“A fisherman, a yoga teacher, two art school grads, and a machinist set out to invent the perfect vodka — just because they can,” begins a Narratively piece on Brooklyn’s Industry City Distillery. “Like most of Brooklyn’s craft distillers, the men behind ICD have no background in alcohol.” Five guys walk into a bar — and they want to make your booze even though they have absolutely no experience. Comforting, right?
As told by Susan E. Matthews, it’s slightly more nerdy and charming (and less unnerving) than you’d expect. Founded in 2011, Industry City Distillery consists of a handful of Brooklyn hipsters using fermented beets to try to create vodka that doesn’t taste like Drano. As a sustainable bonus, beets don’t require as much water or space as industry-staple potatoes. According to Matthews, their booze, Industry Standard, has a nice fruity edge and (surprisingly) doesn’t immediately induce vomiting.
Tough job, right? Living the dream in fancyville “testing” booze all day long. But vodka-making isn’t one nonstop frat party. In an effort to make vodka distilling more efficient in all ways, they’ve had to design and build almost all their own equipment from the ground up. “It involves biology, machining, tons of research into physics and chemistry,” cofounder Peter Simon told Narratively. Plus, vodka is only a means to an end: getting shitfaced science experiments.
They want to make a superior ethanol, the chemical component of vodka. Once they’ve done that, they say, they can move on to other things that might not involve alcohol at all.
Their goal, in essence, was to make craft vodka that is profitable enough to finance new ventures. “It sounds cheeky,” says Simon, “but we wanted booze to pay for the science and future research and development.”
If this craft distilling tale gives you a sense of déjà vu, it’s because Brooklyn has seen an influx of micro-distilleries in the past few years. Thanks to pre-sex-scandal-ex-guv Eliot Spitzer, it only costs $15,000 for an annual license now, down from $50,000.
But Industry City Distillery will not let you lump it in with all the rest. It’s already sold several thousand bottles (a 750 ml bomber retails for $35) and it’s not slowing down. “This isn’t cutesy Brooklyn,” David Kyrejko told Narratively. “This is a project in efficiency.”
The Great Brooklyn Vodka Experiment, Narratively.
Get Grist in your inbox