LIBeerGuide hopes that 2021 is off to a good start for you as we continue to battle the pandemic and await a return to some kind of normalcy later this year (dare we say it -- beerfests!!). In the meantime, we urge our readers to continue doing all the things we need to do to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy -- including getting the vaccine when it becomes available!
Long Island’s craft beer industry continued to expand in 2020 with nine breweries opening taprooms despite the pandemic. No town had more growth than Riverhead, with two breweries opening new taprooms, Tradewinds Brewing and Twin Fork Beer Co. Now Riverhead's sixth brewery, Peconic County Brewing, is poised to open its new taproom any day now. The inspiration for the brewery’s name came from a longtime movement to form a new Peconic County from the five easternmost towns of Suffolk County. While Riverhead may never become a county seat, Peconic County Brewing has made Riverhead the capital city of craft brewing on Long Island, surpassing Bay Shore's five craft breweries.
Jeff Schaeffer outside his new brewery in Riverhead
Peconic County Brewing is located downtown on East Main Street just a few blocks from the Long Island Aquarium. The 8,500 square foot brewery and restaurant, including a 2,000 square foot deck overlooking the Peconic River, occupies the ground floor of the new Riverview Lofts building that opened last fall with 116 rental units. The brewery was founded by Jeff Schaeffer, a Patchogue resident who grew up in Southampton and has deep roots in the hospitality business. He also spent time researching the craft beer business and visiting breweries for his blog and podcast, Long Island Beer Authority.
The Riverview Lofts building offered Schaeffer the opportunity to design and build his brewery from scratch, including a full kitchen. He installed a 15 barrel brewhouse with 30 barrel fermenters and recruited James Miller, who was an assistant to Steve Pominsky at the sorely missed Barrage Brewing, to serve as brewmaster. Miller aims to have 10 beers on tap regularly, with seasonal brews and regular offerings such as Dream Girl IPA made with Simco, Amarillo and El Dorado hops, and Hampton Haze New England-style IPA. To head up the brewery’s kitchen, Schaeffer tapped longtime friend chef Luke Andrews, a veteran of the East End foodie scene including Baron's Cove in Sag Harbor and Little Red in Southampton. His menu will focus on upscale but simple pub food, like a lobster roll served on a croissant, along with burgers, flatbreads and wings,
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Craft Breweries Ramp Up Takeout
With limitations on the number of customers allowed in taprooms expected to remain in place for some time, craft breweries continue to focus on takeout, curbside pickup and in some cases home delivery and shipping. Several of Long Island's newer breweries are expanding production of cans and bottles to meet increased demand.
Noble Savage Brewing in Glen Cove, which opened in August 2019, plans to add a bottling line in the spring. Frank Bilello, Noble Savage's owner and brewmaster, said that bottling makes more sense financially for him than canning and will make it easier for customers to buy beer for takeout, which is currently offered in 32 oz. crowlers.
27A Brewing in Lindenhurst, which also opened in August 2019, is planning to install a canning line in March to meet strong demand from the local community. Co-owners Ryan Cooke and his wife Melissa Bates-Cooke currently do all canning by hand and estimate that 80 percent of sales have been coming through takeout since the start of the pandemic.
Long Island's oldest and largest craft brewery, Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue, recently unveiled a new logo and packaging. The original logo from the brewery's founding in 1998, which featured a floating buoy marker, was refreshed in 2017 after Blue Point's acquisition by Anheuser-Busch.
The buoy marker will still appear on the packaging for Toasted Lager, Blue Point's flagship beer, but the new logo "reimagines the buoy" to produce a "cleaner, leaner look," according to a company statement. The new logo does pay tribute to Blue Point's hometown, Patchogue, with the inclusion of Patchogue's latitude and longtitude (40.77,-73.02). Blue Point began a rolling transition of the new branding and packaging in mid-January with Toasted Lager first, followed by Hoptical Illusion, Imperial Sunshine and other beers in coming months.
GSB Offers Super Bowl Giveaway
Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore is gearing up for the big game on February 7 with a Stuper-Bowl Box Giveaway. The promotion is free to enter and each entrant will have a chance to win GSB gift cards for every score change and at the end of each quarter, with the final score winner receiving a $250 GSB gift card. Full details including how to enter are on GSB's website.
Homebrew Club Roundup
Long Island's homebrew clubs continue to hold monthly meetings and are moving forward with plans for competitions.
Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) is holding the LIBME 2021 Pro-Am competition with the overall winner being sent to the Great American Beer Festival. The first leg of the competition was judged in December, with Adam Weiss winning with his Black IPA with vanilla and lactose. Two more legs will be held in Feb. and April, with the winners of the three legs being brewed at North Fork Brewing in Riverhead. LIBME's next meeting will be on Feb. 3 at Bellport Brewing Company, reservations are required to attend the meeting.
Handgrenades Homebrew Club is holding its regular club competitions including the annual Last Brewer Standing competition, which this year is Clone Wars. The winner of the 2020 Last Brewer Standing was Christopher Cerney for his Roggenbier.
The New York City Homebrewers Guild is holding the 15th annual Homebrew Alley competition, the longest-running AHA/BJCP sanctioned competition in the NYC metropolitan area. Dropoffs can be made on Long Island from Feb. 12 through Feb. 20 at Blue Point Brewpub in Patchogue. Best in Show judging will be held virtually on Sat. March 13. Full details are available at the Homebrew Alley XV website.
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