story by David Diehl, photographs by Kelly Guilfoyle
No matter what Other Half does, whether it’s creating innovative and complex IPAs – or moving from Gotham to Smallville – it’s always fresh and well-received. The craft brewery’s success in Brooklyn is legendary. In 2017, just three years after opening, The New York Times reported that people waited 11 hours to taste Other Half’s special anniversary-edition IPA. This April, under the headline, “Totally Dank and Impossibly Juicy,” New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog named Other Half Brewing Company, “the city’s hottest.”
And now it’s here in the Finger Lakes, in an 8,000-square-foot brewery in Bloomfield. “Other Half Brewing is always taking chances, but we know exactly what we’re doing,” says Brewer Eric Salazar. “It’s a hard balance, man, and it’s really cool.”
To get a taste of what Other Half is bringing us, I sat down with Eric – and with Co-owner/Brewmaster Sam Richardson – to get each of their unique perspectives on all things beer, Brooklyn, Bloomfield, and bacteria.
“We’re ‘the other half’ of the industry. We wanted to be more engaged with people, more engaged with creativity and trying to make really amazing beers instead of industrial lager.” – Sam Richardson
LIFL: Wow, things are really blowing up for Other Half Brewing. Where are you originally from, Sam, and when did you get started in Brooklyn?
Sam: I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, and I moved to New York City 12 years ago. It was really just a matter of looking for something new. I mean, I love my hometown, but I needed some change in my life and my wife is from New York originally.
We opened in January of 2014. We had just under 4,000 square feet and we had the capacity to do 1,000 barrels of beer per year, so that’s what we did.
When we started, we really wanted to make IPA. There wasn’t a whole lot of IPA being made in New York City, so that was a big part of our portfolio.
We make more IPA now then I imagined we would.
We probably made a larger variety of styles in the beginning, but we definitely listen to what the customers are asking for. We also make stouts, imperial stouts, and fruit sours, and we still make things like pilsner and helles occasionally.
How did you come up with the name Other Half?
New York City is a really hard place for manufacturing. We didn’t want to have a New York City-related name and then have to move out of the city because we couldn’t afford it anymore. We started spit-balling some ideas, and this name just stuck. For us, it speaks to what our brewery’s position is in the beer world, which is this: there is a lot of flawlessly made beer out there and we wanted to be the “other half” of that.
What attracted you to the Finger Lakes – what’s the craft beer scene here at the moment?
I can see that it is growing pretty quickly. There are definitely a lot of breweries and I see new ones popping up all of the time. It’s a very beer-focused area and people are really into it. We look forward to its continued growth and continuing to get better.
One thing that I really like about it is that it is a very connected beer community. From my experience, all of the members of the beer world up here communicate very well and seem to share a lot.
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if people would be upset that we were coming, and now I feel that everyone has been very supportive. I appreciate that a lot.
Our goal is not to come in and dominate a beer scene. It’s more about that we saw a good opportunity to bring our beer to the rest of the state instead of only having it in New York City.
Your catalog of beer is awesome, your taproom is spacious and modern, and your parking lot is always full. It appears that the Finger Lakes Region is excited to have you here.
The reception has been tremendous; that part of it has been great. We are very fortunate and extremely excited to be here. In New York City, there are so many businesses opening all the time. They just say “good luck.” It’s been really nice that the region has been so open to our arrival. We are still in the process of acclimating ourselves.
We are doing things where we need to do it, so that we can get it done fast. Everyone in the beer industry is taking notice that we are interested in being in the Finger Lakes Region.
“This is ground zero for the nouveau beer scene.” – Eric Salazar
LIFL: What’s your take on the beer atmosphere in the Finger Lakes Region?
Eric: In general, the brewing industry is experiencing a renaissance here, and that is part of the attraction for me. I come from Colorado, where the beer scene has been around for a long time.
There’s also a renaissance of food here, and always with wine – even though it’s been here so long. It’s nice to be able to see the people making wine and talk to them, and to understand where the wine comes from. It translates easily to brewing, and to food as well.
I just got back from California where there was a buzz about what’s going on here: that breweries like Other Half were setting up shop, that successful breweries were already established here, and that newer breweries like Young Lion and Mortalis are helping define the scene.
People are talking about the Finger Lakes beer scene on the other side of the United States! That says something. It’s because of the people involved; it’s because of the brewers who take chances.
What’s different about people in the Finger Lakes?
They already have that mentality to try new things, and that’s what drives our venture. The area is just ripe for more sour-style beers, and beers made using wild yeasts. Other Half is specifically looking for bacteria strains local to the Finger Lakes to start the fermentation process.
Three hundred years ago, before brewers had machinery and glycol to cool beer down, they would put the wort – the liquid extracted from the mashing process – in a big shallow tub. Then they would open a window on either side of the brew house and let the breeze blow through to cool the wort. The process was called “cool ship.” But in the breeze was all sorts of material, including wild yeast and bacteria, which would inoculate the wort as it cooled. Early brewers didn’t realize it, but that’s what started the fermentation process.
There were a lot of mistakes made out there in the beer world, but a lot of good stuff was made, too. Today, we can create new beers because we have access to more knowledge. Today’s brewers know more about the process and ingredients, and how creative they can get with them.
What styles and brews can we look forward to?
Other Half really want to focus on local fruits; local products in general, including grains, hops if we can, and the wild yeasts and bacteria that occur spontaneously. There are a lot of good fruit growers in the Finger Lakes; there’s honey, there are flowers.
We have a lot to work with because of the agriculture in this area, so we are going to try to be as creative as possible.
Other Half Brewing Company is located at 6621 State Route 5 And 20, Bloomfield, NY 14469. Visit their website at