Our neighborhood has a distinct energy. That feeling comes from countless artists, musicians, crafters and creators, all working to follow their passion. Inspired by the new year and Dry – or Dryish – January ahead, we packed up some Brooklyn Special Effects and caught up with some of the makers in our neighborhood to see what drives them.
Jenny Olbrich, also known as The Pizza Girl NYC on Instagram, is the chef, head pizza maker, and co-owner of The Esters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. After bouncing between everything from ultra distance mountain biking to creative direction, Jenny committed to pizza in 2009 and embarked on a series of kitchens, pop ups, and “weird underground dinner parties.” Today she is building the neighborhood bar she wants to see, full of dogs, great drinks, and excellent pizza.
We met up with Jenny behind the counter during her daily prep work to talk about building community in New York, pizza as an artistic medium, and why Special Effects IPA has found a home in The Esters’ kitchen.
Brooklyn Brewery: What’s a normal day for you?
Jenny Olbrich: My normal day is a very long day. I wake up super early, I walk with my dog, get my coffee, I run all my errands, including going to Emily’s Pork in Williamsburg, to get all my dried and cured meats. Then I come in and I do dough, I fix everything that’s broken the night before, troubleshoot, and then I make pizza.
BB: What do you love about living in NYC?
JO: New York really feeds my creativity. There’s so much going on visually, food, drink – anything you want, it’s here, and people are all putting their own different spin on it. Like pizza, there’s so many different pizza places that are absolutely amazing, but everybody’s doing something different. One of my favorite things to do is go out and have pizza in other places because everybody’s doing something special, and it just feeds you.
BB: You’re particularly focused on Greenpoint. What does this neighborhood in particular mean to you?
JO: I’ve been living in this neighborhood for so long that I feel like I’m really a part of the community, and I like that. I like being able to be there for people. Especially with opening this bar, we created a really nice hub for people to come in – you can be alone and want to get a drink by yourself, and you can come in and it’s a nice safe space to be. I think that New York fosters a false idea that it’s just big and empty and open, and it’s not. There’s all these different pockets of communities, like this one in Greenpoint. It’s really nice, it’s home.
BB: What first got you interested in pizza making?
JO: I started back in 2009, but I always loved pizza. Where I grew up was kind of a food desert. There wasn’t a whole lot going on there in Philadelphia, so I always loved pizza because it was kind of a comfort thing. It’s just like something that makes me happy. And one of the greatest things that happens is when I’m in the kitchen, I look out and I see people completely psyched. And it just keeps me going. And that just continues my love of making pizza.
BB: Do you consider yourself an artist in your pizza making work?
JO: I do consider myself an artist because it’s all sorts of nuances, and it’s not like I’m just slapping some stuff together and throwing it on a pan and just being “like here you go.” Everything is carefully thought out – like even down to how to top it and what it looks like and how those flavors blend. Because it’s also a really beautiful product. It’s not just delicious, but it’s really gorgeous. So I guess in a way I do consider myself an artist.
BB: What’s your take on Dry January? Do you participate?
JO: I don’t fully participate in Dry January only because I do have to taste wines, beers, and product for the bar. I can’t just buy something sight unseen. However, I cut back, so basically I just do the tasting. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve cut down on my drinking significantly in general, and that’s what I love about all these non-alcoholic options. Like today – drinking non-alcoholic beer, didn’t get drunk, can still work in the kitchen. It’s amazing, and it’s delightful.
Having non-alcoholic options that actually taste like a boozy thing kicks that craving. I look at it also as a social thing. Now you’re hanging out at the bar and you can actually have a drink – you don’t feel like you need to make excuses, or explain yourself like, “oh, yeah, I’m doing Dry January.” You’re drinking a beer, so nobody cares. I like it. So while I’m not participating fully in Dry January, lifewise: I’ve cut down. I love the options.
BB: What does drinking less allow you to do more of? Do you find non-alcoholic drinks like Special Effects to be a good alternative?
JO: Get up early. The early morning is my favorite time of day. It’s my time to just relax and chill out before my crazy long days. When I’m not hungover, I’m getting up and I’m happy, and I’m completely functional. At this point in my life – I don’t know if it’s an age thing – I have two glasses of wine and the next day I just feel completely [blows raspberry.] I like being able to just live without being tired and exhausted.
Sometimes, twice a week I’ll have 14 hour days. I don’t want to be hungover for that. That’s why it was nice to have a beer today, and still be able to work now. In the kitchen I don’t allow drinking. You’re not allowed to drink during your shift. This is just a great alternative. My guys in the kitchen and I, we had some of the Brooklyn Special Effects IPA, and they got to drink up! Everybody drank them and enjoyed them.
BB: Do you think there was a stigma attached to non-alcoholic brews [NAs] that has since shifted?
JO: Yeah, it has definitely shifted. You can look now, and there’s more products available. I think there was a stigma to NA where people were like “Oh, you’re in AA,” and well, no – not drinking doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem. It means you want to be clear headed and you want to think. Now there’s so many options for NA, which is helping to get rid of the stigma.
BB: What was different about Brooklyn Special Effects when you tried it?
JO: The difference with Brooklyn Special Effects is that it tasted good, to be quite honest. The IPA has a delightful flavor to it and makes you feel like you’re drinking beer, which is a bit of a head game. Just crack one open, and it’s awesome. The flavor is delicious.
Why are you bringing Brooklyn Special Effects into The Esters?
JO: So we have a delicious option. And most importantly, it’s here in Brooklyn. We’re keeping it local and supporting the neighborhood. Like I said, I’m all about the neighborhood. Being able to offer this, I’m keepin’ it in the hood. Keeping it family.
Looking for more stories from our neighborhood? Check out our sessions with Victoria Rose Adrian and Jordan Page for more. Plus, drink along with $10 off any $50+ Special Effects order from our Online Store this Dry January.