Ted Kenny has been creating a buzz with Top Hops Beer Shop since the doors opened in 2012. It is truly a unique beer boutique type bar known for the friendly and highly knowledgeable staff and neighborhood clientele alike. Situated on Orchard Street, this area of the Lower East Side is a foodie destination with restaurant favorites like WildAir, Contra, The Fat Radish, Dudley’s, and Russ & Daughters Cafe. Order a flight of beers, a beer on tap or one of the many cold bottled beers in the store and enjoy the atmosphere. Ted took some time one sunny afternoon to fill me in on the beer scoop at Top Hops.
How did you get involved in the beer business? Do you brew beer yourself?
I never brewed beer but I started working for Anheuser-Busch in Sales and Marketing prior to the company being acquired by InBev. I knew I wanted to own my own business, so after approximately 5 years, I decided to venture off and open an experiential beer shop (as the craft beer business was no longer a niche business). In 2011, I signed a lease for Top Hops and we officially opened in January 2012.
Top Hops is not just a place to buy or taste beer, it is a neighborhood establishment where beer enthusiasts can indulge in their passion through tastings, educational forums, or just relaxing with fellow-minded beer enthusiasts. Who is your typical customer?
My goal was to open not just a beer shop but a place where beer aficionados could come together and share their knowledge and appreciation of beer in a community type setting. We offer over 700 craft and imported beers to choose from whether it is grab’n’go or hanging out at our bar for a casual drink. Many of our customers are repeat customers from the neighborhood or they have read about us in Beer Advocate. Our bartenders are extremely knowledgeable and truly enjoy providing a memorable experience for the customers. There is a great vibe at Top Hops with a comfortable setting, music, and atmosphere. The Lower East Side Neighborhood, complete with art galleries, restaurants, and museums is a destination unto itself for many of our customers. Top Hops is the perfect place to stop by when exploring the neighborhood.
Have you offered any beer and food tasting events?
We offer classes 3-4 times per month taught by one of 4 instructors throughout the year. These classes can be booked through Top Hops directly on their website via Brown Paper Tickets. We also host events throughout the month introducing new breweries, beers, and products. Do you know what a “uKeg” is? Have you ever tasted Goose Island ales Gillian, Halia, Lolita or Juliet? Check out our latest happening on our website, http://tophops.com/search/events, to learn about future events.
What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
As much as we focus on our unique beer offerings, we make sure to offer quality food on our bar menu. Our bread is sourced from Pain D’Avignon, our olives from Formaggio Essex, our hard handmade pretzels from Martin’s Pretzels, our hot pretzels are from Germany and heated in-house, and our cheese is from Saxelby Cheesemongers. We are limited in what we can offer from a dessert perspective as we do not have a freezer. For our classes, we offer food from Cheeky Sandwiches and MELT ice cream sandwiches.
Microbreweries have flourished in the last 5 years, where do you see the most interesting growth?
There are so many really interesting and creative breweries popping up in the Northeast in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Ashville, North Carolina is another booming city for beer tourism with large craft breweries popping up. Whereas the West Coast always dominated in terms of IPA’s, now it is the North East experiencing a significant boom in business. Eastern Long Island houses Twin Fork Beer Company, Crooked Ladder, Montauk Brewing Company and Port Jeff Brewing Company out of Port Jefferson, Long Island. Brooklyn and Queens have quite a few interesting breweries: Grimm Brewery, Other Half Brewing Co., Singlecut Beersmiths, and Three’s Brewing Co. Arrowood Farms is another interesting brewery located in Hudson Valley, New York.
The mobile canning business has grown significantly allowing microbreweries to can their beer without the capital investment of owning canning equipment. Other Half Brewing hosted canned launches last year working with a mobile canning unit, Iron Heart Canning, to can their beer in really cool designs. They have lines out the door waiting to purchase their limited launch of specialty beers in unique, funky cans. Customers are restricted in how much they can buy.
Gypsy brewing is also becoming more popular as a means to introduce new beers to the marketplace with minimal investment. Gypsy breweries rent space in existing breweries to produce innovative craft beers without the capital investment.
How effective is social media in promoting Top Hops?
We have hired someone part-time to manage our social media campaign. Our press has been really positive with articles in Men’s Health, Thrillist, Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, City Buzz, and the NYT food section last month.
Photos courtesy of Christina Cahill at Top Hops
On a side note from Moira McCullough of Sweet Travels…I met Ted through a college roommate of mine. We had organized a mini-reunion and Top Hops was our meeting place. It was the perfect venue to catch up with friends in a cool, bustling setting tasting different beers and munching on the tastiest of bar snacks.