By Chris DeSantis
New York City, a thriving metropolis, renowned throughout the world for its elegant dining, swanky clubs, and its spellbinding whirl of bright lights that illume the many theaters of Times Square. Less known, at least to those unfamiliar to the craft beer scene, is the fact that New York City is also a beer brewing Mecca. In fact, it has long been so.
There are nearly 40 breweries or bars located throughout the five boroughs that brew their own beer registered with the New York State Brewers Association.* But the numbers are not the most astonishing fact about New York City craft beer scene.
The Big Apple is roughly 305 square miles in size. It stretches about 35 miles from its longest point from the northeast to southeast, and nearly 20 miles across from Manhattan to Long Island. Each one of the five boroughs in and of themselves is the same size as major international cities like Paris, Rome, Munich and Dublin.
Despite its enormous size, NYC breweries coincidentally line up on the “NYC Beer Belt” – a narrow, approximately 1-mile-wide strip that traverses the five boroughs, from the northern Bronx (Gun Hill Brewery) and all the way out to the sandy beaches of Coney Island (Coney Island Brewing). This belt, as seen from the air, would bisect the five boroughs nearly in half, running parallel just east of the East River.
There are a few breweries, like Finback Brewery in Glendale, Queens, and the Staten Island Brewing Co. on Staten Island that stray a bit outside of the parameters of the belt, but the vast majority of breweries all fall smack-dab on this magical beer belt.
Of course, the vast number of breweries may not come as surprise as New York City was once home to numerous breweries – some accounts count as high as 48 breweries in Brooklyn 1898. Numerous breweries dotted the east side of Manhattan, including the nationally famous Hell’s Gate/Rupert Brewery in the Yorkville section of Manhattan along the East River which became America’s largest brewery by early twentieth century.*
The 21st Amendment proved to be of little match against the beer machine that never sleeps. During Prohibition there were more speakeasies per square mile in New York City than in any other city in the US, some estimating as high as 100,000 hidden beer gems during at that time, and some of which survive today.*
So it should come as no surprise that New York City has so many breweries today, and that the breweries align along the same pattern of the brewers of yesteryear.