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Pioneer Brewers: A Taste of Long Island
Brewing is the latest addition to Farmingdale's A Taste of Long Island
Pioneer Brewers is an ongoing series profiling Long Island’s first hub for alternating brewery proprietorships at A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale. The first installment explores the host brewery, A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery, operated by…
Jim Thompson recently unearthed his copy of Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing from his garage. The book, once a regular read, now exists solely as a worn vestige of his former hobby: its cover is frayed and most pages are dog-eared; its spine is more wrinkled than a rhinoceros’ skinsuit. “It was in storage for a long time with the rest of my brewing stuff,” Thompson admits, pouring us a pair of beers.
Jim Thompson, co-owner of A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale, has started a unique brewery in his commercial kitchen. Image: Doug Young
A homebrewer during the ‘90s, “when everything was extract in cans,” Thompson eventually shelved Papazian’s influential guide and stopped brewing with friends. “I started a family and life just got in the way,” he explains. The majority of his time now is dedicated to A Taste of Long Island, owned with his daughter, Courtney Citko. They provide a rentable commercial kitchen to small and budding food businesses, hosting roughly 50 rotating clients who “make and package everything from cookies to tomato sauce,” he says. The demand for their 800-square-foot space has only grown since opening in Farmingdale in 2012. “It’s hard for startup food entrepreneurs to find a good built-to-code kitchen in this area. We saw the need for it.”
Christine Goldfuss, owner of Christine’s Sweets, uses Taste to make her company’s eight types of cookies. She agrees with Thompson, telling the New York Times last year, “This has been a dream of mine for a long time. The sticking point was always trying to find a commercial kitchen.” Goldfuss, like many of Taste’s clients, also benefits from the company’s other component, an adjacent specialty grocery store that sells her products. (“One-third of our selection are goods made by our clients,” Thompson beams). It’s my first visit to the 400-square-foot store on Main Street, and my mother is with me, though our agendas are discernibly different. While she indifferently orbits the tiny room on a quest for “something sweet,” my objective is specific: I came to taste some beers from Thompson’s new in-house brewery, A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery.
A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery’s Farmingdale Blonde Ale. Image: Doug Young
After a hiatus of two decades, Thompson has returned to brewing—though now, with the proper federal and state licenses and equipment, he’s using his commercial kitchen, not his home, as the site to make beer as A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery. His first release, Farmingdale Blonde Ale, debuted in September. It’s a “clean and crisp beer accessible to all the Miller and Bud drinkers,” he says. This was followed by two variations using Farmingdale’s recipe as a base: Honey Blonde Ale, brewed with honey from Raleigh’s Poultry Farms and Country Store in Kings Park, and Honey Harvest Ale, brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. Both beers are available now.
Similar to Goldfuss and Taste’s other food-based clients, licensed brewers can rent the kitchen’s new brewing equipment, which includes a 125-gallon mash tun and two 55-gallon brew kettles (fermentators must be purchased by the tenant), to make beer. Thompson is operating his brewery as a hub for alternating proprietorships, defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau as an “arrangement in which two or more people take turns using the physical premises of a brewery. Generally, the proprietor of an existing brewery, the ‘host brewery,’ agrees to rent space and equipment to a new ‘tenant brewer.’”
A growing trend in the industry, the alternating proprietorship model is being utilized by small brewers deciding to eschew traditional—and costly—startup methods. In New York City, Grimm Artisanal Ales, Radiant Pig Craft Beers, and Third Rail Beer all rent space and equipment at large facilities to make their beers, while Evil Twin Brewing and Stillwater Artisanal Ales have both become popular brands by brewing as tenants, or gypsies, internationally. Thompson is the first to launch a home for alternating proprietorships on Long Island. As of now, he’s agreed to host three companies (more are forthcoming): 1940’s Brewing Company, Po’ Boy Brewery, and The Brewer’s Collective. This trio will have the opportunity to brew, package, and distribute their beers without the financial risk of launching a brick-and-mortar operation. “They don’t have to find a warehouse and spend $500,000 on equipment, rent, electricity, and so on. But it’s basically like owning a brewery—everything is brewed and packaged by the brewer and they pay their own taxes,” Thompson says.
