If you’ve been to downtown Yonkers recently, you may have noticed a new addition: a state-of-the-art brewery. And, though it only opened its doors for business earlier this year, getting it there was a long, arduous process for a couple of the city’s own residents, founders John Rubbo and Nick Califano.
The launch pad for their journey came back in 2012, when the duo decided to start home brewing. The friends, who were members of the same Italian cultural organization, had for years enjoyed helping their grandfathers make wine. But as beer lovers themselves, they wondered: Why not make beer? Their first batch was a dark lager that Rubbo describes in just two words: “absolutely incredible.”
They knew they were onto something.
In the following months, the pair combined their love of beer with an entrepreneurial spirit (Rubbo had previously started a credit-card processing business). Inspired by other successful brewery models like Sam Adams and Brooklyn Brewery, Rubbo and Califano began the formation of what would eventually be known as Yonkers Brewing Co. With funding from Community Capital and Hudson River Ventures and a star head brewer with 20 years of experience, Sharif Taleb, their wholesale beer-brewing venture started to ferment with success. They began contract brewing out of Connecticut, but they still lacked an adequate space for customers to come in and enjoy their product.
While Rubbo and Califano originally aimed to open a basic brewery with a small tasting room for customers, the project developed into more. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the establishment, which opened in January, serves as a brewery, restaurant, and even a live music venue with 20-foot arched ceilings, polished floors, and five 60-inch TVs—all right on Main Street in Yonkers. But that didn’t come easily. Rubbo and Califano spent 15-hour days on-site working with contractors, building tables, getting kitchen equipment, and learning what it takes to run a full-service brewery.
Run by John Rubbo and Nick Califano, the Yonkers Brewing Co.’s beer roster includes 28 different brews.
But, of course, the beer—everything from lagers to stouts to IPAs—is still the focal point of the experience. “Our vision is to produce beer for the average consumer. We’re not looking to scare customers with the hoppiest beers, but we also want to be a place that beer lovers enjoy,” Rubbo notes. They also want to be a destination for quality food. “We’re looking at some creative cuisine that foodies can come and try,” he says.
Though still in its beginning phases, Yonkers Brewing Co. has exceeded the initial expectations of its owners. Perched close to a Metro-North train station, it attracts customers from all over the county (and beyond) and has become a place where people can share in the same passion for beer that triggered Rubbo and Califano’s brewing ambitions.