New York City is an amazing place. Arguably the most cultured city on earth. It has a rich and storied history, dating back to the founding of this country. It epitomizes our great nation in so many wonderful ways.
But it doesn't have a lot of breweries.
The NYC Brewers Guild currently has: 16 breweries.
The San Diego Brewers Guild currently has: 74 breweries.
And San Diego has 1/10 of the population. Clearly there's work to be done in NYC.
Dave Lopez and the founding crew over at Gun Hill Brewing Co. are on the job. They've started the first production brewery in the Bronx since 1961, and they're bringing homegrown NYC pride to the city's craft brewing scene. They just opened two weeks ago and are already making waves in the NYC community. We had a chance to catch up with Dave and ask him a couple questions about Gun Hill Brewing.
They started their brewery in the Bronx. If you live in a closet, then we've highlighted where the Bronx is located.
TBE: Hi Dave. Great to meet you. Why do you love craft beer so much?
It’s funny. That answer is completely different now then it was three years ago. Three years ago I didn’t know much about craft beer. I started drinking it and realized how much I loved it. Now…having been immersed in the life for the past 3 years, I have a huge appreciation for the business, what goes into it, and how hard these breweries work to put out a good product. Five years ago, an IPA wasn’t really on my radar, and since then, craft beer has helped me expand my pallet to a whole new world of craft brewing. Beer has given me more options than I could ever imagine around trying new things.
TBE: Why is your beer so good in five words or less.
Dedication. Local. Experience. We'll leave it at three for now.
TBE: Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Manhattan. One of the reasons the brewery is in the Bronx is because it had sentimental value to my partner and I. I currently work in finance. One of the reasons this brewery came about was because we weren’t doing anything in our professional careers to actually help people. We wanted to make a product that brought people joy.
TBE: What do you think of the current NYC craft brewing scene? It’s a pretty huge place after all.
It’s an extremely interesting time. NYC has been so far behind the curve in craft brewing in recent years. I love the fact that San Diego, which has a fraction of the population of NYC, has 85 breweries. The NYC brewers guild has 16 members. Under 25 breweries in the one of the largest cities in the world. There is such a demand for good AND local beer here in New York. The farm to table movement is getting bigger and bigger, and people are going into places and saying “what do you have from around here”. This is happening in craft too. The major reason it’s not huge in NYC is more practical. Space, and cost of space. It’s at a premium, and the biggest limiting factors are spaces that are appropriate for a brewery (18-20 ft ceilings, zoned properly, etc). So much of what we see in NYC is contract brewing because of the prohibitive nature of the business. The state just came out with a program to help businesses in New York who use local ingredients, and this should help grow the business here in the city.
TBE: What’s the story behind the Gun Hill name?
When we were trying to come up with a name, we wanted something significant to NYC. Gun Hill is a landmark name here in the Bronx. It’s a name that stands out for anyone who’s driven the highways around here. When we found our brewery space, we already had Gun Hill on a short list of names. We saw how close we were to Gun Hill road and thought “Well…I guess that settles the name”. The revolutionary significance comes from the Revolutionary war battle fought here. The logo for the brewery represents the original stars on the American flag. The fonts and branding are very similar to the first letters from the colonists. The colonists were promoting a revolution, and we are promoting a craft brewing revolution here in NYC.
TBE: A NYC craft brewing revolution. We can get down with that. How many investors do you have?
About 20 investors.
TBE: Where do you get your inspiration? We know it’s tough to start a business.
The easy answer is “as soon as you have a vested interest in something, you don’t want to lose what you put into it”. I certainly don’t want to work in finance forever. I want to make this successful, and I don’t want to be relegated to working in a particular field forever. A lot of people that put their faith in myself and my partner, and I have a commitment to them to try and make something happen with what the opportunity they’ve given us.
TBE: Who’s your award-winning brewer?
His name is Chris Sheehan. He started brewing in the late 80’s. He worked out in San Francisco. He came over to NYC in the mid 90’s. He worked at the Chelsea Brewing Company for 12 years before coming over to us. He’s won 6 medals at the GABF for his stouts. He’s won various awards here in NYC as well. We wanted someone with experience in the NYC craft scene. He has connections with suppliers, brewers, etc around here and he’s been a great fit.
TBE: What do you think are going to be your biggest challenges in the first year?
The biggest hurdle will always be us trying to break into the bar scene. We need people to try our beer for the first time. We need people to hear our story. We are for real, but people don’t know that yet. Making sure we continue to keep things fresh and interesting. We need to stay relevant to our consumers. Once people do start taking notice, we need to keep up with demand.
TBE: What are a few of your favorite brews right now?
I really like Stone brewing. Cigar City is killing it right now. Ballast point is great as well. So many great ones.
TBE: Anything else?
I think it’s important for people to know that we have a tasting room on site. It’s a bar area where people can come and drink what we’re offering. Come by and check us out. We’re working hard to make it a great experience!
Published April 2014.