“It’s not much different than a person coming here to make cookies,” he adds, though he also admits a lot of planning and restructuring was needed to accomodate the new endeavor. Thompson converted the building’s narrow basement into an area for storage and fermentation, for example, and it’s already stuffed with ingredients and equipment. He estimates tenants will brew at Taste “for only three or four years before opening their own brewery,” though, “so we’ll have the space to keep adding new brewers to the roster. I’m already getting tons of phone calls. I really think this can become the first launchpad for startup breweries on Long Island. We’re like a group of pioneer brewers,” he says.
While Thompson is confident of his brewery’s chances for long-term success, he’s still uncertain of an optimal setup to serve beer at his store. He’s using a kegerator with three drafts now, but already anticipating a flood of forthcoming beers from himself and his clients, he’s planning to upgrade to 10 drafts before Christmas. Another uhhhhhhh is the lack of seating. Thompson is selling beer to-go in 64-ounce growlers and 22-ounce bottles, but serving pints on-premise with only one table and two chairs won’t exactly draw a sizable crowd. “I have a lot of decisions to make eventually,” he says. “For now, though, I just want to get all the kinks worked out with all the brewers coming in. That’s the main focus here. We’re gonna be making a lot of beer.”
Filling Bottles at A Taste of Long Island. Image: Doug Young
After we taste Farmingdale Blonde, deliberately more refreshing than complex, Thompson pours me a beer from the second brewer to launch at Taste: Charles Becker, owner of 1940’s Brewing Company. Becker, a homebrewer from Old Bethpage, is focusing on German styles with his new company. He started brewing at Taste in…
COMING SOON: Pioneer Brewers: 1940’s Brewing Company
Drank That Local Sh*t: Blind Bat Brewery ThaiPA
The first collaboration between Blind Bat and New York Cork Report
Drank That Local Sh*t explores the nitty-gritty of Long Island-born beers consumed by Niko Krommydas—with assistance from their creators.
ThaiPA is the first collaboration between Blind Bat Brewery and Lenn Thompson, founder and editor of New York Cork Report. While a forthcoming series of beers was announced in 2012, born from a “mutual admiration for and dedication to local food, wine and beer,” explains Thompson, brewing for the project was delayed for two-plus years. This is partly due to an ongoing—and arduous—effort by Paul Dlugokencky, owner and brewmaster of Blind Bat, to relocate the brewery from his residence in Centerport to a commercial building.
ThaiPA is a pale ale brewed with four ingredients commonly used in Thai cuisine: Thai basil, lemon basil, lemongrass, and ginger. The basils were grown by Dlugokencky’s wife, Regina, at Seedsower Farm in Centerport (a trait of Blind Bat’s beerfolio, as Long Island Potato Stout, Hell Gate Golden Ale, and Honey & Basil Ale also feature Regina-planted schtuffs), and Mary Callanan, owner of Three Castles Garden in Westbury.
Blind Bat Brewery/ThaiPA
Format: Bottle (22oz)
Super Neat Descriptors: Spicey, Lemony, Herbal, Fruity
Paul Dlugokencky: Back in 2011, Lenn Thompson asked if I would be interested in brewing an IPA he had an idea for incorporating lemongrass and Thai basil called “ThaiPA.” Since Lenn had already had my Honey & Basil Ale, he knew I was comfortable brewing with basil. Crowded schedules—balancing the day job, brewing, and an ongoing hunt for a larger space for the brewery—as well as the search for the right hop delayed the inaugural brew for much longer than I should have allowed, but Lenn proved to be more than patient. Citra came to be the hop I was looking for, and a three-barrel batch was finally brewed in August.
