UnCapped: Other Half Brewing

·5 min read

Jul. 27—In this episode of the UnCapped podcast, host Chris Sands headed to Fourscore Beer Co. to meet with co-owner Matt Monahan and director of experience Geriz Ramirez from Other Half Brewing. They talked about the early days of Other Half Brewing, the design philosophy of their labels, the role collaboration beers play and the expansion they have gone through. Here is an edited excerpt of their talk.

UnCapped: Matt, what were you during before Other Half Brewing? What led up to that?

Matt Monahan: I was a brewer at Greenpoint Beer works with my other partner, Sam Richardson.

UnCapped: How long had you been brewing there?

Monahan: I brewed there for a little over a year.

UnCapped: How did you get into brewing to begin with?

Monahan: My wife got me into beer around 2005, when we met. I was a cook before I was a brewer. I brewed a lot of stuff at night, after service was over. It just sort of spiraled out of control from there, so I made the jump from cooking to brewing.

UnCapped: What was your first home brew like? Was it drinkable?

Monahan: No. Terrible.

UnCapped: OK, good, because everyone who tells me how good it was, I think they're lying — unless they brewed their first time with seasoned home brewers.

Monahan: Yeah, I think at one point, I brewed a beer with smoked malt — 100% smoked malt from Catoctin Distillery — and it was pretty awful. It was really disgusting, and I actually sent it to people. When we were opening the brewing, everyone I'd sent that to, I thought, "We can't ask them for money."

UnCapped: When you decided to go into professional brewing, did you go into that with the idea that you wanted to open your own brewery?

Monahan: The end goal was always to be self-employed. I didn't know how it was gonna go.

UnCapped: What size brewhouse did Other Half open with?

Monahan: Two-vessel 15 [barrel].

UnCapped: Now what are you brewing on at that original location?

Monahan: Now it's a two-vessel 30-barrel.

UnCapped: How many locations are you up to?

Monahan: We brew at Center Street, the original location. We have a five-barrel system at Domino Park [in Brooklyn, New York], our bar. We have a 10-barrel, two-vessel at our Finger Lakes location, where we do all the mix fermentation. We have a 30-vessel 10 in Philadelphia. And then D.C. is a four-vessel 30. We're the kings at expanding and still installing under-sized brewhouses. It wouldn't happen without the teams we have at each spot. They make it all work.

UnCapped: And you all did this during a time of economic uncertainty.

Monahan: Owning a brewery, it's always uncertain, so it's never not felt like that for us, especially with the unbridled expansion through COVID. But it's grown really fast.

UnCapped: Where did the name Other Half come from?

Monahan: I think we always just sort of described it as being the "other half" of the industry. When we opened, it was even more lopsided. We felt like there was enough demand out there of people wanting something more than what they could find on a regular basis. I wish it went deeper than that.

UnCapped: Do you have aspirations to open more locations, or do you feel like this is as big as you want to go?

Monahan: I think we have a responsibility to dial in what we've done. I think to do anything larger than what we've done would be crazy.

UnCapped: I can't even do the math. How much beer do you put out a year?

Geriz Ramirez: A lot. Enough.

UnCapped: I dunno, some people may argue "not enough," because people still have trouble getting your beer.

Monahan: It's a good problem. I think we've done a really good job of trying to meet demand and not trying to stay far behind it. We're bursting at the seams with our capacity now.

UnCapped: What is your footprint for distribution?

Ramirez: We're kind of global right now.

UnCapped: Did you start out at the beginning with packaged products, or was it taproom only and people having to go to you to get it?

Monahan: When we started in New York, you couldn't even do direct to consumer. We didn't even have a bar. We were a wholesale-only model when we opened. The Craft Act passed in May 2014, which was probably the biggest thing to ever happen to craft beer in New York, and that's when you saw the total explosion of small breweries, because you could grow and sustain growth by selling direct to consumers, selling cans out the front door. Iron Heart made that possible for us. We were one of their first accounts. I think it was our second release that there were 14 people outside, and I was like, "Oh my God, there's 14 people outside." It was really exciting to see that.

Ramirez: And a year later, it was 200 people outside. Two years later, there was 836 people.

This excerpt has been edited for space and clarity. Listen to the full podcast at fnppodcasts.com/uncapped. Got UnCapped news? Email csands@newspost.com.