Getting drinks with Dylan Sprouse, Master Brewer
The revolving doors of the William Vale, a towering hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are in constant rotation. Rumor has it that teen girls keep showing up to the hotel, pestering the concierge about the launch date of Dylan Sprouse’s in-house meadery, All-Wise. The date keeps getting pushed back, but that hasn’t stopped diehard fans from piecing together that something is, literally, brewing. “We’re definitely going to need a doorman,” Sprouse admits as we carefully swish local beers between our cheeks, checking for what he calls “mouthfeel,” at nearby brewery Tørst.
Tørst, a Greenpoint bar—actually, “rare craft emporium”—showcases a wall of taps almost like trophies, each tethered to a hose hidden behind the marble backsplash, ferrying different brews from micro-breweries in Brooklyn as well as upstate New York and further afield. It’s unassumingly Scandi in its decor and vibe, hidden behind a white door near Brooklyn’s McCarren Park. Sprouse likes to come here because its owner, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, is also a twin. He owns Evil Twin Brewing, a gypsy brewing venture. (Gypsy brewing, Sprouse explains, is when a brewer “hijacks” a brewery he doesn’t permanently own to brew his product.) His brother, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, owns a rival brewery, Mikkeller. Apparently, the pair are not on good terms.
Sprouse, 25, is now America’s youngest Master Brewer, but known to most as the actor who played Zack Martin for 87 episodes on Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Being a Master Brewer is not a qualification one studies for, but more a job title, “in the same way that lead mechanic is a thing, or the head chef would be a thing.” He is a twin who grew up on set, getting his career start at eight months old. “I don’t even remember not acting,” he says. “It was just scintillating work then: crying, wailing, goo-goo ga-ga, crawling … I was an expert at crawling—that was my specialty.”
His cascading blond hair now brushes his shoulders, he has an NYU degree in Video Game Design, and he is barrels deep into a free-flowing empire of brewing honey mead. He has been more or less M.I.A. for the past six years, exiting the Disney conveyor belt flush with cash and reacquainting himself with normalcy like other child stars turned campus scholars Amanda Bynes and Mara Wilson. While at NYU with his brother, Cole, Sprouse commenced small-scale operations headquartered in his dorm room, testing his concoctions on roommates once class was dismissed.
“I was brewing in my dorm,” he says over a Rothaus pilsner. “I had a very lax [residence assistant], and by lax I mean he was never there at all. He was a med school student and he was always out at his girlfriend’s place. I don’t blame him really, but it gave me ample opportunity to brew inside the dorm.”
It was during hurricane Sandy, in October 2012, that Sprouse finally got a chance to mass test his mead. “I had just finished a batch a week before then, so we had five gallons. During one night we invited two floors of people to hang out in the dorm and we strapped lanterns to water bottles and made this cool, glowing dorm room because there were no lights. We got cheese and meats and we just drank all five gallons and woke up the next morning, all of us scattered all over the floor like, ‘What the fuck?’ That was a good time,” he recalls. “I look back on that fondly.”
He got into brewing at 16, when his dad gave him an at-home brew kit for his birthday. His first batch “tasted like dog shit—but we drank it!” Sprouse didn’t let the dank brew faze him, and has since been fastidiously tweaking his recipes.
Only once did he potentially craft something more sinister than a mead. “I made something with apples once,” he remembers. “I made a cyser—that’s what it’s called when you have an apple or a cider hybrid with mead. I read somewhere that apple seeds have traces of cyanide in them and I don’t think that’s actually true, but I used the whole apple and thought there might be cyanide in my cyser, so I freaked myself out about it. I drank a little bit of it and after that I worked myself up into a frenzy. Then I looked it up and did a lot of research and was like, ‘I’m going to be okay.’ I’m still here, so there was no cyanide!”
