Brooklyn's Bierkraft Barred, People Perplexed

Eno Sarris, June 16, 2015

Bierkraft is no more. 

The bottles-and-taps-and-sandwiches-both-ice-cream-and-regular spot in Brooklyn has been shut down, and probably not for renovation, as the employees have been told they no longer have jobs. This is weird on so many levels. 

First and foremost, the place seemed to be doing well. 

There's plenty of evidence to this fact, other than anecdoctal, if not on the level of actual knowledge of the balance sheets at 191 5th Avenue. For one, they've expanded twice in the last few years. They added a backyard to the taps and bottles store in 2011, and then they started brewing beer in 2013. They were doing well enough to invest in their own growth at least. 

Then they were bought. As Chris O'Leary at BrewYork pointed out, Bierkraft was sold to new owners last year, and as soon as the sale was complete, rumors started that the shop would close this year. That could mean that the new owners had ideas on the location before they ever took a look at the actual ins and outs and profitability of the store. Maybe they had dreams that went beyond a stable biergarten with bottles. 

The somewhat frightening idea is that Bierkraft *wasn't* a profitable business. Despite every announcement of its closure mentioning how popular the place was in Brooklyn, maybe it wasn't making enough money to pay for the rent and the licenses and the inventory.  The overhead can't be that bad, but food does always add a wrinkle -- fresh produce and well-trained food service employees don't come as cheap as a bartender and some beer, I'd guess. 

There is a chance this closure isn't written in stone, despite the red-bannered PERMANENTLY CLOSED on Yelp and Google. Here's an exchange on a picture of an empty bucket posted on their instagram page

Sigh/blarg is right. It would be a shame to see this place go. 

And not just for Brooklyn residents -- who have seen four craft beer retailers change format or close in the last nine months, as O'Leary pointed out -- but for the craft beer community in general. The taps-and-bottles format has, till now, been fairly untouchable as a business model. City Beer Store in San Francisco, Bottlecraft in San Diego, The Tap & Bottle in Tuscon... the list goes on, and usually with expansion not far behind it.

The list of famous closures starts with Bierkraft. Without knowledge of their actual costs and receipts, there's no way to know if this is some sort of bellwether for the rest of the industry. It might not be -- New York rents are very expensive, and craft beer usually lives in the in-between spots, not on Madison Ave. 

But, then again, it might also be some sort of sign. One we didn't really see coming just a year ago.