I recently did a feature on a great bar in Brooklyn called BierWax on my other site I Drink Good Beer. While my feature was more about the beer side of things. I wanted to highlight the man behind it all on my personal site. His name is Chris Maestro and one of the best hip hop head, music enthusiasts I have ever met.
I asked him a few questions to pair with my photography from the afternoon. Enjoy the interview and photos. If you find yourself in Brooklyn. This bar is a must visit for vinyl heads to grab a listen and a drink.
How did you get into hip hop?
When I was 7 or 8, I was mesmerized by Nucleus’ “Jam on it” and tried to do back-spins in my basement. My parents actually took me to see the movie “Beat Street” in the movie theater in 1984. Yeah, I’m definitely an “old head.” A few years went by and I became a serious metal-head and began playing the guitar. It wasn’t until seeing BDP’s “My Philosophy” video probably on Ralph McDaniel’s Video Music Box that Hip Hop came back around for me. This was around 1990 and I fell back in love, quite deeply. With the little bit of money I earned from my Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) job, I went to Tower Records and wasted my entire check on CDs. This was pre-vinyl collecting days for me. I probably purchased every single notable “golden era” hip hop album (on CD) during my teens and also stayed up very late to record the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Radio Show on Thursday nights. A few years later, in my late teens, I began to collect records and mess around with hip hop production.
What made you start Bierwax?
There were a few separate moments that eventually made it click for me…
1) Approx. 2005 in Hong Kong, I was invited to hang out in this somewhat fancy cigar bar. My friend, who was out there working for a tech company, suggested I try this beer called Samichlaus. It was a doppelbock, brewed in Austria once a year, and was considered the strongest beer at the time at 14.5% abv. I took a few sips, eventually finished the beer, and was floored. I was taken aback not only by the strength, but also by a very flavorful beer. I was used to drinking Coronas and Heinekens, so this was a revelation for me. I returned to NYC searching for this beer and subsequently found other flavorful craft beers and Belgian beers. My palate (and life) was forever changed.
2) Around 2009 I visited Amsterdam for the first time and stumbled upon a bar named Cafe Duivel. It was a bonafide hip hop bar with a DJ spinning all vinyl and playing mainly indie hip hop from the states. Most of the patrons, who were native-born, knew many of the lyrics by heart. I thought to myself, “Why doesn’t this exist in NYC?” The seeds were planted!
3) Cultivating these two passions over the past 20 years made me want to combine both of these loves under one roof. The idea was born.
What has been your favorite thing that has happened since opening?
-The Other Half pre-party was pretty fantastic. Just being approached by Anthony from OH to be the official BK pre-party, was humbling. The party was amazing. So many people, so many industry folks, so may talented brewers. The night kicked my ass, but it was very special.
-Meeting some of my idols has been incredible. Prince Po from Organized Konfusion came by to hang out. Jay Smooth from the Underground Railroad came by. I listened to his radio show, the longest running underground hip hop radio show in NYC, since I was 15. Although I have known Bobbito for a while, having him spin at my bar was mind-blowing!
What are you looking forward to in the years to come at Bierwax?
Dude…I’m just trying to make it to year 2. Ha! I’m so in the weeds right now, I think answering this question will take a long time.
Thanks to Chris for having me out and if you haven’t been to Bierwax yet. Head on over and grab a drink.