The owners of a local bike and home beer brewing shop have done something many people dream of but might not advise: they are friends who went into business together.
Clint McAllister and Aaron Thornton of Brew Bros Hops and Sprockets work together, repairing bikes and supplying ingredients and equipment for brewing beer at home. They describe their shop as technically proficient, with an air of mild incompetence in decoration.
McAllister, 44, and Thornton, 40, decided to go into business together because Thornton needed a change of pace from his job.
“You can only pull so much wire before you’ve pulled all the wire,” he said. He said he was running out of cool new things to try, so he needed a challenge.
“I was an electrician looking for a change, so here we are: bikes and beer,” Thornton said.
Thornton said few things translated from his work as an electrician. He said the only real crossover was a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself) knowledge.
“On the bike side, for me, it was mostly just knowing how to use tools, but nothing translated over from the bike side, like Clint has to teach me everything from the beginning,” he said. Thornton calls McAllister the “en-cycle-pedia” on bikes.
Thornton decided to team up with McAllister, who had previously worked at Big Poppi Bicycle Company, and they started Brew Bros. McAllister began mountain biking in the ‘90s in Kansas and fell in love with it.
McAllister found a passion in it because there were not a lot of resources. He learned through friends. McAllister describes himself as a hands-on person. “I’d kind of always wanted to work in a bike shop but was never quite able to get hired at the one that existed the entire time from the ‘90s to even now, and then I finally got that opportunity in 2010,” McAllister said.
A couple of years later, McAllister got into home brewing from a kit he got.
“I had zero interest in brewing beer until I got that kit. Like zero — it had never crossed my mind,” McAllister said. “It was like this is a fun process, too, it’s just kind of like art and science mixed together.”
McAllister also thinks bike repair is an art form.
“The easiest way to explain it is, a rear derailleur functions the same no matter what brand is stamped on it, getting it to move from gear to gear,” McAllister said. “But the process of which you make that happen is something that is learned by working with a lot of other things and then also knowing all the steps and then combining them to suit your purpose.”
McAllister and Thornton also service the Green Apple Bikes, which are available to borrow around Manhattan as part of a nonprofit program, and they train volunteers who help fix those bikes. The Greater Manhattan Community Foundation runs the program, and donations from people pay for the bikes.
Both would have liked to brew beer as their career, but McAllister said working on bikes makes more money than making beer for fun. (And he points out selling home brew is illegal.)
The two usually make a new brew every couple of weeks. In the summer months, brewing slows down as the bike side of things picks up. But now, as winter is here and the demand for bike repair settles down, they can brew more often.
McAllister said they brew all kinds of beers: stouts, Belgian beers, IPAs. The only beers they don’t brew are sours.
McAllister prefers IPAs.
“There’s so much diversity and hops and flavors you can get with the hops that the base of the beer, the barley, and the water don’t and yeast don’t offer,” he said.
Although the shop is small, the two build good client relationships.
“We actually care about the results people get,” Thornton said. “Either their bike works well, and they can get from point A to point B without failing, and for multiple trips, or they get that flavor or style of beer they’ve been wanting to nail it for a while.”
He said being involved in both of those hobbies outside of just a job means you want good results for yourself, so you want to ensure that other people get that, too.