In Ridgewood, Queens just a few minutes walk from the L train stands a new brewery and taproom which is redefining the phrase “Do it yourself.” The story behind the new Bridge and Tunnel brewery and taproom is almost as unique as owner and operator Rich Castagna himself. He grew up in the area and now has opened a new business only a few minutes from the Wyckoff hospital where he was born.
After graduating from college, Rich discovered a love for traveling and spent many years in South Korea and the western United States, but his love of beer began in Germany and England. While he was in Europe he discovered the beauty of cask ales and was introduced to local craft brewing out in Montana. Craft brewing had yet to arrive in the eastern part of the country and it was while out west that he began his long adventure with one goal in mind: brewing great beer.
Rich Castagna is the owner and operator of Bridge and Tunnel Brewery and Taproom
Rich was able to the lease the Ridgewood property in 2014, but the previous tenant an owner of an industrial metal shop did not possess the necessary licenses to serve and brew alcohol. After receiving the proper approval last year, he began renovating the property. Rich laid down all of the underground pipes and sanitation on his own, and hooked up the 16 tap dispenser. In addition, all of the furniture, tables, the bar cover and lighting were all individually installed and assembled by Rich.
Part of Bridge and Tunnel’s sophisticated brewing process is seen here in custom made containers
In addition, Rich has incorporated some non-traditional brewing equipment into his mix. Both of the cold filtration tanks were previously used for other purposes – one to filter maple syrup and the other for dairy milk. As a self-described technophobe, he describes his tools as “extremely low-tech and bombproof,” and dedicates hours of time personally brewing all of his beer. The taproom also offers two different flavors of Kombucha, which is an alternative the beers on tap. On weekends the room is filled with people and pizza from the local joint, Houdini’s, which they can enjoy with a pint of Bridge and Tunnel beer.
The Bridge and Tunnel bar with the custom 16 tap dispenser on the right
We asked Rich about his view was on American craft brewing, a business which now has control of over 11% of the United States domestic beer industry. Its total market share is currently worth around $19.6 billion dollars according to the National Brewers Association. Rich had an uneasy response, concluding that the craft industry he used to celebrate is now controlled by many dominant national brands. As a result, strict barriers to entry have made it even harder for local businesses to compete and turn a profit, Rich contends. He noted that it has become necessary for legitimate local craft breweries to distinguish themselves from their larger competition if they intend to survive in the long term. He believes that a rebranding may be necessary and introduced a new term, “indie brewery.”
The seating in the taproom was either completely made by hand or donated and the lighting was also installed by Rich
More handmade furniture and the filter located on the right originally used for maple syrup
Bridge and Tunnel Brewery will launch a Kickstarter campaign on March 6 to purchase a more sophisticated filtration system for the taproom.