The party was out in Bridgehampton at a house they’d rented for around $12,000 a week. The women sipped on rosé or Patrón and bottled Margaritas, while most of the men grabbed beers from several jam-packed coolers. Not just any beers, though—these aspiring captains of industry wouldn’t stand for anything but the most recently-released double IPAs from Other Half Brewing.
When you think of a beer geek, you probably think hirsute and heavy, in a graphic T-shirt; not clean-shaven and Brooks Brothers-clad. But the attendees of that finance bro-packed Hamptons party bucked the trend, crushing cans from the Brooklyn brewery whose most sought-after brews have somehow become the exclusive “whales of Wall Street.”
But how did a Brooklyn brewery join the lofty ranks of Macallan, Patrón and Louis “Treize” in the banker’s official bar kit?
“I think for, the longest time, guys in my business wouldn’t drink beer because of how it was looked at,” Rich Greer (not his real name), an equity researcher at Goldman Sachs, tells me. “Most drank high-end wines.”
If wine-obsessed Wall Streeters were once said to favor wines that were “big, bold and brash” to match their own personalities, Other Half’s beers fit the bill: potent, aromatic and juicy—you don’t particularly need a connoisseur’s palate to enjoy them.
“You look at all the coolers and do the math and think, ‘This is thousands of dollars of beer,’” Gradie (who declined to offer his last name), a frequenter of finance-world parties, like the one mentioned above, tells me.
Beer fans have long posted pictures of their Other Half hauls and the like on Instagram, boasting about massive walls of cans the same way Pablo Escobar proudly posed next to a bunker built of coke bricks. If scoring a case of Cheddar Broccoli Imperial IPA or Double Dry Hopped Mylar Bags is impressive, a veritable stockpile shows your place in the pecking order.
“One dude at my office doesn’t know anything about beer, but is obsessed with Northeast IPAs,” Jason Stein tells me. An FSO advisor at Ernst & Young, he’s the rare finance guy who is also a hardcore beer geek, moonlighting as a beer writer for Paste. “Like, if I mentioned [the #1 beer in the world, Toppling Goliath’s] Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout, he would say ‘Oh, what’s that?’ But he would be able to tell you about every single Other Half beer.” Stein tells me several other men in his office literally keep track of all Other Half releases—though he doesn’t chase the brewery’s beers himself.
So why Other Half and not, say, Finback, another local brewery that makes terrific canned IPAs?
“They’re clearly in it for the cachet,” Michael Pomranz tells me. A drinks writer for Food & Wine, he, too, is quite familiar with the Wall Street-Other Half love affair. “I’m not saying they don’t like the beer or don’t appreciate the beer—quite the opposite. When a type-A guy says, ‘This beer is the best,’ and then you drink it and the hoppiness is just through the roof, well, then what makes it ‘the best’ is easily quantifiable. Yes, it is the best. There’s no need to parse any details, it’s just time to fist bump.”
No one seems to be able to exactly pinpoint when the Other Half finance phenomenon started. Perhaps it began in the same way it did for average Joes, with a series of notable “Can you believe people wait in line for beer?” articles in places like Bloomberg and the New York Times. If most readers were turned off by the thought of standing on a cruddy Carroll Gardens sidewalk for hours on end, many Wall Streeters instead became determined to obtain something most people couldn’t. It’s a tautology, of course, but these guys covet it because it’s coveted. Just as Pappy Van Winkle was made a phenomenon by the status-obsessed, Other Half seems headed down that path.
“Having some became proof that you have the power to obtain some,” Joshua Horwitz, who does analytics and data for a leading global finance firm, told me. “And the easier it is for you to get some…”
Yes, guys working 90-hour weeks are not heading straight from Friday’s last call to Brooklyn to huddle amongst the hoi polloi each Saturday morning. Instead, they are paying others to do the grunt work.
“A considerable portion of our clients are in financial services,” Robert Samuel of Same Ole Line Dudes tells me. His company’s website specifically touts waiting for Other Half beers (as well as Hamilton tickets and cronuts). A similar company called TaskRabbit is also often employed, both companies charging a rate of around $20 per hour to wait on line—a minor service add-on for the well-heeled. “They value their weekends after putting in so many hours during the workweek,” says Samuel, “and we are happy to help them cross beer off their weekend to-do list.”
Of course, these services are not exactly popular amongst the beer fans that actually wait in line, nor the brewery itself. “Must be nice to have that much extra disposable income to pay someone to wait in line for beer,” snarked one user on the BeerAdvocate forums. As for the litany of haters, Samuels tells me: “We provide an invaluable service and if you can afford it, then use it. If not, then it’s not for you to judge.”
“I work in finance and I work well with numbers—so I’m always looking at the value of certain things,” Greer tells me. “Once something becomes too expensive, it just doesn’t make sense to do it any more. But, if the math is right, and on a Saturday morning I don’t feel like lining up, I’m more than happy to pay a little extra.”
If it’s all about the value, then I had to ask: With such intense popularity, with lines around the block, what should Other Half be charging for their beers?
“That’s an interesting question,” said Greer, mulling it over. “$1,000? I don’t think that’s plausible.” Greer believes raising prices to capitalize on his ilk would cause the brewery to lose their marginal customers, if not most of the local community. Even he realizes: “Other Half isn’t in business to serve us.”
Other Half’s less wealthy line-waiters may be able to start relaxing though. It seems New York’s financial world is finally expanding their beer desires—or, at least, beer acquisitional wants.
“Our Wall Street clients are now having us go to Tired Hands,” Samuels tells me, referencing the cult Philadelphia-area brewery. “It’s like a whole new world is available to them without ever leaving their home.”