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Spider Bite Beer Company’s Taproom Set to Open
Spider Bite Beer Company unveils its eight-draft taproom in Holbrook Saturday
When Spider Bite Beer Company unveils its eight-legge, err, eight-draft taproom on Saturday, for the first time in over three years, people will drink its beers—not at some bar in Massapequa Park or some restaurant in St. James, or any venue where the alcohol stage is shared with other breweries, but at its headquarters in Holbrook, a bright-ass singular spotlight. At 920 Lincoln Avenue, the menu will always only feature Spider Bite.
This is undeniably a milestone for Larry Goldstein and Anthony LiCausi, the two longtime friends and neighbors who started the company in 2011, but it’s not the only one to celebrate tomorrow. The other milestone occurred last month, when Goldstein, brewmaster, began brewing in the adjacent warehouse space previously used for storage. Spider Bite has cleared the cobwebs to make beer in Holbrook!
When I visited their 1,500-square-foot operation last week, seven 1.5-barrel fermenters were happily filled with developing beers, while the taproom—essentially a small room with a small bar and a few stools—was still morphing from its previous form (the brewery’s office). As the duo swiftly painted its walls an airy beige-ish color, I asked about their first major event appearance in 2012, at TAP New York. TAP annually awards one brewery the F.X. Matt Memorial Cup for “Best Craft Beer Brewery in New York State” and that year, from a pool of over 50, Spider Bite won. This effectively announced the brand’s arrival with a bullhorn.
“I was ecstatic,” Goldstein recalls, “but not entirely,” he quickly adds as his tone shifts to irked. “‘They don’t even make their beer, so how can they win?’ That’s what I heard some people say about us.”
The hissy-fitters, to some extent, were correct. Since launching Spider Bite, Goldstein and LiCausi have contracted the production and packaging of their core offerings—first with Butternuts Beer & Ale, then with both Butternuts and Cooperstown Brewing simultaneously, and now with Mercury Brewing. This practice is generally accepted in the wineiverse, but it’s often a target of harsh (and sometimes childish) criticism in the craft-beer industry—not only from drinkers, but also from brewers, who claim the liquid yielded is inauthentic and inferior. I’ll refer to a quote from Cigar City’s founder, Joey Redner, for my stance on the contract-brewing issue: “There is nothing magical about owning the equipment you brew on ... The beer is either good or it is not good. A beer is not more good because you own the gear it was made on.”
While the host brewery has changed during Spider Bite’s three-plus years of aliveness, its base has remained at 920 Lincoln Avenue, located in an industrial area near Sunrise Highway. When Goldstein and LiCausi started leasing the unit, one of many in a large brick warehouse, the goal was to start brewing to supplement their outsourcing within a year. That didn’t happen.
“Time just flew by,” he reflects. “You start dealing with the matters involved with contracting your beer, making sure everything is working out on that end, and you start losing sight and steam on the building of your own thing. Before we knew it, it was three years later.”
Despite the flak-wrapped poop flung from some, Goldstein does not regret their decision to outsource production: “It helped us get the ball rolling. It gave us a faster initial start being able to supply more locations from the beginning.” He pauses. “But things taste sweeter now, definitely.”
The sweetness Goldstein is tasting likely derives from Spider Bite’s plans for Holbrook, which include not only brewing a slew of new recipes, but also recipes that were only brewed once or twice as exclusive offerings for major local events, like the North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ & Wine Festival. As its core “alerachnids”—the newest is Fundur, a crushable light-bodied and low-alcohol IPA presenting wonderful grapefruit and floral aromas—will continue to be contracted elsewhere on a large scale for distribution (they will also appear at the taproom occasionally), only experimental species will be bred at the brewery, for the brewery, in small amounts. The idea, Goldstein says, is to offer “stuff you can’t get anywhere else but the taproom.”
