Interview with Evan Klein of Barrier Brewing
Evan Klein, Founder and Brewmaster at Long Island's acclaimed craft brewery, Barrier Brewing, took some time from the brewery's three daily brew sessions to tell us their story.
How did you get your start in brewing?
"After a buddy of mine became enthralled with craft beer after a trip to Hawaii in 2006, he convinced me to start home-brewing with him. Surprisingly, the first few batches we made weren't total drain-pours; beers you can't stand to drink and pour down the drain. After a while, my buddy's interest faded, but I kept at it and continued to produce my own batches. One day, I stopped by Sixpoint with some samples for the guys to try. Shane Welch, the Founder of Sixpoint, thought my stuff was great, which was an amazing feeling. They told me an intern of theirs had just quit, and were wondering if I could start right away. At first I just helped around the brewery, cleaning tanks and stuff. It was until 6 months of hard work that they took me on as a brewer. That's how I started brewing professionally."
What's the philosophy behind what Barrier brews?
"We like to brew whatever it is that we like to drink. In the beginning, it was more English-style beers, like our Dark English Mild. Now it has changed to styles like the IPA. We've got several examples, like our Evil Giant Rye IPA and Money IPA, which is really popular right now. People seem to really love that beer. In the end, it's whatever we're feeling, so you might even see something like a Porter during the summer. If we like it, we're going to brew it."
What was the beginning like here at Barrier?
"After two years working at Sixpoint, I decided it was time to open up my own brewery in 2010. It almost didn't feel real. I signed the lease for this spot in Oceanside and that was it. At first, it was just me. I was working all day on all sides of the brewery- brewing the beer, putting it in kegs and going out to sell it- by myself. It was pretty overwhelming for a while, but I was lucky that a lot my old friends in the industry liked what I was brewing and were willing to put it on draft. I was alone for about 6 months before I decided I needed some help and brought in Craig Frymark, an old friend from my days at Sixpoint. Not long after that, Sandy came through and destroyed most of everything. We had 4 feet of water inside the brewery. We didn't know if we were going to able to start things up again. Lucky for us, we had some people reach out and help us get back on our feet. Ommegang actually contacted us in December of 2012 and let us brew a beer we called "Barrier Relief," with proceeds going to help our rebuild. Thanks to Ommegang and everyone else who helped us, we were able to open our doors and start brewing again."
What do you have planned for the near future?
"We have an expansion coming in the next few months, so we're really going to see an increase in production. New tanks, new brewhouse and lots of other new equipment. We're going to be bottling more of our beers, as well as experimenting with new styles. Right now, we're brewing 3 times a day. With the new brewhouse, we're going to be able to cut it down to once a day, while still producing more. We're really excited for that, because it's going to give us a lot more freedom here at the brewery."