In the beginning . . .
Hey all, it's me John LaPolla co-owner of Bitter & Esters. Well, they got me. This here is my first blog post ever. When I was a kid there were no such things as blogs, we called them diaries and nobody read them. The only time anyone said the word blog is if they were trying to say the word block with a head cold. As in "I'm gonna hit you upside the head wit dis blog." Hopefully, we’ll be hitting you in the head with awesome beer stuff, not blocks. I decided to start writing this blog to help connect you, the reader, with Bitter & Esters, the store. We are all about fostering community here and I thought it would be fun to provide some insight into all the crazy comings and goings, people and beer, that happens in a Brooklyn brew shop/ brew on premises. I'll be talking about the cool events that we have coming up and what goes behind setting those events up. Every once in a while I will highlight our employees and customers and tell you about the cool stuff they are up to. Also, I will give some practical brewing tips and answer any and all questions you might have. Today I will start at the beginning . . . A little about myself. I am originally from Smithtown Long Island. I have had many jobs including layout artist, record store clerk, photo lab tech, but I mostly (for 23 years!) ran offset printing presses. I moved out of New York to the Poconos in 1989. I didn't have my first "good" beer until I visited London in 1987 and had a proper English Bitter. Wow! That was a game changer. In 1991, I was visiting a good friend of mine, Tom Clark, in California and I went to my first ever craft beer festival (there were five beers pouring and I was in heaven). At the festival Tom told me that we could brew our own beer! What? We both got Charlie Papazian's Joy of Homebrewing and that started that. There was limited information and even less availability of ingredients back then. I bought my supplies from a guy who sold out of his garage in Nazareth PA. He insisted on hand milling everything which took forever, but he would give you a beer while you waited and it was worth it. I brewed monthly and really enjoyed the hobby. I was pursuing a career in music at the time (while printing during the day) and home brewing was a great way to have some fun and get some great beer. Back then there wasn't a great deal of good beer to be found, you had to make it yourself. After 12 years in the Poconos, I decided to make a career change. I moved to Brooklyn in February 2001 with my girlfriend Carla to pursue a career in post production audio for film and television. I went to school for this and ended up joining a film group called The Shallow Wastebin Project. It was in this group that I met my future business partner Douglas Amport. Douglas is from Wisconsin and went to school for theater. When I met him he was working as a video producer. Around this time, I got a part time night job as a post production sound editor (still printing during the day). A bunch of us from the film group became fast friends and started to do projects outside the group. One of these projects was a band called Soy Dracula, the world's greatest vegetarian vampire punk rock opera. I played the lead (in full vampire costume) and Douglas was one of our videographers. We also produced a monthly punk rock show called Grind My Gears at the Pyramid club on Avenue A. Douglas played bass in a band at this time called Pile of Kittens. They played Grind My Gears every month. I produced their album. Both bands have records on Spotify, check’em out! All the while, Douglas and I were still brewing beer and our friends loved it. We discovered that we worked well together and we also had a great group of friends that have always been above and beyond supportive. I ended up quitting film because my brain couldn't take it anymore! So I was still printing... One day in September of 2010, at the Atlantic Antic festival in Brooklyn, Douglas and I were drinking some beers and he turned to me and said let's open a home brew shop. I loved brewing beer, Douglas was great at making things happen, so I said sure. The idea was to be a well stocked shop with great educational aspects in the form of classes and customer service. I also wanted the store to be a Brew on Premises. My brother had been to one in California and it sounded like a lot of fun. So Bitter & Esters was born! With help from Carla and Amanda (Douglas' wife) and a half dozen of our friends we made it happen. We started teaching our Brewshop 101 class at NYC Resistor in Boerum Hill Brooklyn. NYC Resistor is a hacker collective that teaches people all sorts of cool diy (do-it-yourself) science stuff in an old brewery. Douglas' friend Raphael was one of the founders of NYC Resistor and he loved our energy. We taught monthly classes there until we opened our current space in Prospect Heights. In May 2011 we found the perfect spot close to where we both lived. A ton of elbow grease went into this project from building shelves to sanding the floor. Our doors opened in July of 2011. Our goal was and will always be to foster community within the world of NYC home brewing. Right away we started meeting brewers in our neighborhood and from other parts of New York and beyond. We love our customers and we love our store. Douglas and I are proud of what has been achieved in a relatively short time. Of course it has been a learning experience but it has also been very rewarding. We have met some of the coolest people and have drank some of the best beers ever. It is great to see the homebrewing community getting bigger in NYC and all the new breweries opening. The quality has been outstanding. It's a good thing I like beer so much! And what of my good friend Tom Clark in California? He opened a brewery in San Jose California called the Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company. They make one of the best ipa's I've ever tasted. And that my friends is an abbreviated version of how it all began. In future posts I will talk more about what goes on here daily, tell you about beers that customers bring (which is a lot), share recipes and tell you about events. We have some really cool events and a special guest coming up, next post.... If you have any ideas or would like me to cover a subject in particular please contact me through the comments or at email@example.com