New Rochelle is about to become a mecca for beer aficionados throughout Westchester County with the Grand Opening today of The Beer Necessities at the Quaker Ridge Shopping Mall next door to the A&P.
Whether you are a beer drinker or not it is just a fun store and a nice place to be and the store offers some great food as well.
"I want people to come on in, have a visit and enjoy," said store owner, Michael Grossberg.
The store is offering 415 beers from across the United States -- like Purple Haze from Abita Springs, Louisiana to Otter Creek from Middlebury, Vermont to Dogfish Head from Milton, DE.
Grossberg can tell you a story about each and every one having personally tasted each of them.
"My philosophy is that I love doing what I am doing and my customers know it. I am just as excited about putting some new thing on the shelf as anybody could be," said Grossberg. "I love the way it looks, I love the way it tastes and I want to turn other people onto it."
With a wide selection of domestic beers from regions throughout the country, the store also offers an interesting and eclectic selection of beers from Europe and around the world.
Hitchino Beer from Japan is made by a famous sake-maker who brews his beer in sake casks giving the beer a hint of rice-wine flavoring.
There is a selection of Trappist beers made by monks in Europe.
The most unusual aspect to the store is a special machine hooked up to 15 kegs of different sorts of draft beer, all stored in a walk-in refrigerator, which is used to fill glass jugs known as "growlers" with draft beer. The Pegas System, which Grossberg describes as a Russian Filling Station, is a "no waste" station, designed to prevent oxygen from getting into the beer so the growler can be filled from the bottom up without creating a large head of foam.
Growlers harken back to the late 19th century and the early 20th century when beer was sold and carried home in small galvanized pails. Today they offer customers a "green" reusable way to take home beer, many of which are best served in drafts rather than bottlers. Customers fill up, take the growler home where it can keep for up to two months until opened. Grossberg happily suggests drinking the entire contents that night once the growler is unsealed.
In opening The Beer Necessities, Grossberg was looking to build on the success he has had with his popular wine store, The Grape Exchange which he opened 7 years ago a few doors down from the new store.
"I love to educate people on wine, scotch, bourbon, things that you can't find everywhere, try it by tasting. I wanted to do the same with beer."
Grossberg attributes his success with the first store to focusing on matching the profile of the wine to the profile of the customer.
"With The Grape Exchange, I never want to just sell a wine to a customer I want the story behind the wine to suit the customer's style so the wine and the story behind it is appealing to people. I want to do the same now for beer."
With the beer store Grossberg says he was "looking to do something different, something that people were looking for" noting that there is nothing else like The Beer Necessities in the area.
Grossberg not only acquired a license to sell beer at the store but a grocery license as well.
"I thought, what goes with beer?", he said. "The fact is everything goes with beer -- hot sauces, dips, chips, and more -- so we became a retail outlet for Great American BBQ and will offer foods from them and Chef Johnson who worked for Emeril, the famed chef, in Louisiana."
Great American BBQ, owned by Peter Herrara, is offering smoked brisket, barbecued chicken, pulled pork, ribs, corn pudding, corn bread and more. Chef Johnson will offer cajun creole foods like Jumbalaya, lobster bisque, shrimp and grits, and macaroni and cheese.
The American BBQ will be in the parking lot out front a couple of nights a week so people can try their food and during beer tastings they will be giving out samples.
The store also offers an assortment of cheeses and other fine foods.
The store itself is a work of art. The floor is custom made using reclaimed wood from a barn in Kentucky laid out by hand. There is a table brought over from Bali hewn from a 200 year old tree. The top is one piece from the tree, the two legs are from the stump which was cut in half.
It is hard to find anything in the store that doesn't come with a good story -- and a good owner ready to tell it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The article originally identified Chef Johnson as the owner of Great American BBQ. Peter Herrara is the owned of Great American BBQ. They are two different food providers to The Beer Necessities.