Cheers to an important debut

It was a first for Brooklyn, and lovers of craft beverages were among the beneficiaries.

Over the weekend of October 3 and 4, CHEERS NY – the brainchild of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Empire State Development Corporation and Taste NY – debuted in a handsome, industrial-chic space in Sunset Park’s Industry City.

The festive two-day event provided event-goers (who paid $50 per person) with the opportunity to sample the wares of breweries, wineries and distilleries from the borough and across New York as well as some of the culinary creations of Brooklyn manufacturers, in a concurrently-run Brooklyn Eats marketplace.

Those who attended could enjoy a three-hour tasting session with approximately 40 beverage manufacturers, including 19 based in Brooklyn, offering up their wares. These included the borough’s Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn Winery, the Coney Island Brewing Company and Industry City Distillery.

In the nearby Marketplace, Brooklyn manufacturers – some brand-new, some deeply embedded in the borough — including chocolate-makers Raaka, Tumbador and Jo-Mart, bakers like Brooklyn Cupcake, Damascus and Aunt Butchie’s, and some manufacturers that defy characterization (Mama O’s Kimchi and Brooklyn Bangers) – were able to strut their stuff, and shine.

“We brought together some of the best wines, beers and distilled liquors from across the state, in one place, in Brooklyn,” noted Chamber President Carlo Scissura. “We wanted to showcase that you can make in Brooklyn and you can make in New York State and be successful. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring everybody together. It was really exciting. Nothing like this has ever been done.”

How successful was the concept? By the Friday before opening, the event had almost sold out, according to Scissura, who said that, at that point, there were a few tickets left for Sunday only.

“This shows there’s a desire in Brooklyn to learn about what’s being made in Brooklyn,” Scissura noted, stressing, “This is a growing trend in New York City, employing thousands and thousands of New Yorkers in very good-paying jobs. Our job is to keep them in Brooklyn.”

Both the craft beverage makers and the small batch food makers represent something that is growing at Industry City, what the complex’s CEO Andrew Kimball calls “the innovation economy.” Stressing that it was “exploding,” Kimball said the phenomenon had resulted in “a new wave of job creation in New York and a new way that people are moving into the middle class.”

Within Industry City, approximately two million square feet of space – that, said Kimball had “lain fallow” for years – has already been leased, out of a total of six million, with 2,000 jobs created, on the way, he predicted, to 10,000.

There are in Industry City, said Kimball, “over 400 tenants” in a “broad range” of fields, including art, design, technology, all of whom “feed off each other.

“At its core,” Kimball went on, “is food.”

A key to that are the commercial kitchens that have been welcomed into the complex, now numbering more than 25, and all with a retail window and open to the public “so people could see what was being made.”

Nor is Sunset Park alone in attracting such tenants. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is also a nexus of small scale manufacturing, and other, similar businesses are opening up, said Scissura, in Red Hook, Bushwick and Williamsburg as well.

“I’m so psyched about what’s going on in Brooklyn,” added Peter Meyer, the Chamber’s former chair. “This is about all of Brooklyn. This is an amazing thing, and Brooklyn is the best city in the United States.”

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