“I already know a ton of beers we’re making soon,” he continues. He reveals some before I leave: the five dissected below this story, and Bohemia Raspberry, a bottle-only blonde ale spiked with Brettanomyces yeast and aged with fresh raspberries. There are also plans to pour stored kegs of Boris The Spider, my favorite of Spider Bite’s beers, from the last four winters simultaneously.
As a brewmaster, Goldstein is the sum of his recipes. Whatever he chooses to make at Holbrook, each will taste sweeter than anything he has ever brewed before.
Larry Goldstein discussed some of Spider Bite’s new beers made at, and made for, Holbrook (some are available this Saturday, Feb 21.):
Silk Spinner Porter//5.1% ABV: I don’t want to call this a “session” porter since most porters fall into that category to begin with, but the label seems to fit the profile of this beer perfectly: light, refreshing, and way too easy to drink; the last is especially true. This hits all the buttons on a traditional porter: dark brown color, roasted cocoa aroma and flavor, and again, just easy to drink. We brewed this a few times in 2013 and plan to keep it around in the tasting room regularly.
P.I.T.A. IPA//6.6% ABV: This is the first beer we brewed on the new system, and everything that could have went wrong that day, it went wrong: bloody hands, hurt backs, yeast splattered all over the walls. Despite all the chaos, though, the finished product tastes great. It has a golden color, medium body, moderate bitterness, a dry finish, and we hopped it with Citra and Centennial the whole way through—finished off with tons of dry-hopping. This lends big citrus and tropical fruit aromas to the IPA and makes it pop out of the glass.
Ale X//11.5% ABV: We brewed this beer for our friend and neighbor, Alex Beauchamp, whose been a big supporter of the brewery before we were even a brewery, back when we were just brewing in my garage. He’s a huge fan of Simcoe hops, so we decided to make an imperial black IPA that’s intensely hopped with it. Whenever we make a black IPA, our goal is to have it look black but not have the roastiness that can occur in the style; this way, the hops can pop out. Ale X is no different: it’s somewhat dry, the alcohol is mostly hidden, and the hops are at the forefront. I get a nice lemony character from the Simcoe, actually.
Melba’s Toasted Imperial Brown//7.0% ABV: Another beer brewed for one of our dear friends, this is for Melissa Barrett, who has designed most of our labels, six-pack holders, posters—anything you can think of, she’s helped out. This is our way of saying thanks. Melissa’s favorite style of beer is a brown ale, so that’s what we made: a medium-bodied brown ale with a smidge of sweetness and some nice chocolate flavors. We were thinking about adding coconut to play off the “Toasted” part of the name, but we figured that would be too much. Here, it’s just all about the brown ale. We hope she likes it enough to get “toasted” off of it, because she’s really important to us.
Rophenia//10.0% ABV: Anyone that knows me knows I’m a huge fan of The Who. We’ve named three or four beers after them and Rophenia, our Belgian quad, is a play on their album, Quadrophenia. Here, the Belgian yeast provides fruity esters which gives those dark fruit flavors synonymous with the style. It’s ruby-colored, full-bodied with a light sweetness, and despite the ABV, it’s really easy to drink. We made this originally in 2012 for the North Fork Craft Beer, Wine & BBQ Festival at Martha Clara, and again, this will be a regular beer in our tasting room, only made in limited amounts. Yet another reason to come visit us.
Spider Bite Beer Company’s taproom opens Feb 21, from 3:30pm to 7:30pm. It will sell pints and flights in-house and growlers to-go. Its regular hours of operation are: Thursdays, 4pm to 8pm; Fridays, 3pm to 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 12pm to 4pm.