Sprouse is still here, still meting out hilarious tweets, and running into fans on walks with his dog, Magnus. But his absence from our TV screens has been felt. For a certain generation, the Sprouse twins were synonymous with childhood—two wise-cracking blonds who made mischief seem fun. While there was no explicit reason he and Cole stepped away from Hollywood’s sound stages, both felt it was time for a break. “I didn’t really resent [acting] until about 18 years old, and it wasn’t even resentment then, to say resent is extremely spoiled—but there was a point where I was like, ‘I need to do something that’s not acting for a little bit of my life.’ That’s why I went to college and stepped away from all of that for a long time and didn’t even really look at the industry till I was done. As a kid, I don’t think you really think of it that much. It takes till you’re about in your teens to be like, ‘No, father and mother, I do not want to do that.’”
On the precipice of his meadery launch, Sprouse knows owning a business will eat a lot of his time. Still, now that he’s put in the requisite 10,000 hours, he’s keen to follow his brother back into acting. “We both always knew that it would be a thing that we would do again,” he says, referring to Cole, who landed the role of Jughead on the CW’s Riverdale. Dylan doesn’t feel pressure to compete. “I think that the part that was most nerve-wracking was not getting back into acting, but auditioning again. Auditioning sucks!”
Sprouse has tiptoed his way back into the biz, first as Lucas Ward in Dismissed, a dark thriller about a neurotic student who wants to elevate his broken family into the Ivy Leagues, and will do anything in his power to accomplish it. “The character was something I’ve never done before,” Sprouse says. “I thought I was going to be more nervous than I was but it’s kind of like riding a bike. I didn’t like poop my pants or swell up out of nervousness, it was all good.” He’ll follow that up with the short film Carte Blanche.
With clean pants and a satisfactory mouthfeel, Sprouse exits Tørst, even offering to pay the bill. He’s funnier than he was on TV even, exceedingly normal. He’s not just an actor, but an NYU grad and now the nation’s youngest Master Brewer. However his mead fares—and we’re guessing well judging by the constant intrigue from fans storming the William Vale—Dylan Sprouse is living the millennial dream.
DYLAN SPROUSE REVIEWS BEER
QUALIFY PILS, SUAREZ FAMILY BREWERY
SPROUSE: So for this one we got the Pilsner. Right off the bat I would say that this is a mellow Pilsner, it doesn’t have a bold wheat flavor, like bready flavor that kicks your ass. It’s also low carbonation so the mouthfeel is really good, at least in my impression with beer I like. I’m not a super carbonated guy, some people like drinking their beer like it’s a champagne right? It’s not my vibe. I’ve heard people say farmhouse or hay as a note, I could definitely taste that breaded chicken even in a way.
Farmhouse could be like a sourness, this is definitely not a sour but it’s the impression. Like, even honey can have this too, some strands of honey, which we use for mead, but it’s like barnyard. Some people even say it might taste how you imagine the rubber of a boot might taste in a very trace amount. Some people really like that! I don’t mind it all that much. Even for this on the nose it just smells like- that’s what these classes are for in general, when something’s serves in a wine glass or something like a wine glass, it usually to catch the aroma.
PINK LEMONADE IPA, EVIL TWIN BREWING
SPROUSE: This is like pink lemonade one. This is interesting because this is the kind of stuff I was talking about, I generally don’t like this but Jeppe Bjergso is a great brewer from Evil Twin so I don’t doubt that this is going to be pretty good. For example, this is a good attempt at mixing two very prominent flavor profiles because the pink lemonade isn’t beating you over the head with it’s profile. I could still taste the beer here, the alcohol content, but at the same time I don’t feel like I’m having a Long Island iced tea. I think this is actually pretty good, it’s not what I would order generally.
[You can taste] grapefruit. Super sweet. Clover on the nose too. It smells fresh, like a grass smell. This is definitely more of an obvious profile than the pilsner was, the content of the beer is definitely a lot more mellow. Personally, I would’ve served it a lot colder. I would’ve put ice on it and served it more as a pink lemonade than a beer. I’d drink this on a grass field or during a summer day with a bunch of friends. At a tailgate or barbeque, something like that would be fun. I probably would’ve made it more of a thicker mouthfeel—mouthfeels are really important.
VIDEO BY LUCIAN CLIFFORTH. DISMISSED IS OUT IN SELECT THEATERS NOW. ALL-WISE MEADERY WILL OPEN SOON AT THE WILLIAM VALE.