There’s something new brewing in Yonkers. Or more accurately, someone new is doing the brewing.
Yonkers Brewing Co., the brewery and restaurant at 92 Main St., has added a new head brewer to its roster. Longtime beer aficionado Ray Girard joined the ranks of the 6-year-old brewery last month.
“Yonkers is its own place,” said Girard, who moved to the city from Brooklyn after accepting his new position. “You’re right there next to New York City, but it’s its own thing. People have different tastes here, so I want to make something people here would really enjoy.”
One of the first brews Girard introduced was his namesake Ray’s IPA, a beer he describes as a bridge between a West Coast-style and New England IPA.
“That beer was a way for people to get to know my name and see my first stamp on the brewery,” he said.
Other brews include a Beaux-Art Saison, named after the architectural style used in designing Untermyer Gardens, and a Utopia Parkway Pilsner, a nod to his former home in Queens.
“So far, it’s been challenging in a good way,” Girard said of his new position. “I’m finding out what brews are working for people and what’s been popular.”
Girard said he owes his initial attraction to the beer industry to his father, who was a brewer himself.
“He was into homebrewing when it wasn’t as popular as it is now. I always found it interesting,” he recalled. “I’d ask him, ‘Do you want me to help clean bottles? I’ll do anything.’”
Later, Girard secured a position with Barrier Brewing Co., a brewery and taproom in Oceanside, New York.
“It went from just a passion to me taking it one step further,” he said.
From there, Girard went on to work at Brooklyn Brewery before becoming head brewer at Rockaway Brewing Co. in Long Island City in 2014. He also taught homebrewing classes at the cooking school The Brooklyn Kitchen.
In his newest position, Girard said the co-owners of Yonkers Brewing, John Rubbo and Nicholas Califano, have given him the flexibility to experiment with different brews.
“It was kind of like, ‘Go for it,’” he said of starting at Yonkers Brewing. “So I just hit the ground running.”
Girard will follow in the footsteps of Dave Hartmann, a 25-year veteran of the craft beer industry who joined the company in 2017 and departed earlier this year. Rubbo said Hartmann helped to increase the company’s beer ratings during his tenure. Now, John hopes to let Girard have a bit of fun in the brewery.
“He has his finger on the pulse,” Rubbo said. “He knows exactly what every beer consumer wants, and that’s not easy. And he has great connections to the local beer community.”
Girard plans to take advantage of those connections and said he has plans to collaborate with other local breweries in the future.
“Our goal is to be accessible and approachable, but we also want to be innovative,” said Rubbo, who co-founded the company in 2012. “So, this is Ray’s lab.”
The new hire is just one of the changes Yonkers Brewing has seen in recent months. The company earlier this year expanded its wholesale business into Stamford, New Canaan and Greenwich. It also teamed up with The Roger Sherman Inn in New Canaan to host a beer dinner featuring its flagship brews, the 914 Vienna Lager and the Hop Runner IPA.
“Yonkers is mostly known for the tougher areas,” Rubbo said, but noted that the city has a “very eclectic community.”
“That’s part of the reason why we wanted to call it Yonkers (Brewing),” he said. “To sort of promote our hometown.”
He added that the company will likely expand its reach into New Jersey in the near future, though he expects the brand will stay within the tristate area.
“We have plenty of beer drinkers around here,” Rubbo said.