The Coney Island Brewing Company came onto the scene on Labor Day 2015. Since its launch, the brewery has brewed over 30 different beers and created a craft hard soda line at its Surf Avenue flagship location. At the helm of the Coney Island Brewery is Chris Adams, Brewery Operations Manager, who is constantly trying to create innovative ways to brew beer and share it with their many constituents and visitors to Coney Island. Chris sits down with Swig columnist Kristen Oliveri to talk about the growing business, what types of beer they currently brew and what’s next for the Coney Island Brewery as well as its community.
Q: You took an unusual path to getting to the Coney Island Brewing Company. Can you tell us more about your professional background?
A: I did! After graduating UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Business in 2008, I was quickly offered a job by one of New England’s smallest (six employees) craft breweries and distilleries Newport Storm Beer/ Thomas Tew Rum to be the lone sales person in the company’s home state of Rhode Island. I learned the ins and outs of the entire business, everything from working the canning line to distilling the company’s first batches of Rum. After a little over a year I was then approached by a senior member of Boston Beer Company, who I had met during my time in the field, who offered me the dream job of covering the home market as a brewery rep in Boston. After just over a year, I was then asked to take a promotion to move to New York City and take on responsibilities covering the cities buying groups, hotels, stadiums, specialty and non-buy accounts. After a few more months I was promoted to District Manager of New York City covering the nation’s biggest city and largest wholesaler while managing a team of four brewery reps.
After some success in that role I was approached by a former boss, who offered me the opportunity to take a leap, leave my comfort zone within the sales side, round out my business skill set and jump into a role as Brewery Operations manager, heading up and opening Coney Island Brewery in Brooklyn. Since taking the position, the brewery has been built up and the brewery team has been hired and trained. As we head into our first summer season, we are very excited about the future!
Q: What is the history of Coney Island Brewing Company?
A: Coney Island Brewery has been around since 2010, but underwent a transition in 2013. Our products have been available solely in the New York Metro area, however, in July 2015 we launched Coney Island Hard Root Beer on a national level and then Hard Ginger Ale and Hard Orange Cream Ale followed. We officially opened the brewery on Coney Island Labor Day Weekend 2015. We are excited as we gear up for our first full summer season.
Q: How is it being part of the rebirth of Coney Island?
A: It has been a lot of fun! The area seems to be changing and growing for the better every week. There is so much history here and I am really glad to be a part of what Coney Island will be remembered as moving forward.
Q: Can you tell us about your new style of brews, such as root beer, ginger ale and cream soda?
A: Our Craft Hard Soda line started in July 2015 with the launch of Coney Island Hard Root Beer. It was created as an adult twist on an old favorite and is made with natural, traditional root beer flavors including Madagascar vanilla, as well as notes of licorice and birch. Following the national success of Hart Root Beer, we launched Hard Ginger Ale and Hard Orange Cream Ale on the national level as well. Soon we’ll be offering all three unique beverages in one fun variety pack offering an option that suits everyone’s pallet. We’ve found that these styles while out of the ordinary (much like Coney Island!) have opened up a much wider range of drinkers and we are gathering a really cool and loyal group of customers.
Q: What are some of the more unusual beers you’re brewing today?
A: We are so excited to be part of New York City Beer Week (Feb. 19-28) and with that we have had the opportunity to put our creativity to the test and come up with some really unique beers. Among the specialty beers we’ll be highlighting for the NYC Beer Week events there will be a MerMAN Imperial Pilsner. Anyone that has tried our Mermaid Pilsner can expect a BIGGER, BADDER version of her with more hops, higher ABV and a little kick to keep our loyal fans coming back for more. The next style we created is the Hot Toddy Ale which is one of the coolest and most innovative beers I have ever seen. This beer pushes the boundaries so much so that we created two ways of pouring it- your standard cold draft pour and then HOT (120-140 degrees) and on nitro. The Toddy will certainly warm you up with 12.5% ABV after spending 28 days on top of whiskey barrel staves in fermentation.
Trapp’ed on the Cyclone is our latest and greatest homage to Coney Island as the legendary roller coaster has a long history, so do Trappist-style Triples. We put our own Coney Island touch on it to offer a delicious twist on an old time beer.
Q: What’s your take on the beer cocktail trend?
A: I am a huge fan of innovation. Beer cocktails open up the consumer to a number of new creative ways to experience what they may have had in the past. Craft beer lovers are always looking for what’s next and this is a fun, different way to highlight ingredients in both craft beer and spirits.
Q: What is something that people don’t know about the Coney Island Brewing Company?
A: We are not just Mermaid Pilsner and Hard Root Beer. While those are our two best sellers, we have brewed and served nearly 30 beers in our tap room since Labor Day. We are on the cutting edge of the craft scene and have no intention of slowing down.
Q: What’s next for you guys?
A: The Moon! No, really, we might make a beer with a piece of the moon inside. Its Coney Island, anything is possible.