What I love about writing for Brooklyn Home, is that I’m constantly being given suggestions for who I should feature on the site.
“You should talk to my friend Casey”, my friend Cathy mentioned to me in passing recently.
“He runs this amazing home brew festival in Gowanus every year”.
I don’t need telling twice.
The Casey in question is Casey Soloff, an advertising creative director and copywriter by trade, who founded the ‘Pride of Brooklyn‘ festival with his friend, Jack Bagdadi to share their love of home brewing and showcase the growing community of brewers they had encountered during their own brewing exploits.
Now in its 5th year, while Casey himself has hung up his fermenting bucket, the festival has gone from strength to strength and this year will feature 30 brewers, each of whom will showcase their finest creations. Visitors receive a glass with their ticket and can go from brewer to brewer, sampling their wares.
I met with Casey, a long-time Gowanus resident, at Root Hill Cafe to talk Honey Porters, carboys and his five favorite Brooklyn hangs. Here’s what he had to say…..
Strong Rope Brewery
574 President St – strongropebrewery.com
The most valuable thing I’ve gotten from running the festival is my connection with the homebrew community, and Strong Rope has become a focal point of that community. Jason Sahler (the owner and head brewer) was one of our competitors before he turned pro. The beautiful wooden bar was crafted by Shannon Bowser, who won our first competition and has participated every year since. Every time I stop by I find a homebrew club swapping beers at their monthly meetings, or run into someone else I met through the festival.
The vibes from the staff and the room itself are really fantastic, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s just one block from my apartment. Stop by on Thursday nights and you’ll find me trying to keep up with a handful of really talented musicians at an open jam.
Oh… and the beer is dynamite.
Sunday Nights at Barbès
376 9th St – barbesbrooklyn.com
In Park Slope, on the corner of 6th Ave and 9th St is a small, dimly lit bar called Barbès. And if you head to the back room at 9 pm on a Sunday night (8:30 if you want a shot at a seat), you’ll experience one of the best live musical acts in Brooklyn. Stephane Wrembel, guitar virtuoso, and his band have never not blown my mind. A Frenchman himself, his specialty is the Django Reinhardt style of Gypsy jazz, but there’s always a chance he’s in one of his more experimental moods. Admission is free but they pass the pitcher, so give generously when it lands in your hands. You can combine this with dinner a block away at Bar Tano for what my girlfriend calls “the best date ever.”
Be sure to check the calendar (http://www.barbesbrooklyn.com/calendar.html) before you go — there’s always a chance Stephane is on tour or recording a song for the latest Woody Allen movie or something.
593 Washington Ave – blewsmokeonline.com
Once or twice a year, I’ll put my phone away, open a bottle of whiskey, and sit in a comfortable chair to have an actual conversation with a friend. This bizarre ritual just happens to occur with a cigar in hand, and though I’ve been to a handful of lounges in New York, there’s none I’ve found with a friendlier atmosphere than Blew Smoke. The regulars love to share whatever they’re drinking. I’ve been given free cigars just because someone bought a box and wanted me to try one. And after 13 years of living in this borough, I’ve never found a better spot to watch a playoff game.
Prospect Park Bandshell at 9th St – bricartsmedia.org
Some of my favorite memories in New York take place on the bandshell lawn in summer, under a clear Brooklyn sky with friendly people of every age all around. The fact that I can ride my bike 10 minutes, drop it off with a valet, throw a blanket down on a beautiful lawn and listen to some of the best musical acts in the country on a cool summer night with my best friends for $5 is kind of why I live here. From the ambiance to the food to the vendors selling gourmet ice cream sandwiches, BRIC does an incredible job of putting this program together. I get giddy when I get the email each year announcing the lineup.
365 Van Brunt St – fortdefiancebrooklyn.com
Red Hook is home to some of the best restaurants and bars I’ve been to in my 13 years as a New Yorker, like Good Fork and Hometown BBQ. But Ft. Defiance is easily my favorite of the bunch. The skirt steak was a religious experience. Sadly, it’s no longer on the menu, but $1 oysters on Wednesday sure as hell are. They take reservations, but I don’t mind taking a walk to Botanica for a cocktail or Bait & Tackle for a beer if there’s a wait.
The Pride of Brooklyn will take place on April 29th at Littlefield, Gowanus.
Tickets are on sale now and available here.
Photo credits: Strong Rope Brewery, Blew Smoke, Celebrate Brooklyn, Fort Defiance.