Watching sports and enjoying an adult beverage go hand-in-hand for many New Yorkers, with a cold brew being the drink of choice.
On an early July weekday, with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns duking it out in the NBA Finals and the Summer Olympics set to begin, fans both rabid and casual congregated at the Bronx Brewery, at 856 E. 136th Street in Port Morris to watch the events over a beer (or two). They had the option of trying the new “Hop-A-Shot” beer, a west coast IPA that the Brewery launched as part of its Up and Comer series of new concoctions.
“It’s a play on ‘Pop-A-Shot’,” said Brandon Espinosa, Vice President of Brand and Partnership for the brewery. “We got a pop-a-shot in here about a year ago during the pandemic, and it kind of became our past time. We were like, ‘we should make a beer centered around this.’”
“I believe it’s the first 100 IBU beer we’ve ever made,” explaining that the higher an IBU (international bitterness units) the beer contains, the more bitter it is.
Beer aficionados for whom the taste of the beer outweighed watching sports got to take part in “Hop-A-Shot” guzzlers. Winners were awarded free shots for themselves and their friends.
Brewer Manny Salvatori discussed the process involved in brewing “Hop-A-Shot.”
“It’s pretty much a classic West Coast IPA,” said Salvatori, adding that the way they brewed the new beer produces a “dank, resinous flavor and aroma that fits really well with the style.”
“Process-wise, most of our beers take 14-15 days,” he said. “The initial brewing process takes about 8 hours. We put a lot into this beer. We don’t have many West Coast IPAs on our menu right now and it was really nice to be able to make one.”
Two Bronxites at the Brewery enthusiastically approved of the new offering.
“I love it. IPA is always my thing, west coast IPAs especially,” said Gabriel Abreu, 28. “I know that the bitterness is a lot for certain people. I love bitter, though. I definitely love this design of the arc [the way the wrist bends during a jump shot in basketball], and 10454 (a South Bronx zip code) represents the Bronx in the first place.”
But Juan Abreu, 24, found the bitterness a bit much to swallow—-though not to the point of not drinking it down.
“In my case, the bitterness was a little bit too much, but you know, I dealt with it,” he said. “It was a very strong beer which I liked. I am an illustrator too, so I appreciate the design on the can, but it was overall a good beer.”
Artist Peter Richter, who designed the label on the cans explained his creative vision.
“The idea just spawned from the idea of pop-a-shot and how can we make that come to life, representing basketball on a local level, but also basketball on an NBA level,” he said. “So the can itself includes little Easter eggs and nods to Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain and the Bronx.”
Richter explained that the two figures illustrated on the can are the Bronx Brewery’s head brewer and “Willie, the pop-a-shot champion at the brewery.”
As with every new beer the Bronx Brewery launches, pop-a-shot includes a charitable component. For this one, customers are encouraged to donate a pair of shoes at the brewery, brand new or lightly used.
“With just about any event or any beer release that we have, we always try to tie in the community,” said Jose Ruiz, head of creative at the brewery, explaining that the current launch and shoe event is a collaboration with the New York City Recovery Center, which “will distribute them to the homeless people that they house.”
The Up and Comer series’ co-founder and the Brewery’s head brewer Damian Brown suggested that although beer is the unifying force, the Brewery’s mission is more complex than just the suds.
“For us, it’s all about bringing people together,” he said. “A platform for building community.”