At the height of when craft beer was becoming an obsession in the United States, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø founded Evil Twin, a brand that shot to the top of the beer geek world. It had a certain elusiveness: It was a gypsy production, or one without a permanent space, and his limited-run beers were unique, incorporating unusual ingredients like olive or beetroot. It gained fervent fans, and Jarnit-Bjergsø became somewhat of a celebrity.
But now, he’s ready to widen his reach beyond those who salivate over each new release with his first brewery, Evil Twin Brewing, open today at 1616 George Street, between Wyckoff and Cypress avenues in Ridgewood, Queens. The hope, he says, is for it to be just as much of a casual “hangout” as it is a destination for the brand’s most obsessive followers.
It’s all part of Jarnit-Bjergsø’s efforts to elevate New York’s beer scene, which he says is still dramatically behind others across the country — he moved here in 2012 when only Sixpoint and Brooklyn Brewery had breweries for people to visit. There’s been an encouraging growth spurt in recent years, but Jarnit-Bjergsø still thinks New York has a long way to go to catch up with the number of breweries open in cities in California or the South.
Since more breweries have opened since then, he focused on what he could add to the scene. “A lot of people make great beer,” so opening an interesting taproom to complement Evil Twin’s offerings became his goal, he says.
“The taproom experience is getting more and more important in this competitive market. While you could five years ago open whatever taproom and people would show up just because it was a brewery, it’s not the case anymore,” he says. “You have to make it attractive for people to come out not just for the beer, but something else also.”
Thus, the taproom is housed in a glass-enclosed greenhouse designed by architecture firm Kushner Studios, filled with wooden picnic tables and and stools around the bar that seat 76. There will be programming like live music, and a basement room will be used for film screenings and other events. A coffee shop with Sey Coffee will soon open at 7 a.m. so people can make use of the space all day, and a speakeasy-like cocktail bar is also on the horizon. More picnic tables sit outside for 185 people, as will rotating food trucks.
The extra amenities are to make sure that Evil Twin Brewing will be “not only beer nerds sitting here sniffing their beer,” Jarnit-Bjergsø says, but also families and neighborhood locals and people who have never heard of the brand. “I want it to be a hangout.”
But beer geeks will find plenty to love here, too. Evil Twin is known for experimenting with uncommon ingredients and flavors, and 20 taps on the opening lineup include ones made with banana and fig purees, mango, and even marshmallow. The names are as idiosyncratic as the ingredients, phrases such as “Today’s Forecast: Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups” and “That Yoga Studio Used to Be a Really Cool Dive Bar.” Jarnit-Bjergsø says lagers and pilsners are becoming hip again in beer circles, and since they appeal to a wider audience too, there will be four lagers on the menu at all times.
The brewery is Jarnit-Bjergsø’s latest step in influencing the beer scene in NYC, where he first made his name by opening well-respected Greenpoint beer bar Tørst with his wife Maria Jarnit-Bjergsø. He’s since been brewing Evil Twin in gypsy locations while securing the $4 million necessary — through a bank loan and Evil Twin profits — to open the brewery, again with his wife.
“I make beer because I want to create the best beer I can and show the world that beer can do a lot that has not been done before,” he says. “If you can move to New York and make an impact and change things and help build something up, that was very attractive for me. It’s a good challenge.”
Evil Twin Brewing is now open Monday through Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday from 2 p.m. to midnight, Friday from noon to midnight, Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.