By Hillary Ojeda
About an hour before the doors to the Queens Beer Festival opened, Bruno Daddi, one of the founders of ICONYC brewery, single-handedly wheeled in two half barrel kegs of Cucumber Saison and Hib-Hop flavored beers, each weighing 160 lbs, when he saw a mass of visitors waiting in line to enter.
The crowd surprised him, but he wasn’t nervous about dropping the beer that he and the two other co-founders of the micro-brewery, Sam Bosrok and Laszlo Fodor, had taken 10 to 14 hours to brew and another two to three weeks to ferment.
“It’s your baby, you have to cradle it with care,” he said about the kegs of beer. “And you can’t stumble. It’s a performance, you have to put on your best display.”
ICONYC, pronounced “iconic,” launched officially in February out of Long Island City–making them the new kids on the block at the borough’s first ever beer festival, which was held on Oct. 15th and 16th. The two-day festival, held in Long Island City, featured 50 market vendors, eight local brewers from Queens and 13 from Brooklyn, Long Island and Staten Island. The festival brought thousands of people together to taste local brews, but it also provided valuable exposure to breweries like ICONYC.
“They probably had the longest line,” Josh Schneps, the festival’s organizer, said about ICONYC’s first day of the event. “People are coming to try unique beer. And [ICONYC] is not carried at as many bars, but they have high quality beer.”
More than 100 locations in New York state carry ICONYC’s saison beers, a style of pale ales. But the festival gave the local company a chance to establish its presence in the competitive microbrewery market and allowed the company to announce that it had just signed a lease to open its first taproom in nearby Astoria.
ICONYC and the other breweries featured at the festival each brought two seasonal flavors to the festival. Singlecut Brewery, Finback Brewery, Rockaway Brewing Company, Coney Island Brewing Company, Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co., and more, served the festival’s visitors everything from IPA’s, pilsners, and toasted lagers to brown and blueberry ales. ICONYC’s contribution: a “Cucumber Saison,” a blend of cucumber, ginger, lime and Himalayan pink salt, and “Hib-Hop,” a mix of hibiscus, rosehip, lemongrass and Sorachi Ace hops.
“It’s funny cuz, it’s got all types of different flavors,” said Glenn Williams from Huntington Long Island as he sipped one of ICONYC’s blends. “It’s got hot dogs…cucumbers. It’s like relish.” Williams and his wife, Susan, thought it was delicious.
Another customer compared the company’s beer to a margarita. “It’s spicy. I like the naturalness about it,” said Rasa Villegas, who with her friend, Xavier Deanfrasio tried both of ICONYC’s flavors.
ICONYC’s owner Daddi said the festival exceeded expectations. By the end of the festival on Sunday evening, he said, ICONYC had served a total of 4 half barrels and 2 sixtel kegs (⅙ of a barrel) of their flavors. Some customers, he said, had to wait 20 minutes to get a taste on the first day.
ICONYC also had to wait to obtain a Farm Brewer’s License, which requires that breweries make their beer using local ingredients. Initially, 20 percent of the brew has to made with ingredients made in New York, and by 2024, the brewery has to increase that figure to at least 90 percent.
The license also gives the microbrewers the ability to open taprooms without needing to get an additional permit. ICONYC’s owners hope to be serving their beer at 34th Avenue and 46th Street in Astoria, just a few blocks from their brewery, by the end of the year. After having the face-to-face interactions with customers about their beer at the festival, the brewers are looking forward to doing that in their own space.
Until they open those doors though, they’ll relish in the success of the festival. Co-founder Fodor said that he and his partners don’t get to hear customer feedback on the spot as they’re trying the beers that often. So the experience was clearly a thumbs up.“I feel good about it,” he said.