Dec. 28, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Alewife, the popular Queens brewpub, finally opened in Sunnyside earlier this month and is looking to overcome the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.
The brewing company, known for its specialty IPAs and craft beers, was expected to open in April but faced construction delays and difficulty getting permits due to the pandemic.
The business is now open at 41-11 39th St. but the operators face restrictions.
Alewife was first established in Long Island City in 2011 and had expected to operate in both Long Island City and Sunnyside but the spread of COVID-19 undermined those plans.
Patrick Donagher, who owns the company with Keir Hamilton and other investors, said COVID-19 restrictions prompted them to shutter their Long Island City operation and hampered their ability to open their Sunnyside venue.
With rising rents and indoor dining restrictions, the Long Island City operation was no longer economically viable, Donagher said. Therefore, he said, they decided to move their entire operation to Sunnyside.
They faced delays, however, in opening their Sunnyside establishment. They struggled to get the equipment needed to set up the brewery delivered.
“It stopped construction and slowed down our permitting and licensing approvals,” Donagher said. “It put us way behind schedule and over budget.”
The new 10,000 square foot facility opened earlier this month and Alewife is now brewing at the site. The facility produces a wide range of ales and lager that the company distributes throughout the New York region.
The establishment also features a taproom, where residents can enjoy their brews.
Given the latest restrictions, the taproom is closed. However, Alewife is currently open, offering out door service. The operators are also offering takeout and delivery.
Alewife initially opened its Sunnyside venue with several outdoor booths lined up on the roadway outside the front of the premises. Each booth is heated and contains a table and picnic bench.
Two weeks later the owners added additional outdoor space– when the full indoor dining ban went into effect.
The new seating area runs along the sidewalk and is parallel to the booths. There are high stools and wooden beer barrels for tables. The space is also heated.
Donagher, an Irish immigrant from County Donegal, said he has grown frustrated with changing rules and guidelines associated with the pandemic.
“We’ve spent $50,000 on COVID-related expenses, an amount we definitely can’t afford as a new business,” he said.
The opening of Alewife’s new indoor taproom – a major component of its operation – has also been put on hold due to indoor restrictions. The space has 20 taps and holds around 400 people at full capacity. Donagher eventually hopes to have live music and DJs performing at the venue.
“Imagine a German beer hall with communal tables,” he said, when describing the premises.
Donagher said that despite the setbacks he is excited to be open and has been buoyed by the encouragement shown by residents.
“The neighborhood has been amazing, we’re getting so much support from locals, and it’s simply beautiful,” Donagher said.
He said he is trying to return the goodwill to residents and local business owners.
”We’ll support our neighbors as they’ve supported us and we’re excited to be here,” he said.
That support stretches out to local food vendors and restaurant owners, who he is encouraging to sell food outside his premises. Some food vendors have taken him up on his offer, including The Fried Kitchen and Mom’s Momo. Alewife also sells Sigmund’s Pretzels as snacks.
Consumers can wash the food down with some Alewife brand originals including “Thousand Stars,” “Chaos Gose,” and “Social Conditioning.”
The company regularly releases new brews and its latest drink, Death Before Dying, was released two weeks ago. The IPA is brewed with Azacca, Centennial and El Dorado hops.
“Alewife is a very style diverse brewery and we are not afraid to experiment,” Donagher said. The company also ages some of its products with whiskey, gin, and tequila.
Donagher is remaining upbeat after a rollercoaster year and hasn’t lost his Irish sense of humor.
“I’ve lost many things building a brewery during a pandemic,” he said. “I think I’ll miss my mind the most!”
Regular opening hours are Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.