Thirty feet below the street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, there are thousands of cheese wheels aging in tunnels originally built for brewing beer.
Susan Boyle and Benton Brown, owners of Crown Finish Caves, converted the old Nassau Brewery tunnels into a cheese-making operation. The tunnels were first built in the 1850s, and now they are used to age some 25,000 pounds of cheese.
Boyle and Brown follow the European tradition of finishing cheese. Although a below-grade, urban location may seem a little unorthodox for affinage (the French term for the process of aging cheese), the conditions of the tunnels allow temperature and humidity to be easily controlled and gives the cheese a complex, layered flavor.
The Nassau Brewery Company occupied the site from 1860s to 1916 and was then used by the Heinz Company. In recent decades, it mostly sat vacant. Boyle and Brown bought their part of the former brewery in 2001, while the rest of the industrial site is currently being redeveloped.