While craft beer’s popularity is decidedly a national trend, Long Island’s growth in the sector has come in large part from the 2012 New York state law creating the “farm brewery” license.
Under it, breweries that agree to v source at least 20 percent of their hops and other ingredients from New York farms can get special privileges, including the right to open as many as five tasting rooms from which to sell beer by the pint and to take away.
The Farm Brewery law was modeled after a 1976 Farm Winery Act that tripled the number of wineries in New York State. What worked for wine has also worked for beer, with the number of craft breweries in the state doubling to over 300, with more than half of those farm breweries. Our region is now home to 20 farm breweries ranging from Barrier Brewing in Oceanside to Greenport Harbor Brewing on the North Fork.
One of the first breweries on Long Island to take advantage of the farm brewery license was Saint James Brewery, which produces Belgian-style ales at its operation in Holbrook. Its name comes from Saint James the Greater, not the north shore hamlet in Smithtown. Brewmaster Jamie Adams, a Long Island native, fell in love with Belgian beers while attending Colby College in Maine.
“I first tried Allagash White, a delicious unfiltered Belgian-style Witbier, at a pub in Portland,” said Adams. “Around that time I was starting to homebrew, so I decided to try as many Belgian styles as I could learn.”
Adams and his wife Rachel founded Saint James Brewery in 2010 after Jamie’s homebrews got rave reviews at the Blue Point Cask Ales Fest and he was encouraged to go professional. Jamie’s devotion to Belgian-style ales includes following traditional Belgian practices in his brewing.
“All of our beers are made with our own proprietary yeast strain,” he said. “This ensures a unique flavor profile across all Saint James beers.”
Among the brewery’s year-round offerings are Rachelle Blanche, a traditional witbier; Biere Des Chevaliers, a dubbel ale; Belgian Style Tripel; and a Quadrupel Holiday Ale made at year end. Fruit ales are made seasonally based on availability, including Peche (peaches), La Mure (blackberries), Pomme (apples), Framboise (raspberries) and Cherie, a blonde ale made with local honey. For the fall, Saint James is planning a seasonal beer using plums to enhance a rich, malty porter.
The lineup uses hops from Condzella Farm in Wading River, peaches and apples from Richter Orchards in Northport and strawberries from Sujecki Farms in Calverton. The brewery also uses malt from grains grown by New York Craft Malt in upstate Batavia.
“While we’re only required to use 20 percent of our ingredients from New York State, some of our beers are 100 percent New York sourced,” he noted.
In 2015, production moved to a 2,000-square-foot brewhouse in an industrial park in Holbrook, from which the couple have focused on distribution to craft beer bars in Manhattan, Brooklyn and across Long Island, as well as selling bottles and growlers at a number of farmers markets across the Island. With further growth in mind, the brewery added new fermenting tanks earlier this year to increase the production capacity of its six-barrel brewing system.
In May, Saint James opened a small tasting room that sells bottles and growlers to take away, and Adams is exploring sites to open additional tasting rooms in more heavily trafficked locations. Potential spots include Manhattan, Brooklyn and Huntington.