The Brooklyn Navy Yard has been getting a lot of attention lately, with Fly by Night, the recent announcement that Brooklyn Brewery will open a new facility there in 2018 and a whole summer’s worth of events (including sunset yoga and dinners) underway at the Brooklyn Grange.
What may have flown under your radar are two new Navy Yard spots for outdoor drinking, Rooftop Reds and the new tasting room at Kings County Distillery, The Gatehouses. The latter has been open for cocktails on Friday and Saturday nights for several weeks now, and, as of yesterday, will be serving whiskey pours ($8-16), flights ($16 for three whiskeys, $30 for five), and cocktails ($8-14, and if you think that whiskey is too heavy for summer, remember the mint julep, $12) Monday to Saturday all summer long. Snacks from Vinegar Hill House and Crown Finish Caves and whiskey popsicles made in collaboration with People’s Pops round out the menu.
The real clincher on Kings County is the location. The tasting room is in the gatehouse at the Sands Street entrance to the Navy Yard (where Flushing meets Navy–glamorously close to the NYPD vehicle impound lot). Basically, it looks like a castle. This is the type of weird old building that is just such a pleasure to gawk at, amidst all the murderously boring glass and steel towers rising around the city right now. Also, you will definitely know that you are in the right place when you arrive, which is a slightly more challenging proposition when it comes to King’s County’s neighbor, Rooftop Reds.
Rooftop Reds is growing grapes on a rooftop in the Navy Yard (for the nitty gritty on how they’re doing that, check out this article from Edible Brooklyn). No, they are not yet harvesting those grapes for wine–that will start next fall. For now, bottles from Rooftop Reds are made from grapes grown by their partners in the Finger Lakes.
If you have any affection for rooftop vistas, city views, wide open sky or wine, it’s worth at least one trip to Rooftop Reds this summer. There are hammocks. Tall tables sit on thick sheets of Astroturf, ringed by European beer hall tables shaded by red umbrellas (which you can see from the ground, one of the subtle signs from outside the unmarked building that you’ve arrived in the right place). There’s something very in-progress about the operation that used to be commonplace in Brooklyn but has been supplanted in the past few years by slick design, huge build-out budgets and tantalizing Instagram accounts (something Rooftop Reds barely updates despite those views). It’s refreshing.
Located in building 275, Rooftop Reds is a little further into the Navy Yard than Kings County Distillery, which you will pass as you walk there. Even if you are on foot the guard at the Navy Yard entrance will ask to see your ID. Follow their very detailed directions on how to arrive (and ignore Google maps, which gave me the wrong location the night I went), with the following additions. Once you enter Building 275 there’s not a lot of signage, but have courage! Yes, you have to walk up four flights of stairs, and yes, that door to the roof that looks like it might trip an alarm is the right one (and thankfully no alarm will sound). Keep going up until you arrive at the expansive rooftop, lined with hefty containers filled soil and grape vines.
Right now they’re only open Wednesday through Sunday, and they close at 9pm each night. It’s a great spot to catch Fly By Night and our server told us that performance evenings are crowded. The Wednesday night I went it was not at all crowded and we caught an impromptu swirl of birds flying from the decommissioned Navy ship, the Bylander, docked in the East River.
What to order? Try a flight of rosé and then share a bottle of your favorite with your companions. They serve wines from a few different New York State wineries, and among three rosés we like the Rooftop Reds’ Cabernet Franc rose the best. It’s got that wet-asphalt-after-a-sudden-rain, green pepper freshness that some people love, and some hate, with a gorgeous, deeper rose color that comes from extended skin contact.
You won’t find hefty eats at Rooftop Reds, but there are meat and cheese plates. Ride your bike (the Kent-Flushing Ave. bike lanes make it a breeze from North Brooklyn) for a sunset sip, mosey on out to The Gatehouses for a snack and a cocktail. Summer. In. Brooklyn.