“I’ve lived in lower Manhattan for a decade,” explains John Dantzler, the co-founder and CEO of Torch & Crown Brewing Company. “And I love breweries, but to get to them I usually have to take a train to another train to an Uber.”
And that thought began a very long, arduous process to get a working production brewery in the city, not an outer-borough warehouse. Located on 12 Vandam St, T&C’s new SoHo space occupies 9,000 square feet and three floors. And it’s not just a brewpub: they’re making beer here in subterranean fermenters, with some equipment located literally below the street outside.
It’s an impressive space that’s had to overcome incredible logistical hurdles in order to open a large, airy brewery in the heart of New York. Work that would’ve taken a day and a few forklifts in the Bronx required massive engineering know-how and blocking off streets for weeks in Manhattan; plus, months of business were lost due to an unforeseen pandemic. Originally scheduled to open in May, the brewery is only just now starting to seat customers; when I visited in late October, they were still putting up seating outside.
To survive several months of inactivity, the team — which also features Head Brewer/Co-Founder Joe Correia, food and beverage overseer Christian Pappanicholas and General Manager/Beverage Director Bill Brooks (the latter two hailing from The Cannibal Beer & Butcher and Resto) — quickly pivoted to a direct-to-consumer model, delivering beer from their Bronx outpost around the city. Within six weeks, they had shuttled 2,000+ orders using Dantzler’s old truck.
But that was then, and now T&C, named in honor of our Lady Liberty and a nod to the restaurant’s pro-New York theme (which extends to an all in-state wine and spirits list), is serving. And reflecting the venue’s bright and inviting vibe, the beer list here isn’t dominated by IPAs and double-digit ABV brews. Instead, it’s fun and accessible.
“Beer is a tertiary aspect of this experience,” explains Correia. “I personally tend to gravitate towards low-ABV beers, but I also like experimenting. There’s a novelty to every new beer here; we have a 4% ABV IPA that has the intensity of a full-bodied IPA. I like trying square pegs in round holes and seeing what beer can be.”
Which means you’ll have a New York-style cream ale on tap, along with a blackberry/strawberry sour and a barrel-aged stout (plus a really crisp pilsner and, yes, a few traditional IPAs).
The playfulness here also extends to the menu, where there are just as many vegetables and sharing plates beside a few beer-centric staples (yes, there is a burger). “We wanted light, bright flavors that complement the beers without weighing you down,” as Dantzler notes.
“I think beer-centric places get pretty similar in style, where you ‘gotta do bar food’ and other things you always associate with beer,” explains Pappanicholas, who runs the food side of things. “I wanted something more modern — light and bright, something that can bring balance. Plus, a low-brow/high-brow kind of place where chicken fingers can live next to Arctic char on the menu.” (That said, a “large format” option is coming soon, where whole pigs and lambs will be part of a big, meaty feast — if you had ever been to The Cannibal, this’ll sound familiar).
In the end, be it food, beer or location, Torch & Crown’s real goal is stated right there on the menu. It’s about “jump[ing] in the center of NYC and celebrate this amazing city.” Now, perhaps, with a cream ale.
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