The Citra hops, while contributing a calculated bitterness within the range of today’s IPAs, lend more of a tropical fruit character than the palate-punishing bitterness often sought for in contemporary IPAs. Local and organic Thai basil and lemon basil grown by my wife Regina at Seedsower Farm and her farmer friend, Mary Callanan, owner of Three Castles Garden, were added to the boil, along with lemongrass. Ginger was added post-primary fermentation. With the basils, lemongrass, and ginger, ThaiPA in my mind lands somewhere in a territory on its own, rather than as strictly either an IPA or an American pale ale. The offbeat spicing lends itself to pairing with a wide variety of foods, not just Thai cuisine. Regina especially enjoyed it with pizza.
Long Island + Sixpoint = Furever
Two Long Island collaborations at Sixpoint's Beer for Beasts on Saturday
I already purchased my ticket to Beer for Beasts on Saturday, but I must reiterate: I can’t attend the annual two-session event organized by Sixpoint and Beer Advocate, which has awesomely raised nearly $100,000 for the Humane Society of New York since 2011. Though I proudly paid to donate to the not-for-profit veterinary hospital and no-kill shelter, an iCloud of sorrow continues to linger over my brainspace, as I will regrettably miss 35 exclusive and peculiar beers from Sixpoint—including two with a connection to Long Island. I conveyed this quandary to my cat, Miles Davis, who, following a three-hour meditative loaf, recommended a potential remedy: revisit the source of bummedness with positivity.
I agreed to attempt his treatment, so I will shift focus to discuss the aforementioned pair.
The first is Boo’s Brew, a collaboration with the area’s chapter of Girls’ Pint Out, self-described as a “national craft beer organization for women.” There are 60 members in Long Island’s, founded by Lauri Spitz in 2011, including Julie Henken and Melissa Meier. Spitz, now co-owner of Moustache Brewing Company in Riverhead, relinquished her presidency to the duo to focus on the two-barrel brewery in March.
“We were brainstorming awesome things to do to promote the group and I remembered that Lauri and Matt [Spitz] brewed with Sixpoint for last year’s event,” says Meier, referring to I Can Haz Orange Chocolate Milk Stout?. “I emailed Heather [Reynolds, brewer at Sixpoint] to start the process. She immediately signed on.”
Boo’s Brew isn’t the first collaboration involving Girls’ Pint Out on Long Island: HiHo Belgian Pale was made with BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant in April. The chapter desired “something feminine and related to kitties” for Beer for Beasts, says Meier, opting for a wheat beer with blueberries and lavender (the latter was sourced from Lavender by the Bay in East Marion). It’s named for Meier’s cat, Boo.
“We wanted a basic wheat base so the lavender and blueberry could shine and take center stage,” Henkin says. “We steeped the lavender after boiling, while blueberries were added during secondary fermentation. It should have some nice floral notes up front with some tartness to follow.”
(L-R) Adam Zuniga, brewer at Sixpoint, and Sean Redmond, brewer at Barrier Brewing Company. Image: Sean Redmond
While Boo’s Brew was hatched from furballs and cuteness, the event’s other Long Island-connected beer, Raining Beets, was inspired by a thrashy and tenebrous source: Slayer. A riff on the seminal metal band’s 1986 album, Reign in Blood, Raining Beets is a beet-infused collaboration between Sixpoint and Oceanside’s Barrier Brewing Company, owned by Evan Klein and Craig Frymark. Both started their beer careers at the Brooklyn-based brewery before re-teaming at their 30-barreler, opened by Klein in 2009. It was Sean Redmond, a brewer at Barrier, however, who visited their former home in Red Hook to make the blood-colored beer with Sixpoint’s Adam Zuniga. They’re homeboys.
“It’s a mix between a big blonde ale and a pale ale to let the beets shine both in flavor and color,” says Redmond. “We used beet juice in the whirlpool. It’s a good fermentable sugar probably with a sweet taste. Slayer was playing during the entire brewday. We’re both huge fans. It was a lotta fun.”
Boo’s Brew and Raining Beets will both pour at Beer for Beasts to benefit the Humane Society of New York. Tickets are available now.
Beer Sessions Radio: Breweries on the North Fork
Update Aug.22: Listen to this episode here.
Good Morning, Aquebogue! I was asked to organize a Long Island-themed episode of Heritage Radio Network’s weekly program, Beer Sessions Radio, which we pre-recorded during the last week of July. It airs today at 5 pm.
