, in April 2014. Since then, this bronx brewery has grown admirably, finding mindshare in a dedicated consumer base and pouring at hundreds of locations in New York City and Westchester Country. We quickly sat down with Dave to discuss his new crowd-funding effort, the brewery's growth, the challenges of starting a small business.
How long has Gun Hill Brewing been open now?
18 months or so.
You guys started this brewery in the Bronx with the hope of reviving the beer culture there. Has it worked so far?
Absolutely man. We’ve had amazing support and feedback from the local crowd. We honestly weren’t sure what the reaction was going to be, and what the crowd was going to be like, or how frequently they would visit. We now have people who come to our brewery and use it as their local bar. We have groups holding events there, we have live music and food events...it’s been well beyond our expectations.
Response to your beer? Have you changed your portfolio significantly in the past year?
People have taken to the beer very well. Having a beer like Void of Light that’s been so well received has been a huge boost, but almost any stout we’ve put out has been well received. What we’ve tried to do is maintain consistency. Now that we’re in that second year, we’re trying to recreate the seasonals we put out the first year. It’s been great to be able to walk into almost any bar in most areas of the city and see our beer on tap.
The first time we chatted, we talked about the challenges of starting a brewery in NYC. Since you’ve started, we’ve seen almost 10 breweries open in the city. A year into this journey, where do you see the local NYC beer scene going?
The whole area is going to continue to see growth for the foreseeable future. We have a learned a lot about the business in the past year. We're fortunate to be in New York City, with such a large volume of bars and restaurants serving beer, and yet we still see a large number of them not serving craft, let alone local craft. The city and community will have the ability to continue to support more breweries until all those places are serving local beers. It's going to be interesting to see how we carve out a space for great beer in the coming years.
What have you done to promote growth?
We’ve definitely played up the NYC ingredients aspect. We started incorporating even more local ingredients than what we were originally doing a year ago (and we sourced pretty locally then). More and more maltsters are opening up businesses around us, which will allow us to make more beer using New York ingredients. The gold medal at GABF changed things significantly as well. When I travel to other states and I hear “you guys make void of light right?” quote from people there, I realize how much that helped put Gun Hill on the map.
What are your plans for growth?
First and foremost is expanding into cans. We think that’s a necessary step for growth. We’ve been approached by a lot of places about getting beer into cans, and we see locals breweries canning earlier in their lifecycle than they used to. We need to stay current, and we want people to see Gun Hill in the best light. We won’t overextend ourselves, and we certainly want to maintain quality. We think canning in another way to promote the brand, and get us into more markets here in the city and across the state.
You're crowd-funding this canning initiative. What made you try that?
To me, it’s a good way to involve the community. It shows them that they’re involved, and we’re getting people to talk about our brand and contribute. We’re also giving people legitimate rewards for their contribution. It’s our way of bringing as many community members as possible into the fold. We're really appreciative of the support so far! We've got a little over two weeks left on the campaign right now, and we'd ask folks to check it out and contribute if they can.
Published August 2015.