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Putting the “micro” in microbrewery
Coney Island, meet your newest sideshow attraction. While Shmaltz Brewing Co. may brew more than 100,000 cases of beer a year, it’s debuting a side project, Coney Island Brewing Co., that claims to be the smallest commercially licensed brewery in the world.
All of Shmaltz’s beers — which include a playful collection of brews featuring unlikely ingredients (pomegranate, for instance) and labels with freak-show imagery — are contract brewed by Mendocino Brewing Co. in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. But recently, Jeremy Cowan, who founded Shmaltz in 1996, got a hankering to dabble in small batches. This summer he officially opened a brewery of his own just steps from Coney Island’s legendary boardwalk. It’s a 175-square-foot box of a space where beer is brewed one gallon at a time in a ramshackle system of pots and burners on full display. “It’s a fun extension of the whole brewery experience,” says manager and art director Matt Polacheck. “We can do whatever we want without having to answer to anyone.”
Beyond sampling Shmaltz’s usual lineup of beers at Coney’s endearingly cluttered sales counter, visitors can sip ever-changing, often one-time-only concoctions. Cowan and his team routinely invite both professional and amateur guest brewers to man the brew kettle, and nothing is too outlandish: Coney’s fridge recently stocked a Belgian-style ale made with apple and toasted coconut. Next up? A beer brewed with New Jersey–grown tomatoes and blueberries.
Polacheck admits there are hits and misses, but that’s the beauty of it. “If something doesn’t work, we’re not flushing 100 barrels of it,” he says. “It’s only a gallon! It will literally go down our drain in no time and be gone.” —BRET STETKA