Pioneer Brewers: 1940’s Brewing Company
Charles Becker's foray into professional brewing follows in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and father
Pioneer Brewers is an ongoing series profiling Long Island’s first brewery for alternating proprietorships, The Craft Microbrewhouse at A Taste of Long Island, in Farmingdale. The second installment explores 1940’s Brewing Company, owned and brewmastered by…
Charles Becker, owner and brewmaster of 1940’s Brewing Company. Image: Doug Young
“I’m retired now,” says Charles Becker, his voice emanating from a speakerphone in my father’s office in Long Island City. A long silence follows his statement, which, due to my father distractingly shoving a Daily News story on the lowly New York Knicks in my eyeballs, I have mistakenly interpreted as “I’m tired now.” Uh. I’m tired, too. I’m gonna take a nap with my cat when I get home, I finally reply. Becker quickly corrects me before I start discussing our matching sleepwear: “Oh no. Retired, not tired. I actually feel the opposite of tired now—I started this second career! Age is nothing but a number. At 63, when most are thinking about slowing down or doing it, I did this. It’s something I really wanted to do.”
This, the “something I really wanted to do,” was launch 1940’s Brewing Company. A resident of Old Bethpage, Becker became the first of The Craft Microbrewhouse at A Taste of Long Island’s three tenant brewers (Po’ Boy Brewery and The Brewers Collective are the others) to start making, packaging, and selling beer from the commercial kitchen’s new brewery last September. His foray into professional brewing follows his great-grandfather, Joseph Weingand, who worked at a brewery—unknown to Becker, but based in New York City—during the 1800s, and his father, Walter Becker, who ascended the rungs of Rheingold Beer to assistant brewer during a 41-year career at its Brooklyn facility. Becker fondly recalls filling his father’s ornate mug at Rheingold’s annual company picnics as a child. “I was also filling my own mug, trust me,” he laughs.
Before his father started at Rheingold, which, at its apex during the 1960s, was the one of the country’s largest breweries, he graduated from the U.S. Brewers Academy in 1940; the same year, he married Becker’s mother. “That’s why I picked the name 1940’s. Family is very important to me,” Becker says. This importance is also evidenced in the close relationships with his two children and, subsequently, their love of beer: he homebrews regularly with his daughter, Anne Marie, while Joseph, his son, handles 1940’s branding.
Becker started homebrewing in 2008, in his fifties and nearing the end of a 40-year accounting career. He joined the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) and made beers with the island’s largest homebrewing club to serve at the North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ & Wine Festival, the International Great Beer Expo, and other annual events attended to gain exposure and recruit new members. His first brew with LIBME was a red ale named Bloody Charlie’s Red Ale. “People liked it. It ran out in a few hours. It gave me confidence to keep going.”
A nod to Becker’s German heritage, 1940’s flagship is a hefeweizen, Hefie Injustice. His interpretation of the classic wheat-driven ale is “pretty by the book, crisp and unfiltered with nice flavors from the yeast,” he says. Hefie is one of four around-the-globe beers made already by Becker for his new brewery, all inspired by the “ones my father and great-grandfather likely brewed and liked to drink back then.” The others are Arsenal, a nicely balanced English-style IPA brewed with East Kent Golding and Fuggle hops; 838, a roggenbier (German for “beer with rye”) named for Becker’s father’s time in the Navy aboard the LST-838 during World War II; and Inna, an Irish dry stout sweetened with lactose. “They’re all easy to drink. That’s what I like to make.”
(L-R) Jim Thompson, owner of A Taste of Long Island, and Charles Becker. Image: Doug Young
According to the brewery’s Facebook posts, Becker has already delivered 1940’s to some of Long Island’s best-for-beer places: Hoptron Brewtique, T.J. Finley’s, Bellport Cold Beer & Soda, and BBD’s are some of the recents, though the likeliest spot to consistently find 1940’s is A Taste of Long Island’s specialty grocery store, which sells beers—in-house pints and to-go growlers—only made at The Craft Microbrewhouse.
Jim Thompson, who we profiled first in Pioneer Brewers, is Taste’s owner and host brewer. He’s planning to add 10 more drafts to the store’s current draftage of three later this month to accommodate the deluge of new liquids. Before the expansion, the first opportunity to taste this unique group together is this Saturday at The Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore. The launch event will also feature the professional debut of The Brewers Collective...
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…
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.
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