YONKERS N.Y. – They started making wine with their grandfathers and brewing beer on hot summer days. Now, the two Yonkers natives are taking it to the next level and opened the city's first brewery.
Childhood friends John Rubbo and Nick Califano opened Yonkers Brewing Company last month after more than two years of planning. The brewery, currently operating out of Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Connecticut, is already supplying 18 local businesses with its signature Yonkers Lager.
The two business partners always wanted to give back to their community, and after a promising experience brewing beer in the summer of 2009 they knew just how to do it, said Rubbo.
"We decided that we wanted to bridge the gap between an everyday beer and a craft beer," he said. "Our first move was to get a logo that exemplified our mission to serve Yonkers. We then decided to produce a lager over an ale, even though it’s a lengthier and more expensive process. We chose to make a lager because it's what people are used to, and if we were going to do something, it was going to be done the right way."
The next step was to find an experienced brewer to take the idea to the next level. After searching several brewery boards, they found Sharif Taleb, a formally trained beer maker from Chicago.
Taleb said he has always been interested in making beer and figured he could make a product that was fun to drink.
"I worked as a lawyer before becoming a brewer," he said, "and although it paid the bills, it left me uninspired. Before the Prohibition Era, beer didn't travel very far, but with today's technology it's now very different. Despite this, I think people are still interested in local and personal products. I truly think we're in line with making a beer with local ingredients that people can drink everyday."
The final step for the brewery is to establish a physical presence in Yonkers so that people can identify the product with the community, said Califano.
The brewery has been working closely with the city to set up something in the downtown business district, he continued.
"No matter how big we get, we're committed to our motto, which is to serve a quality product," he said. "If not, we're selling out ourselves and our friends and family. Yonkers is the place we grew up, it's the place we're going to raise our own families and it's the place that we want to serve for as long as we live. I really do feel like our beer will help make Yonkers a better place by bringing the community together."