In July of 2013, John Potenza opened The BURGER Loft, the first craft-beer bar in Rockland County to make their burgers by hand.
“When we first opened, people weren’t used to craft beer,” Potenza says. “We educated them. If they came for a Guinness, we handed them a Left Hand Milk Stout.”
In his free time, Potenza would check out new breweries to put on draft at his restaurant. That was when he noticed that while most breweries in the area made terrific beer, they didn’t have anything in the way of food. “I wished we could open a brewery next to The BURGER Loft,” Potenza says.
In 2017, he got his opportunity. The owner of the pool company next door told Potenza that it was closing. Potenza immediately started measuring and envisioned putting in tanks.
“We knew we’d have a small system, so we wanted to make fresh beer — crushable, drinkable beer that would be good with food,” Potenza says. “Our business plan was to have a variety of beer that anyone could drink, everything from Kolsch to Belgian-style to IPA to Double IPA to porter.”
Potenza hired Chase Planson, an industry veteran and Warwick native who’d been working for New England Brewery but had wanted to move home. They named the new operation District 96 Beer Factory (after the brewery’s voting district), and all the beers have names that hint at political themes: Sexual Relations, Mother of All Bombs, Philibuster.
Currently, the brewery has extremely limited distribution. The best way to try the beer is to visit the airy brewery at 395 S Main Street in New City — and get a burger while you’re at it.