It’s easy to typecast. You hear a tenured local restaurateur has purchased an East Village property in which to install a brewpub for his son to brew at and his daughter to manage, and you assume it’s some high-priced handout for a couple of kids who probably don’t know the first thing about fermentation or hospitality management. In most cases, this would probably be true — there I go typecasting again — but it’s not the case with Dan and Stacy Drayne, the offspring in the aforementioned scenario describing the genesis of upcoming project Half Door Brewing Company (903 Island Avenue, East Village).
It’s been well over a year since Daniel Drayne, owner of the 16-year-old downtown Irish Pub, The Field, took over the old house on the corner of Ninth and Island so Dan and Stacy could team together on what is actually quite the passion project. Both of Daniel’s twenty-somethings have been working at The Field since they were 16, which just so happens to be the year the award-winning public house debuted. They are no strangers to the restaurant industry, nor is Dan a stranger to brewing and serving beer. He is a homebrewer of seven years, a graduate of the Siebel Institute of Technology, and currently works as a brewer at Coronado Brewing Company, which won Champion Mid-sized Brewery at the 2014 World Beer Cup. On top of that, he’s bussed and waited table, and tended bar at myriad establishments in preparation for this opportunity.
Dan’s experience actually trumps that of a number of entrepreneurs who’ve opened breweries in the past several years, and that provides promise for what will be a relatively small operation with a 10-barrel, direct-fire Premier Stainless system in a 1,080 square foot brewery that will not package and will serve all of its beers within Half Door’s four walls. Speaking of the structure itself, while currently under construction and fairly nondescript, it will eventually return to its homey beginnings but with a clean design replete with dark woods, wallpaper, and framed photos that convey a domestic feel and, according to Dan, mirror many of the modern pubs being established across Ireland.
Both the restaurant and the brewery will be two stories, with both floors of the latter visible through windows. Both stories will have outdoor seating options, with the lower level featuring a covered, veranda-style area, and the upstairs an open-air patio with a view directly into Petco Park a block away. The downstairs interior is equipped with an L-shaped bar with house cocktails to go with the homespun beer. Rather than sourcing matching and stylish but coldly procured furnishings for Half Door, the Draynes instead amassed a plethora of salvaged materials (doors, tables, chairs, and more) hailing from Little Italy to Ireland (a 20-foot container is scheduled to arrive from the Emerald Isle in a matter of weeks).
Half Door plans to open with a quartet of brews that are simple and should help Dan to dial in the brewery. That will include a pale ale, IPA, Irish stout (which will appropriately be served on nitro), and a tart beer bearing enough resemblance to a Berliner weiss that he’ll borrow from John F. Kennedy’s mispronunciation of “Berliner” in his famous 1963 address in West Berlin, dubbing the beer “Beer-leener” or something similar to JFK’s utterance. He has plans for more out-there beers as well, and is looking forward to tackling them. That will include use of Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, oak barrels and wood chips, so there will be numerous things modern Irish pubs don’t have going for them. That includes a menu of upscale dishes split into small plates, shareables, flatbreads, and entrees from executive chef Pablo Ibarra, formerly of Spike Africa’s and Terra American Bistro. Two dishes the Draynes are high on out of the gate are a short rib-based brewer’s pie and fish-and-chips with a breading akin to Southern fried chicken.
At the end of the day, these siblings seem to have their act together and are bringing a project to downtown that has more heart than many that have historically been installed in this part of the city. It’ll look good and it comes from a savvy industry veteran, but there’s also lots of gumption, smarts, and heart; enough to defy any type-casting. By contractors’ estimations, the brewpub should be ready for phase one of its debut in early January, with the upstairs dining room likely opening eight or nine months afterward.