Brewery Showcase | Strong Rope Brewery
It’s highly unlikely that Strong Rope Brewery owner Jason Sahler envisioned barley and sailboats when he earned his Sustainability degree from New York University. Yet there he was several years later, receiving a delivery of New York State grown barley that had been sailed down the Hudson River to his brewery in Brooklyn. It’s just one example of the unanticipated ways Sahler applies his sustainability background to his business.
The wind-powered boat, named Schooner Apollonia, is operated by like-minded business people. They’re providing a noteworthy service that supports and celebrates the regional economy in an environmentally sustainable manner. While it’s true that delivery by sailboat will not be the norm for breweries, this does highlight the ability to think outside of the box and find creative ways to reduce carbon footprints. Sahler, along with co-owner and wife Christina Quintero, has been working on this since opening the brewery in 2015.
Ingredients are an important part of a brewery’s sustainability initiatives. In the case of grain and hops, it’s not just how they’re grown, but finding sources that don’t need to be shipped thousands of miles. This approach creates an inherent regionality to the beer and a synergistic way to stand out in the market.
This is significant to Sahler who wants his beer to taste like it’s from New York. He says, “I want to see regional beer styles come back, and it won’t if everyone is using the same ingredients.”
All the hops they use have been from New York State since day one. However, the local market for malt was not quite there yet in the early years. Now though, he says “we’re in a good place with good producers”, and Strong Rope was able to make the switch to all New York State malt as well. This primarily includes malt from New York Craft Malt, Hudson Valley Malt, Murmuration Malts and Niagara Malt. Their hops are from New York Hop Guild, The Bineyard and Chimney Bluffs Hoppery.
New York State has recognized the economic development potential of breweries and their ability to support farmers. The “farm brewing law,” as it’s known, went into effect in 2013 and provides incentives for brewers to use state-grown ingredients. Strong Rope has been a leader in furthering the intent of this law, which will require ninety percent of the malt and hops used by participating breweries to be from New York in 2024. (Some breweries operate under a dual license to make use of the incentives, and still have the possibility to brew outside the law’s parameters.)
You can sense an English inspiration in the brewery’s ale-heavy lineup. Bitter, ESB, Brown Ale and Stout are all common. A Cream Ale too, reflecting New York’s brewing heritage. Some of these periodically appear on cask. But they typically describe their beers in a way that avoids the English connection. These are not meant to be “British-style” beers as they are a product of a different regional agriculture and tradition.
The brewery is also making some well-done Lager. It’s with some of these that you might find the New York grain and hops express themselves most.
Strong Rope’s original location is cozy. It’s on a quiet street in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood. While it was a great place to start and has charm for a neighborhood taproom, it posed challenges for production (deliveries, tanks, etc.) and on-site sales slowed in warmer months as they lacked an outdoor space.
The search for a new facility led to what is arguably the best taproom location in New York City. Their new Red Hook facility opened in the summer of 2021 on the Brooklyn waterfront with a view of the Statue of Liberty. The bulk of the brewery’s production now happens here.
The bones of the space are industrial, but the taproom area is spacious, warm and inviting. Sahler is hoping to install solar panels on the roof. Energy efficiency and waste reduction are part of the ethos of the operation.
With a completely different backdrop, Strong Rope has a lakefront outpost in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. This seasonal facility opened at Potters Resort on Blue Mountain Lake in 2019 and has returned every summer since.
Strong Rope has three Apollonia deliveries planned for this summer. Sahler hopes to one day celebrate this initiative with a fest when the boat makes a delivery to Brooklyn. Perhaps with the Apollonia anchored in front of his brewery. The vision of a beer fest on the Brooklyn waterfront with a schooner and the Statue of Liberty in the background sounds idyllic. I’m in.