As Long Islanders, we’re geographically spoiled. Beautiful beaches, farms, vineyards and Manhattan are all within reach. With so much in our backyard it’s easy to overlook lesser‐known destinations like Long Island City. However, developing artist communities, trendy restaurants and three new breweries—Transmitter, Big Alice and Rockaway—are quickly putting it on the map.
Long Island City is easily accessible by taking the LIRR to Woodside and the 7 train to Court Square. The trip takes one to two hours depending on where you start and should cost around $30.
Transmitter, Big Alice and Rockaway are all within walking distance, but they’re not worried about the competition. Instead, they promote local craft beer as part of the “LIC Brewery Tour.” The walk is safe, relatively short and takes you through parts of Long Island City that often go unexplored.
Our first stop on the tour was Big Alice Brewing. Well, technically it was the Burger Garage where we fueled up for an afternoon of beer tasting. From there, it’s a quick stroll to Big Alice where the small tasting room is warm, inviting and has a few seats if you want to stay awhile.
“Like every homebrewer I thought it would be a great idea to open a brewery,” says Kyle Hurst, owner. “I did a basic business plan and realized it was actually a really horrible idea. But three hours into a beer festival, it was a good idea again and here we stand today.”
Big Alice started out more like a CSA, with beer brewed in small batches using local, seasonal ingredients. Customers paid for their shares up front and never knew exactly what they would wind up with. “I would hit farmers markets and find new fresh ingredients and then figure out how to make a beer around it,” says Hurst.
The community continues to support Big Alice, which led to a system expansion. Though the brewery originally sold larger format, high ABV bottles, the majority of Big Alice beer is now lower alcohol, on tap and recipes are sometimes re‐brewed. “I wanted to create an environment where people come in, hang out and have a conversation,” says Hurst.
Transmitter Brewing is less than a mile from Big Alice, but it’s a totally different experience. The tasting room is quite small and has no seating. Free samples of a couple beers are available with the opportunity to either buy bottles on the spot or join Transmitter’s beer CSA.
The trip, however, is well worth it. Transmitter is one of the best‐kept‐secret breweries in New York, but the word is quickly spreading. Owners Anthony Accardi and Rob Kolb both live over the bridge in Greenpoint and have been cooking and brewing together for years. They always loosely toyed with the idea of opening a brewery and in 2013 they made it happen.
“Anthony has owned his own business for 25 years, so that made it a little less scary,” says Kolb, who has a day job as a creative director. Transmitter has tripled capacity in the last six months and the duo are looking to make brewing a full‐time gig. “Yeah, we want to make money, but we’re also not looking to expand as fast as possible,” says Accardi. “While other people are expanding their breweries, we’re expanding our inventory,” adds Kolb.
At Transmitter, the amount of time that goes into producing a single bottle of their beer is staggering. The pair shy away from hoppy IPAs that are best consumed fresh and instead brew farmhouse styles that improve with age. “We often say that the last bottle of a beer we drink at the brewery is the best version of it.” Due to commercial constraints, they can’t hold onto beer forever, but it is not uncommon for the men to age bottles for several months before release.
While discussing their aging program, Accardi suddenly exclaims, “I’m gonna do something here,” and disappears into the brewery. He emerges carrying a six‐ month‐old bottle of F4 Farmhouse Saison brewed with three different strains of Brettanomyces, a souring yeast. “It literally keeps getting better and better,” says Kolb. The beer is funky, refreshing and bursting with flavor, but they will hold onto it until they feel it’s reached its peak.
“Our goal is not to be a good local brewery, it’s to move toward being a world‐class brewery,” says Accardi. “I don’t know how you do that necessarily except you keep making the best beer you can.”
Rockaway Brewing is a perfect ending to the tour. The bar area is spacious, with plenty of room to sit, relax and sample the beer. Always on tap are an ESB, stout and IPA; seasonal offerings rotate throughout the year. High Plains Drifter, a bold Scottish‐style ale, is bottled by hand and only available at the brewery.
If you’re looking to grab some dinner before heading home, we recommend Alobar. Small plates make it a great spot to visit with a group, and the food is delicious. You’ll board the LIRR satisfied, slightly exhausted and probably planning your return to Long Island City.