Q+A: Stephen Valand and Erica Shea, Brooklyn Brew Shop
If you can make oatmeal, you can make beer. Brooklyn Brew Shop's apartment-friendly Beer Making Kits make it easy to bring brewing out of the garage and into the kitchen using fresh, whole ingredients and traditional methods that have been used in homes and breweries for centuries. By brewing with the same ingredients (cracked barley, hops, spices, and yeast) that the best craft breweries in the world use, making high quality and complex beers becomes possible on the stove top in your very own kitchen, big or small. We sat down with Stephen Valand and Erica Shea, the founders of Brooklyn Brew Shop, to discuss this innovative concept.
Tell us the history of Brooklyn Brew Shop. How did you come up with the idea?
We believed that brewing beer can be simple, tasty, and fun, so we created an easy-to-use beer making kit that is designed especially for stove-top use. We started selling the kits in 2009 at the Brooklyn Flea Market, but our packaging was very primitive, so we quickly had to figure out a way to place everything neatly in a box. As we became more popular and started to distribute to large chains like Whole Foods, we had to create additional branding logos. We currently have our operations in 20 Jay Street and we couldn't be happier. The community and other local entrepreneurs have been extremely supportive, which is why we won't be leaving DUMBO anytime soon.
The brewing kit and instructions are designed in a very simplistic way so anyone can follow the steps with little difficulty.
Stephen Valand and Erica Shea, Founders of Brooklyn Brew Shop
Can you describe the process behind designing the beer making kits?
It was a difficult process since neither one of us had previous experience making beer. At that time there weren't any brewing supply stores and small-scale brewing parts didn't exist. We studied larger equipment we had at our disposal and then tried to reconstruct the design into a smaller version. We had to hand make the parts on our own to produce a kit that only produces a gallon of beer for home use. The brewing kit and instructions are designed in a very simplistic way so anyone can follow the steps with little difficulty. Currently, package instructions come in English, Spanish, Chinese, and French. Each beer making kit has ingredients to make one batch of beer. Additional ingredients and recipes can be bought on the site.
How do you come up with the food and beer recipes?
Our love of cooking helped us come up with this idea. We usually had a lot of leftover supplies after the brewing process, so we decided to create a blog that highlights a variety of beer-infused food for our customers. We felt that there were plenty of wine inspired recipes, but very few people had any knowledge about beer. As for the beer recipes, the best part of the job is tasting new concoctions and then having our staff try it. We then list the feedback on our blog titled Two O'Clock Tasting. We also like to have our ear out for up-and-coming beer brands and make sure to highlight them on the website as well. We have about 12-15 different flavors to highlight every season.
Are there any future developments you would like to share?
We're excited to announce that we will be distributing an assortment of food-making kits as well. Three new kits have been designed to prepare soft pretzels and beer cheese, bagels and cream cheese, and fresh cheese. The fermentation process that occurs in beer can also be applied to food, which gave us the idea to branch out from just beer-making. We currently distribute to 23 countries and are hoping to further expand into other markets in the next few years.
What are your favorite spots in DUMBO?
Our favorite places are Atrium and Almondine Bakery.