Sixpoint Brewery, nestled in Red Hook behind a big, green farmhouse gate with the yellow Sixpoint star emblazoned proudly above, has been responsible for some of our favorite local beers since 2005. Its location near the water also placed the brewery in one of the most flooded neighborhoods in Brooklyn. (This photo showing waters in Red Hook before the storm even hit was taken three streets away.) A week later, Sixpoint now has power, and is working hard to get the brewery up and running. “Shining on once again! Once we have gas restored and finish with the remaining repairs, we'll be brewing again,” said their most recent Facebook update.
Sixpoint has exclusive brews on tap in eateries like Roberta’s in Williamsburg, and their beers are turning up in locations all over the U.S. (Texas, Chicago, and Florida in just the past year). “The neat thing in New York,” says Sixpoint community ambassador Kristen Ridenour, “is that the shelf life of a resident is about 5 years, so they spend however long drinking us, and then they bring that back to wherever they are from. You always wear that on your sleeve, that you spent five years in Brooklyn.”
Sixpoint welcomed its first female brewer this fall, Heather McReynolds, whom we talked to right before Sandy stormed into town. Fresh out of the brewing room, in a black Sixpoint tee and pink galoshes, McReynolds explained why she came to Sixpoint and what it’s like sloshing around with the gents all day.
So what drew you to Sixpoint? You’re from Florida, and then Georgia.
I came up here for an interview and met Pete [Dickson], the head brewer, and Jan [Matysiak], the brewmaster, and we all really jived. Sixpoint is also in this interesting transitional phase; they are really growing. Pete told me, ‘We can make this whatever we want it to be. We can make it our own kind of thing,’ and I was really interested in that. Sixpoint wasn’t in Florida or Georgia then, the first time I had it was when I got up here.
How did you get into craft beer?
Okay, so I’ll start at the beginning of beer. At University of Florida, I started going to this beer bar, it was the only beer bar in Gainesville. They had about 300 different beers, and up until that point everything I’d had was Miller and Bud. I didn’t realize beer could be great, I thought it was just crappy. I worked there for 2 and a half years, and that’s where I learned all the different styles and kinds of beer. Then I moved to Georgia and got a job at the Cannon Brewpub in Columbus, GA. I trained with the brewer for about two weeks and then he quit, so I was in charge of the brewing. I was brewing there for a year and a half.
What’s a typical day at Sixpoint like for you?
I usually get in at 8 am. I try to get here before 7:30 am, if I’m brewing that day—we alternate brew days because it gets a little exhausting. Like any house, there’s also stuff that’s gotta be maintained, and the brewers are the ones who are here every day. Every tank and hose has to be cleaned and sanitized between each use, and the tanks have to be pumped full with C02 to keep oxygen away from the beer.
How long before you would feel comfortable enough to try out a new recipe, or dabble around with one of the current ones?
Oh, that already happens now. Part of the process is that we all have input on the process. We also have a small 25-barrel system in the brewery that we can use to try something out or play around, so I might brew on that, just to have it in house. There has to be a demand before we make a beer, we can’t just make beer because we feel like it. There has to be somebody out there who wants to buy it.
Is there a beer that you like most?
No, it’s kind of just what I’m in the mood for. I like our Spice of Life beers—they are single hop IPAs, which means we use only one hop in the beer, so you get a really good idea of what that hop tastes like. It’s really fun for us beer nerds. But every beer is appropriate for a different environment. I’m not going to drink Budweiser on a daily basis, I’m not going to go home from work and have one, but sometimes, like at a dive bar, or a hot day on the beach, sometimes a Budweiser is good too.
All the other brewers at Sixpoint are men, and this is true at most breweries. Is it weird for you?
I gotta say, for people who are in the brewing industry, they have no problem with the fact that I am a lady. It’s just, ‘Oh you’re a brewer? Okay cool.’ They don’t even give it a second thought. It’s only people outside of the industry, and basically old white guys, who have a problem with it. But anyone who is in the industry, they know what I do on a day-to-day basis, because everyone has the same job, and they know that anybody can do it, you just have to be willing to get dirty.
For more info: www.sixpoint.com
Sixpoint Brewery Tour