Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 7:00AM
Sometimes I get really lucky. That penny on the ground is heads up, my hair dryer decides NOT to blow a fuse for once, I remember I have just a titch of ice cream left in the freezer...
But sometimes I get lucky with clients. Recently, I've had this experience with David and Zach of ABC Beer Co. I was introduced to the duo through a friend. Did I want a food/drink design client, she asked me? She may well have inquired if I wanted stracciatella cheese on my Margherita pizza. Duh. Of course I do.
And lo! I was hired on to design the logo and website for ABC Beer Co., a newly opened gem of a beer bar in Alphabet City. ABC Beer Co. is not just a beer bar. They also have eatables—good ones (I'll get to that), including an official cheese counter, and they hock other tasty wares such as Grady's Cold Brewed Coffee, freshly made breads and beer to-go!
I took a stroll to see their place one evening and was suitably impressed. So impressed was I, that I wanted to post a more informative review in the form of an interview. Below, Zach answers my sometimes silly questions on opening their own business in beer.
1. What inspired you to open ABC Beer Co?
The idea kind of came to us gradually. One day I got a phone call from David about wanting to open a beer store and bar in the East Village. I wasn't particularly happy in the 9-to-5 world and I'd worked with David at his other business before, so I instantly knew this was a good idea. Soon after that phone call, we were diving into beers and tasting new things, looking for a storefront and funding, and getting things in order. Before I knew it, we were days from opening and its been pretty amazing since.
2. Who handles which parts of the business - and how do you keep it all balanced with life?
I tend to handle the more day-to-day side of the business, such as ordering, marketing/social media, and staffing, while David tends to handle finances and more overseeing. But that's only true part of the time: Neither of us have job titles, and neither of us is above getting our hands dirty when it comes to keeping the place running. Being in business with a partner like David is a lucky situation. We can count on one another to get things done if one of us has to leave town or gets bogged down with work from other businesses. Balancing it all with life just seems to fall into place: There are slow weeks and there are crunch times, but having a well-trained staff makes a lot of the day-to-day upkeep much easier to stay on top of.
3. This may be like picking a favorite child, but what are your beer favs for the summer....
I absolutely love Carton Brewing Company's Boat Beer. It's an IPA with very low alcohol, light body, and super easy drinkability. I'm also pretty big on saisons, particularly Jack D'or from Pretty Things Brewery up in Massachusetts. Saisons are literally made for summertime, and this one has depth in its acidity, body and long finish.
4. And while you're at it, can you give us a few recommendations going into fall?
I hate to jump on the pumpkin beer train too early (although the taste of it while watching football is the fall-iest thing in the world to me). The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and the Firestone Walker Reserve Porter are two beers that people might normally shy away from in warm weather but feel perfect for autumn. Southern Tier PumpKing is another one we enjoy.
5. I noticed you have other non-beer products in the "shop" section of your place: Grady's Cold Brew Coffee, bread, even and entire cheese counter! How do you select the products that you sell?
The cheese counter was carefully curated by Martin Johnson, the founder of the Joy of Cheese. He's a fantastic cheese monger and is as passionate about educating customers as he is about getting them what they want. Things like Grady's and the bread all came from careful research and our own personal preferences!
6. When I visited, I enjoyed a vanilla porter that was on tap. What was that (it was a lovely combo with the fig and turkey sandwich....)
The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter that I just recommended! Ha...Yes, that's a great combo. Smokey turkey with the dark, malty porter.
7. The design of your place is one part rustic, one part market, and also one part industrial-cool. Who did you get to help you with the interior design and layout?
David and I worked with his cousin Roxy and an architect to draw up the initial layout of the space, but actually decorating was probably my favorite part of setting up shop. We drove to Philadelphia to meet with furniture makers, light makers, and antique glass suppliers. We pilfered antique shops throughout New Jersey. We went to auctions. I think part of what makes our design unique is that it was all hand picked from very different places. The table in itself is a huge statement that immediately catches everyone's eye. But like everything else in the shop, it's never over the top or "trying to hard." That understated approach is I think what makes the place so comfortable and inviting.
8. You don't have a TV (thank goodness), but you do fire up the projector from time to time, which I like. Any plans to do a Big Lebowski screening? I know the Dude would abide.
Are you kidding? That's like, the best movie ever. I'd totally watch that on the projector.
9. What are your plans for the future? Home brews? Taking over the world via beer?
We're still so young, so who knows! It's good to feel like we have so many possibilities in front of us.
10. Anything else we should know about ABC Beer Co. that we don't?
Our Twitter account is hilarious. Also, we have a very talented staff who all come from a diverse background. Chat them up! They'll talk to you about pretty much anything.
11. Can you teach me how to pour the perfect beer?
It's all in the wrist! Come by and we will pour plenty.
And finally, yes...I DID get a peek in the bathrooms. They're dimly lit in a comforting sort of way, not in a clubby-unnerving kind of way. There's modern art canvases on the walls and some exposed light fixtures that continue that industrial decoration flair from the main room.
So take a walk to Alphabet City and pull up a stool at the ABC Beer Co. bar. Go for the beer, stay for the food, stay longer for more beer (request the vanilla porter)...and potentially more snacks. Then get some goodies to go. And come back for the Big Lebowski viewing...once they put that one on the calendar, that is.
Alphabet City Beer Co.
96 Avenue C
New York City
96 Avenue C
New York City