West of downtown Riverhead is historic Polish Town, which pays tribute to the traditions of Poland’s welcoming spirit demonstrated at the Polish Town Fair that attracts thousands every August.
Since 2011, another proud European heritage of fun entertainment, called ‘craic’— pronounced “crack,” it means fun in Gaelic — has been celebrated in Polish Town at the Long Ireland Beer Company brewery and tasting room. It was founded nearly a decade ago by longtime friends Dan Burke and Greg Martin, who, like many home brewers, dreamed of their own brewery. They apprenticed and contract brewed their favorite recipe at Connecticut’s New England Brewing Company. They set up shop after getting a positive response to this beer, which they named Celtic Ale.
“We must have home brewed this beer 60 to 70 times in our garage,” says Martin, “until we got the recipe to where we wanted it.”
They settled on a 9,000-square-foot Pulaski Street building that formerly housed an Agway store. Long Ireland became such an integral part of the neighborhood that in 2014 it brewed the special Polish Town Pilsner for the Polish Town Fair’s 40th anniversary. The Polish-style lager, made with pilsner malt and traditional Saaz, Czech and Tettnang hops, is so popular that it is now available all year.
Year-round offerings are still led by the flagship Celtic Ale, a malty red ale similar to Irish Reds like Smithwick’s but with richer malt flavor and lower carbonation. The recipe uses four malts: two-row pale malt, caramel, Vienna and chocolate. Flaked oats and honey give it a sweet flavor with hints of toffee, one hop, Willamette, provides just mild bitterness for a smooth finish.
Other popular beers include a refreshing Raspberry Wheat and seasonal brews such as Summer Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Winter Ale, NoFo Farmhouse Saison Ale, Chocolate Porter, and the delicious Black Friday Imperial Stout, released on the day after Thanksgiving. One of Long Ireland’s original offerings, Breakfast Stout, was retired but replaced by a dry Irish-style stout, Hooligan Irish Stout, which may soon join the year-round offerings.
Long Ireland also recognized growing demand for hoppy pale ales and IPAs by brewing special beers including single hopped beers like Mos Def Mosaic IPA and Balor IPA, made with Citra hops and named after a one-eyed giant from Irish mythology. The brewery also uses hops from local farms, such as the Fresh Hop Co-Op Session IPA brewed last fall with a blend of Centennial and Chinook hops picked from L.I. Hops in Jamesport and Wesnofske Farms and North Fork Hops in Southold.
The brewery kept up with the canned-beer trend and last year shifted production from bottles to cans. A recently installed canning line will produce 50 cases per hour of both 12-ounce and 16-ounce cans.
“The new line will give us more flexibility to do short runs of innovative beers that we can put out to local beer stores that have really supported us,” says Martin.
Long Ireland has been distributed across LI and New York City by Clare Rose since 2012 and hopes to expand distribution later this year.
“We’re currently producing around 4,000 barrels a year,” adds Martin. “But we’ve got plenty of room to expand at this location.”
Long Ireland is also well known for the popular events it hosts at the brewery. The Long Ireland Pintwood Derby is a take-off on the old Boy Scout car races, and draws sellout crowds to the brewery. Its Halfway to St. Patrick’s Party in mid-September and 5K running races are held in summer and fall.
Long Ireland also hosts fun events during the week in its tasting room, including Retro Video Game Night in collaboration with East End Gaming and Vinyl Night with Riverhead’s Sunday Records. Local business Brew Crew Cycles, just relocated next door and the brewery will continue to be a popular stop on the group bike tours offered beginning in April.
“We love to do cross-promotions with other local businesses and help our community grow and thrive,” says Martin.
Long Ireland Beer Company is located at 817 Pulaski St. in Riverhead. They can be reached at 631-403-4303 or longirelandbeer.com.