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Hip Hop and Dry-Hopped, Say Hello to Brooklyn’s Interboro

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The IPAs from Interboro Spirits & Ales are the juiciest thing out of BK since Biggie.

NYC is home to a special class of juicy IPAs from breweries like Other Half, Grimm, Threes, and Finback. They deliver an only-in-New York experience much like bagels or pizza. But we’ve yet to see any of the NYC juicebombs leave the 5 Boroughs, until now... Say hello to Brooklyn’s Interboro Spirits & Ales!

Personally, I’m excited as hell. I used to live in Brooklyn, so I miss the signature BK juiciness and the hiphop playing in taprooms. After I had the pleasure of drinking Interboro’s Mad Fat Anniversary IPA -- which I gave an unusually high 4.75 on Untappd -- I called up Interboro owner/brewer Jesse Furguson to chew his ear off about how hyped I am that they’re working with Tavour. We get to share their hop juice with our members around the country!

So why Brooklyn? Are you from there?

I’ve lived in NYC since 99’ but grew up in Colorado. My business partner, Laura, and I met through my wife’s nephew -- she was looking to open a distillery, and I a brewery. In July of 2016 we got our steam boiler turned on, and now we have a full team involved in every aspect of our distilling and brewing business. We’re coming up on our 2 year anniversary this September.

Do you feel like NYC has its own style of IPA? Is it something in the water or is there anything else that links the hoppy beers from breweries like Threes, Other Half, Grimm, and you guys at Interboro?

Definitely here in Brooklyn, and I’d also include Queens LIC Beer Project and Singlecut. Maybe it’s in the water, maybe it’s a slightly drier version of the NE-Style. If you asked me a year ago I’d say that it was definitely a drier style. But it’s been getting sweeter, and as the NE IPA movement has spread across the country, a lot of the finer distinctions have disappeared. But I do still think NY has its own unique IPA style, it’s just very hard to define.

Did Mad Fat Anniversary make you feel like a musician, like you made a #1 single and now you have to keep topping yourself?

We do so many one-offs, there’s a lot of excitement around trying a beer that’s never been brewed before and will likely never be made again. We just brewed ill Plus Matic, repeating the series with different hops. The next one’s in the works and features Citra and Mosaic.

So many breweries are jam band or metal themed; do you think you stand out as a hip hop themed brewery?

I’ve DJ’d, been in management at record labels, and worked in hip hop for years. In craft beer there’s a lot of metal and hippy jam band stuff. Like how Terrapin’s name and branding identity was all originally based on a Grateful Dead album called Terrapin Station. When I was at Carton in New Jersey, my one rule was no Phish! Other Half was the first place other than Carton where hearing hip hop was a regular thing. Our link to hip hop is more of a whimsical part of Interboro, not the core, but definitely a part of our image. In the craft beer scene, lifestyle marketing is an important part of having a personal identity, and hip hop is definitely part of ours. It’s voting with your dollars and supporting people and the community.

There isn’t much of a craft beer connection with hip hop, fans are mostly drinking macro beer and hard liquor. Do you think you’re making an impact on the scene?

Yeah, there’s a lot of Hennessy and Heineken ties to the mainstream rap scene. We are introducing craft beer to hip hop fans on a small scale, but the culture won’t fully embrace it until there are more Black brewers and owners in craft beer.

Run the Jewels opened us up to non-beer nerds. The collab we did with them, Legend Has It, was built to be super accessible. It’s not for just beer nerd beers, but for everyone in the sun at an outdoor show, or in the club to sip on and keep drinking for hours. It’s a taste explosion as you slow down your drinking, and as it warms, it evolves and tastes even better. We’re trying to educate the consumer – so craft beer is not seen as snobby but as delivering more flavor. It’s a completely different experience than drinking a High Life, where you have ten minutes or less to finish it while it’s cold and still tastes good.

How did the Run The Jewels collab come about?

When I was GM at Def Jux I became friends with El P who co-founded the label and is half of Run The Jewels. When they did a concert here in NYC at Terminal 5, RTJ asked us to make a beer for the show. It was such a hit that they then asked us to do it on a larger scale for their whole tour. And I was like, “we don’t make beer in large enough quantities to do that.” So we did collabs around the country to make beer at each location on the tour. Doug from Burial helped us with the first collab in North Carolina -- that beer (Stay Gold) was named the #1 IPA by Draft Magazine. Pitchfork was launching their own beer website so they got involved, too. Then we partnered with Pipeworks from Chicago, and also Creature Comforts in Athens, Georgia.

Have you done other music collabs?

Back in 2007 I was working with a group called Junk Science and we teamed-up with Sixpoint Brewing. This was already at the point where MP3s had taken over and no one was using CDs, but we did a deal where whenever anyone bought a growler of this beer they’d get a free Junk Science mixtape CD. We sold enough beer we were able to use the money to put them on tour with Del The Funky Homosapien.

I heard that you also did a collab with Mumford. How did that come about?

Mumford is two brothers, Pete and Todd. Todd used to be a DJ/ Producer for Murs and Living Legends. I’d met him almost a decade earlier but we didn’t keep in touch. When he came into Interboro one time, we were playing a record that he produced. That coincidental moment sparked a convo that helped us realize we had worked together back in the day. We’ve done 4 beers back and forth at each of our breweries since then.

What about on the spirits side of Interboro, what have been your standouts?

We’re known for our canned gin and tonics -- we have a traditional and a hibiscus. It’s been fun to bring other craft brewers in to explore distillation, showing them how we make a mash for distilling. Sometimes our collabs include a beer and a distillate from the mash -- we did this with Transmitter and Pipeworks. Pulling the curtain back on the whole process of distilling for other brewers can be really eye-opening for a lot of them.

What do you have planned for your 2 year anniversary coming up?

We’re definitely doing something with Mad Fat Anniversary; maybe we’ll flip it on its head with new hops or a new malt bill. We’ve also been pushing hard on the Pils, Lager, Kellerbier front, so we’ll likely do something in that style range for our anniversary as well.

I can't wait!


Written by Dylan Kasprzyk

Featured image from the Interboro Facebook Page

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