Since 1995, Manhattan has been without a brewery. But once pandemic restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to do so, Torch & Crown Brewing Company will be opening their three-story facility on Vandam St in SoHo. There, they’ll dot the drinking room (a grand, double-ceiling industrial space) with everything needed to make beer: tanks, trolleys, buckets, and beyond, and plenty of tubing—including some that will relay beer directly from the tank it was brewed in into the patron’s glass. Co-founders John Dantzler and Joe Correia are well aware of the asking price for premium real estate in Manhattan (they’ve been searching for four years, and finally found their perfect space in a just under two years ago) and now find themselves months behind on their launch schedule. But the pair remains optimistic about the high demand for fresh, local New York beer.
It’s not that Manhattan-dwellers weren’t venturing to local breweries (from Brooklyn’s Threes and Grimm, to Mikkeller in Queens, or further to Suarez in Hudson) but these quests aren’t indicative of how drinkers enjoy breweries in other cities—enjoying the accessibility and energy of being in the middle of a metropolis. Dantzler and Correia recognized that this was missing in NYC and hope to be the first of a new coalition of breweries moving back to, or starting out in, Manhattan.
“We hope to introduce much more of the city to craft beer,” Dantzler tells us. Of course, Manhattan drinkers occupy beer bars like Proletariat or As Is, and buy cans to go from spots like Good Beer, Beer Karma, or Malt and Mold, but they don’t benefit from having a brewery space nearby. From Torch & Crown’s Sub Rosa Lager (which was hopped with the French Barbe Rouge and boasts notes of berry and white grape) to the faintly melon-flavored Bat Flip Summer Ale and their pleasantly sour Beach Ball (featuring a mix of passionfruit, orange and guava), each of their beers is informed by years of experience—in brewing and drinking—and represent an original entry to the category, rather than a replication.
“If there’s a Craft Beer Bible, so to speak, what it says in it is find cheap real estate in an industrial area where getting in and out is easy, where logistics are better,” Dantzler says. “You can go down the list; we’re doing everything wrong, according to what most business models have been. Having a full manufacturing business in Lower Manhattan is very difficult. But, we’re doing it because we want to bring this front and center for the people. If we do that correctly, we hope to see people respond and want to visit other breweries in the city, too—and bring together some sort of culture.”
“Look at other cities, especially on the West Coast,” he continues. “They have more mature craft brewery scenes, and they’re a thing. In San Diego, Portland, Seattle, where do you drink there? You go to breweries. In New York, there are a couple of pockets in Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, and some are a few people within a few blocks from each other. I think with that breweries have gained a bit, but I think of the 10 million (or whatever it is) people here, a small portion have them on their radar. I guess we’re trying to put ourselves right in people’s faces.”
Torch & Crown’s Kushner Studios-designed space isn’t finished yet, but it has potential to be one of the city’s premier meeting places. Square footage abounds, and plenty will appreciate the Willy Wonka-esque nature of it all. Beer flows above you, brews beside you, and finds its way to your glass. When it’s gone, more appears, courtesy of their front-of-house staff, who happens to be almost the entire team from the recently shuttered The Cannibal Beer & Butcher. They’ll operate the food and service duties, and Torch & Crown produces the beer.
“100 years ago, these breweries were the community gathering place and that’s what we strive to be,” Dantzler says. “And back before refrigerated trucks and the supply chain of today existed, drinking local was more of a necessity.” As technologies developed, manufacturing—especially of food and beverages—migrated out of the city and into larger spaces that allowed for mass production.
That community aspect—keeping things local—is something we absolutely strive to tap into
“Everyone in that time went to their local brewery. That’s what you did,” he says. “And that community aspect—keeping things local—is something we absolutely strive to tap into. There will be no mistaking: you’ll know right away that you’re in our manufacturing facility. You’ll be surrounded, but the tanks are spaced out between our three floors. Plus, our tanks on the ground floor are piped directly into the bar. So you know, whenever you’re ordering one of our core beers, you’re drinking directly from the tanks. It’s as fresh as it gets.”
Images courtesy of Torch & Crown