The joy of drinking beer outside among friends is well documented, but a 24-year-old entrepreneur and his partner have found a new way to liven up a celebrated drinking tradition. Gabriele Maurello, who along with partner Tyagi Schwartz cofounded Brooklyn Beer Garden, is banking that this hybrid street art gallery and craft beer garden can help rethink the modern biergarten concept, which has become synonymous with any outdoor patio or rooftop in recent years.
So what makes Brooklyn Beer Garden unique from the venues that hire artists to paint custom murals in an attempt to create an “in” with the neighborhood? Perhaps it’s the narrative that something was literally created out of nothing by a community of artists who were given the creative freedom to follow their own vision.
The first Brooklyn Beer Garden resides in a forgotten lot within the industrial but artistic neighborhood of Bushwick. “The main material used in Brooklyn Beer Garden is pallets. We literally built the place ourselves, blood, sweat, and tears over the course of four months. Once the build-out of the bar was complete, the artists began to come in. From one artist, to five, to 20, we organically created a community,” describes cofounder Maurello, who at the age of 24 has jumped right into the role of co-owner.
However, building an art gallery where guests can purchase artwork while mingling over craft beer works only if you can get people to visit. To gain the attention of the crowd, Maurello relied on his upbringing growing up in a restaurant family.
“My entire childhood consisted of being next to my father in his Italian restaurants,” Maurello recalls. “From peeling carrots in the kitchen to being a busboy, I learned the ins and outs, but one thing my father always told me as a kid was ‘Don’t stop learning how to learn.’”
One of the first moves Maurello made in his career was teaming with Tyagi Schwartz, an experienced entertainment professional who helped Maurello execute the vision that ultimately became Brooklyn Beer Garden. The concept has already branched out of its Bushwick headquarters with a residency at The William Vale Hotel this summer and is also appearing at events like Art Basel in Miami, where Brooklyn Beer Garden plans to visit for the second time later this year.
Though incorporating street art into their space is a trend many business owners have taken advantage of, the idea that artists had the creative freedom to design a beer garden from the ground up that doubles as a gallery is certified original. “Introducing local street artists to our guests, providing them with a marketplace to purchase art and experience a variety of Brooklyn brewed beers and wines, is an excellent extension of the kind of programming we create for the hotel guests and the neighborhood all the time, “ says David Lemmond, the general manager at The William Vale Hotel. The luxury hotel includes a restaurant from chef Andrew Carmellini, a rooftop lounge with skyline views of Manhattan, and a doughnut café from chef Wylie Dufresne, all of which puts Brooklyn Beer Garden in distinguished company.
For the artists, the venue is a safe haven for escaping the usual legalities of decorating someone else’s property, not to mention the typical politics of the art world. Street artists like SacSix and Isabelle Ewing have used the event platform to showcase their talents and sell their artwork. “Even the best street art galleries select and represent only the top 5% of street artists. That leaves a lot of other talented artists out in the cold. The Brooklyn Beer Garden has embraced these street artists and have welcomed them into their art family,” says Miami-born artist SacSix, whose work includes collaborations with Adidas.
It’s this sense of community that differentiates Brooklyn Beer Garden from the city’s countless options. Though using art to attract guests is not new, from some artists’ perspective, most restaurants and bars don’t do a great job. “A lot of restaurants and bars just slap up art on the walls, not putting into consideration their aesthetic. Kudos to them for supporting the arts, but when they do this it can not only make the business look bad but can cheapen the artwork and or take away from the work,” says Brooklyn-based muralist Isabelle Ewing. While it’s understandable that most restaurants would put their resources into food and drink, the visual aesthetic of a dining room plays a crucial role in the overall dining experience.
Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder
However, it’s not just the imagery that makes Brooklyn Beer Garden unique. The selection of beverages are just as important when thinking of ways to stimulate the crowd. In Brooklyn, local craft breweries like Sixpoint and Five Boroughs, along with cider from Brooklyn Cider House and wine from Red Hook Winery, are all available to help guests unwind. Brooklyn Beer Garden even found a way to take advantage of the canned cocktail trend with its very own drink in partnership with All-Wise Meadery called the Brooklyn Mule.
While the concept has proven popular with Brooklyn’s artistic crowd, growing the concept to other cities may prove challenging. In Boston, the popularity of summer beer gardens has caused friction with restaurant owners to the point where the state legislature is considering limiting the number of permits issued to beer garden operators. Like most venues, Brooklyn Beer Garden will have to find creative ways to keep the crowd entertained, which is why putting the focus on building loyalty with artists above all else should come in handy. “A lot of career goals that I had set for myself years ago were accomplished thanks to them, like becoming apart of the Bushwick Collective, showing at Art Basel Miami, painting murals all over the city, the list goes on,” says Ewing. When it comes to where people choose to hang out, sometimes collaboration paints a prettier picture.
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