"Brouwerij Lane," with its Flemish-style moniker, is the new home of Raven Import Co., the European beer import business the much-respected Raven built from scratch more than a decade ago, where he specializes in beers with a loyal following among craft beer cognoscenti - beers like Jever Pilsner, Gaffel Kölsch, Gösser, and Gruut, just to name a few.
For Raven, the opportunity to give his product a proper showcase - and amid such a fitting ambience - is a long-held dream come true. "I actually was running the business out of my home for years," says Raven with a chuckle.
There's a great deal of atmosphere to Raven's well-crafted industrial space - and he did all the work himself, actually. The new venue is simple, but not austere. Step inside, and you're enveloped with an old-world feeling evocative of similar such establishments in Belgium or The Netherlands. For example, the distressed brickwork gives the place a real homey quality, intentionally worn so as not to seem off-putting and new. And that wood-burning stove's definitely got a nostalgic charm all its own.
"I just loved the space the moment I saw it," recalls Raven. "The whole feeling of it. It actually used to be this old auto repair shop."
As scores and scores of Brooklyn beer aficionados rolled in to sample Raven's wares last Saturday (as well as some goulash provided by DoBro's Thomas Beisl!), their attention was most quickly drawn to what's affectionately known as the "Brouwerij Lane Fillin' Station," where beermeisters filled attendees' glasses all afternoon from any number of different taps, 10 in all, featuring a variety of beers like the comparatively rare Jever Dark and Brouwerij Lane mainstay Gaffel Kolsch. The intention, of course, now that the place is up and running, is that patrons will stop by to fill up a jug or two themselves now and again. Jugs that those in the know refer to as "growlers."
The way it works is that a one-time deposit of $5 gets you a glass growler (the equivalent of roughly four American pints), and $10 gets Brouwerij Lane to refill it for you. Clearly, one of the best ideas in the industry since the repeal of Prohibition.
For his part, Raven is rather quick to point out that he didn't invent the idea of the growler. Not by a long shot. You can consider it more of a college town phenomenon, he tells us, but one which is catching on by leaps and bounds everywhere. But give Raven and Brouwerij Lane a little time, and we've no doubt they'll have helped create a bit of a "growler culture" here in Greenpoint - the whole thing's just too darn habit-forming not to take hold.
Of course, in addition to the rotating variety of 10 beers on tap, Raven also offers an impressively large selection of imported bottled beers, inventory which he hopes to have approach 400 different beers in the next few months. Beers which range in price from $2 or $3 a bottle - like a familiar Heineken or Yuengling - to $4 or $5 (the exemplary Samuel Smith's Pale Ale) or even $8 top-of-the-line offerings from Trappist, Coney Island and Arrogant Bastard.
And for a borough that once produced as much as one-fifth of the nation's beer, it's certainly nice to see a new generation of Brooklynites developing a renewed appreciation for it. "There's not a ton of foot traffic here right now, but it's getting there," says Raven. "I definitely think it's starting to come around." With a top-notch destination for consumption and appreciation of same, count on Raven and Brouwerij Lane to be a big part of that.