Growlers, or half-gallon bottles of draught beer, date back to the late 1800s, when folks bought fresh beer from a pub and took it home in small, galvanized pails or buckets. Through WWII, young children would bring pails of beer from pubs to factories at lunchtime, or home to their parents for dinner, a practice called “rushing the growler.”
Though no one knows for sure why they were called “growlers,” one theory has it that they were named for the rumbling noise of CO2 escaping through the lid, while another claims the moniker came from the grumbling stomachs of hungry factory workers waiting for their lunchtime beer.
Whatever the etymology, growlers have certainly made the scene here in Williamsburg. Enter Graham Avenue’s Beer Street, near Withers Street, an intimate shop of unique beer and beer items from all over the world. Owner and operator Lorcan Precious, 32, says, “The growler model has really been growing for a couple of years. It’s a nice neighborhood thing, to be able to stop in and bring home fresh beer.”
Designed by the now popular Haslegrave brothers (Paulie Gee’s, Manhattan Inn), Beer Street is an incredible vision of past and present beer purveyors with beautiful light fixtures, bisected half-keg shells built into floor-to-ceiling shelving, not to mention the steampunk taps featuring a rotating selection of ten beers for growlers at three sizes: the traditional 64 oz., a half-size 32 oz., and a pint-size option for patrons who may like to assemble their own draught six-packs.
Precious, who was born in Ireland, is passionate about two things: beer and basketball. He played basketball in high school and college, and then spent five years playing professionally for teams in Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and France. “It was a great way to travel—and a great way to try different beers,” he adds with a grin.
With his summers free during the off-season, he would return to Connecticut, where his parents settled, and work in Manhattan at the family bar, The Ginger Man, on East 36th Street, which boasts an impressive 70 beers on tap.
“I was getting more and more into just finding new and different beers,” says Precious. “And I think now there’s a whole community of people who are getting into that. It’s something that I could do and share with people…look for these interesting beers and bring them into the city and give people the opportunity to try something they’ve never had before.”
In addition to draughts, Beer Street stocks bottled beer, bar snacks by local culinary creative Ovenly, and tobacco products. “I’ve got friends who are pipe smokers,” Precious explains. “We have pipe tobacco and we’ll have some cigars and things that you don’t find at bodegas or every smoke shop.”
Precious’s business partner, a home-brewer and “soon-to-be-professional brewer,” Pete Lengyel, has apprenticed at the Brooklyn Brewery as well as Harpoon Brewery in Vermont. When I ask Precious if he makes his own home brew, he laughs, saying, “I’ve tried. It’s something everyone should try. You learn so much about beer from going through the brewing process. Beer is really versatile.
There’s just such a range of what you can do with it—from pilsners to stouts. You can be so creative. It’s fascinating stuff.”
Always seeking out new and interesting beers, Precious has just returned from visiting the Element Brewing Company in Miller Falls, Massachusetts, and will feature their beers alongside those from Lightening Brewery (San Diego) and a menu of beers from two breweries in Montreal, Le Trou du Diable and Le Biliboquet. For the less adventurous beer drinker, local brewery Six Point and California’s Sierra Nevada will be available, as well. But if you keep an open mind, and are willing to experiment, Precious says you’ll almost certainly discover something you really like.
“Beer can be such a range of styles and flavors and taste profiles. I actually like that challenge, when someone says, ‘Oh I don’t like beer.’” He grins and continues: “We’ll find a beer that you like. We can find something for everybody.”
413 Graham Avenue