By Beau Hayhoe
New York – The journey to starting up a brewery is often one that begins long before the beer itself begins to flow, long before celebratory rounds are actually ordered at bars. For Anthony Accardi and Robert Kolb, getting beer from Transmitter Brewing on shelves and in bars actually began, one might say, as they bonded over homebrewing together in the mid-to-late aughts in Brooklyn.
What started as the duo brewing 50 gallons of beer a weekend in a Greenpoint basement led to them self-funding their own operation. Sorting through piles of paperwork and permits followed thereafter and eventually the beer began to flow – the ultimate payoff after lots of hard work, but just the first of many steps when starting up a young brewing operation.
Accardi now devotes all his time to Transmitter, but Kolb juggles his duties with serving as the creative director of an NYC ad agency.
Since getting up and running with a three-barrel operation in March of 2014, the brewery’s offerings have found their way onto the shelves of Whole Foods supermarkets in New York City as well as into the Boston area in recent months – quite the reach for an operation still classified as a nanobrewery.
The 6-barrel brewery based out of an unassuming warehouse space beneath an overpass in Long Island City has developed a significant cult following in the New York – and Northeast – region in the past year. That following is largely based on the strength of its specialty beers.
Specifically, Transmitter does a lower-alcohol style of beer – the farmhouse ale – particularly well, according to beer geeks and experts alike. And right beneath its red-lettered logo, you’ll find that very phrase.
Farmhouse ales are renowned for their flavor complexity despite their low alcohol content, and were originally brewed for field workers to drink throughout the day as a means of hydration – meaning that low alcohol content is key.
And among New York breweries, few – if any – have dedicated as much to farmhouse ales as Transmitter has, with great success.
Its beers are named with numbers and letters, making them all the more unique – G1 is a crisp, single-hop golden ale, for example, while beers marked with an F use wild yeast – similar to a saison, or farmhouse ale, but different in a uniquely Transmitter way.
Such beer has caught on in recent years, and havens like Birreria — a Manhattan rooftop garden that filled several tap lines with Transmitter beer at a special event in May – provide a unique means to pick up a pint of the style.
A recent distribution deal with Hunterdon Brewing Co. will also spread the beer throughout the state of New Jersey – a move that dovetails nicely with the brewery’s recent purchase of two 18-barrel systems set to be delivered in August.
“(We) started small just to see where it was going to end,” Accardi said. “The growth feels pretty organic.”
Indeed, the beer has gained notoriety as much for its quality as for its more niche approach. And participating in the occasional appearance on popular NYC-based beer podcast Beer Sessions Radio has only spread the word among Manhattan beer drinkers about the operation.
“It’s what we like to drink,” Accardi said. “It also makes some sense to specialize.”
The process of pushing out the beer isn’t as glamorous as enjoying it might entail, however – Accardi handles the deliveries himself, while one part-time worker helps out the duo in the brewery. Volunteers are enlisted through the brewery’s Facebook page to assist with bottling, a process that moves quickly in about two or three hours.
The operation wastes no beer, Accardi said. “We sell what we make, and people like it.”
A small tasting room draws in visitors from across New York’s boroughs to try out small samples of beer – no full glasses though, unlike other tasting rooms. The brews can also be found at popular hops haunts like Beer Culture – a literal beer oasis not far from Times Square that’s one of Transmitter’s biggest buyers.
On the revenue end of the operation, a monthly subscription service provides multiple bottles of beer per month to paying members, while wholesale deliveries to bars and stores fill out the rest. Meeting the unique demands of producing beer and then delivering it is an endeavor that frequently tests the transition time between the two concepts. For example, beers developed with certain months, seasons, flavors or release dates in mind can require as much as a year’s lead time.
Add into that process the necessary approvals required for bottle labels for each separate beer (put together by a designer friend of the brand) and the operation becomes much more complex than simply waiting for the hops to mature.
“A lot of people don’t realize how involved it is,” Kolb said.
The challenges of the New York City real estate industry in general are also apparent to the team. As much as a brewery is about the beer, it’s also been about paperwork, permits, real estate and the costs associated with those concepts, Kolb said.
Had the brewery been started later – say, this year – costs might have prevented the team from finding the space they needed, both said. Luckily, Transmitter is now planning to expand its operations within its current location, giving the business the literal space it needs to brew, store and ultimately sell more beer.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Transmitter – besides its crisp, warm-weather friendly beers – is Accardi’s philosophy. Regardless of season, there’s a time for every beer – according to him, one can indeed drink a lower ABV beer in the dead of winter, or a thicker stout around a campfire in summer. Transmitter does tweak its beers accordingly as the seasons change, ensuring drinkers have a nice flow of the brewery’s product.
Ultimately, Accardi says, “you grab a beer and you’re happy to be drinking it.”
Beau is a fashion PR pro and #menswear nerd exploring the world of men’s style from 9 to 5 and beyond in Brooklyn, NY. A proud graduate of Michigan State University, you can find him shopping or drinking craft beer — often at the same time.