The host of Beer Sessions, Jimmy Carbone (also owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 in Manhattan), proposed gathering three breweries as guests for the show, so I chose to feature a thriving trio on the North Fork: Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Long Ireland Beer Company, and Moustache Brewing Company. While Blue Point Brewing Company still defines beermaking on Long Island, Greenport Harbor and Long Ireland are both prompting drinkers, by portfolio dopeness and continued growth, to travel east of the vaunted progenitor in Patchogue—to Greenport and Riverhead, respectively. This has helped establish a noteworthy scene on the 30-mile-long peninsula, one that, in my opinion, now deservedly includes Moustache in Riverhead.
Beer Sessions traditionally broadcasts live every Tuesday from Roberta’s in Brooklyn, but we recorded this episode at Greenport Harbor’s impressive and just-opened 13,000-square-foot facility in Peconic, which is highlighted by a 30-barrel brewhouse and 2,000-square-foot taproom (its original brewery and taproom, in Greenport, remains operational). We also drank—specifically Greenport Harbor’s #5, an anniversary-themed Belgian-style dubbel aged with tart cherries; Long Ireland’s newest release, Trinity IPA; and Moustache’s flagship, Everyman’s Porter.
Super Neat Drinking Tweets: Barrage Brewing Company Yada Yada Yada
Super Neat Drinking Tweets will attempt to decipher the beer-fueled babblings of Niko Krommydas on Twitter. This activity has replaced his former pastime during solitary late-night (or sunrise) sessions of brewdulgence: indecipherable singing and moshing to Paul Simon’s 1986 album, “Graceland.”
The first Drinking Tweet is traditionally an articulate statement devoid of guff. This is evident in the instance of Niko Krommydas’:
The complexity of Niko Krommydas is unparalleled. He is possibly referring to Snickers, the popular log-shaped, milk chocolate-enrobed candy containing nougat, peanuts, and caramel. If we more-explore to uncover the veritable essence of the Drinking Tweet, however, we can postulate that his beer was not Snickers, an alcohol-less food, but actually Barrage Brewing Company‘s Yada Yada Yada, a Snickers-infused brown ale.
Barrage, which opened in Farmingdale in January, created Yada Yada Yada for a Seinfeld-themed dinner at Morrison’s on May 19. The event featured five courses, each paired with a different beer from the one-barrel brewery.
“We were throwing around ideas of doing one beer based on a food from [Seinfeld]. Food was always a big component,” says Steve Pominski, owner and brewmaster. “We thought about Junior Mints or chocolate bobka, but we settled on Snickers. [’The Pledge Drive’] is one of my favorite episodes.”
“The Pledge Drive” is an episode from the iconic sitcom’s sixth season, which, simultaneous with other absurdly genius storylines, follows a new haute-monde method of Snickers-based consumption. “The Yada Yada,” a classic from the eighth season, furthermore, reveals the inspiration for the beer’s name. Both episodes shape the identity of an ale that, according to Pominski, is a “liquid Snickers bar. Chocolate. Peanuts. Caramel. It’s all there—aromatically and in the taste. It’s literally like someone smashed Snickers bars and liquified them and put them into a glass.”
That “someone” was Pominski. He chopped-smashed nearly five pounds of the candy, adding them to the beer during fermentation. The reception for the first batch was “insane,” he says, so a second batch was brewed and released in July. “People come in specifically for the ‘Snickers beer.’ It has its own life now,” he adds.
Steve Pominski, owner and brewmaster of Barrage Brewing Company. Image: Beer Loves Company
Yada Yada Yada is currently one of eight draft beers available at Barrage, which opened a tasting room with growlers and flights on July 19 (only growlers were filled at the brewery previously). It’s positioned near the entrance and features an oak-topped bar and hair-on cowhide-upholstered stools.
“You don’t have to stand around the brewery and wait for your growler to be filled,” Pominski says. “And a lot of people like to pet the stools. I don’t mind.”
Barrage Brewing Company is open on Friday, 4:30 pm to 8 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 1pm to 5pm.
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