Earlier this fall, the comedian Brian Quinn spent the day cemetery hopping in Staten Island.
First, he visited Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp to visit the grave of August Horrmann. Next up was Silver Mount Cemetery in Sunnyside, where Joseph Rubsam is buried. “His mausoleum is a lot smaller,” Mr. Quinn said. “I don’t know why.”
After all, for decades in the late 19th century, the two men were business partners.
At each site, Mr. Quinn lifted up a can of Rubsam & Horrmann Pilsner and made a toast. “I was like, ‘I hope I do you guys proud,’” he said. “I thought it was proper, the right thing to do.”
Mr. Horrmann and Mr. Rubsam, both German immigrants, were pillars of the community in their day. In 1870, they started a small brewing business in Stapleton. By 1911, the facility had expanded to 3.5 acres and was producing 200,000 cases of beer every year.
The company lasted through the 1950s, when the Brooklyn-based brewer Piels took it over, keeping the facility open for another decade.
“I’m doing it because it’s fun, and I’m doing it because I’m interested in history,” he said.
There’s also a market.
Mr. Quinn is not the only enthusiastic craft brewer in the borough. Flagship Brewing Co., based in St. George and known for adopting the borough’s wild turkeys and baseball team into its branding, has been going strong for five years. And Kills Boro Brewing Company, admired for its experimental sours, is celebrating its two-year anniversary this month by moving from a 660-square-foot facility to one that is 12,000 square feet.
In the past decade, New York City has grown from having a handful of craft breweries to over 40 in all five boroughs. While Brooklyn and Queens have been known beer destinations for a while, Staten Island now has a scene to call its own. On one Saturday in September, Rick Gregg, a bouncer at Flagship Brewery, said he checked IDs from 10 different countries.
The borough even has an active home-brew club, Pour Standards. “Most home brewers are at least thinking about writing a business plan and imagining what it would be like to own a brewery,” said Nathan Anderson, the club’s president. “In five years I’m guessing there will be another two breweries on Staten Island.”
Historically, Staten Island was central to New York City beer making. In the 1840s, German immigrants discovered wells in Staten Island with clean water, which was key for brewing at the time, seeing that Brooklyn and Manhattan had polluted water sources. According to Patricia Salmon, a retired curator of history at the Staten Island Museum and the author of “Staten Island’s Brewery Barons,” by the early 1900s four large breweries and dozens of smaller operations were thriving in the borough.
The one that lasted the longest was R & H. Ms. Salmon has seen movies of a party the brewery threw in 1936, during the Great Depression. “They were giving out sandwiches,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing that they had so much money.”
Carlo Anderson, 94, a retired New York Fire Department battalion chief, remembers the original operation. “R & H had a great big brewery on Broad Street, and when I took the bus to and from work I could see these huge copper vats out the window,” he said. “It was a landmark on Staten Island.”
R & H, which just reopened for business last month, already has a presence in several Manhattan restaurants, including the Ginger Man and Joe & Pat’s, the second location of the storied Staten Island pizzeria.
The borough’s brewery scene, currently based on the North Shore, is within walking distance of the ferry, as are other nearby developments that should help draw in customers, like the new outlet mall Empire Outlets, which opened in May.
“I just don’t think people realize how easy it is to get to Staten Island,” said Anne Becerra, a beer director for bar Treadwell Park. “I’ve organized staff field trips from Manhattan to Staten Island to visit the breweries, and it always surprises me how many people act like we’re going to a foreign country.”
As more breweries open, bar hopping will hopefully increase, which should be good for business, said Sean Torres, one of the four founders and owners of Kills Boro. “There is a term called ‘promiscuous drinkers,’” he said. “They like to try different things. The fact that Flagship is down the block definitely helps us.”
It also doesn’t hurt that a celebrity like Brian Quinn has put his weight behind Staten Island beer.
Chrissi Sepe, 50, a novelist and part-time legal secretary who lives in Great Kills, didn’t even know her borough had breweries until Mr. Quinn posted a bottle of Flagship beer on Twitter. “I looked for it at Stop & Shop and bought a six-pack of their Flagship IPA bottles, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” she said.
On Sept. 21, for the relaunch of Rubsam & Horrmann Brewing Co., Mr. Quinn gave a party for 1,300 people at Flagship (he doesn’t yet have his own facility). The $25 tickets sold out a week before the event.
For the event, a D.J. from Maker Park Radio, a local radio station, provided music, and quasi-celebrity bartenders like Bryan Johnson (“Comic Book Men”), Brian O’Halloran (“Clerks”), and Joey Fatone (‘N Sync) struggled to serve drinks without being interrupted by fans asking for selfies. There were lines out the door to meet Mr. Quinn. The party continued in a parking lot across the street, overlooking the New York Bay, hours after the official event concluded.
After leaving the festivities, Mr. Anderson, the president of the Staten Island home-brew club, took his wife out for a rare dinner in Manhattan’s Koreatown. “We were just sitting there, sharing this really overpriced cocktail and beer,” he said, “and we hear this couple next to us talking about the R & H launch.”