Just a few miles away from Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home, in the heart of downtown Oyster Bay, is a brewery that would satisfy the thirst of Teddy’s Rough Riders.
Oyster Bay Brewing Co. was founded in 2012 by longtime friends Gabe Haim and Ryan Schlotter, who bonded over their shared love of beer. After home-brewing many batches, they followed their dream and opened a brewery. At the time, Nassau County had only one brewery: Barrier Brewing in Oceanside.
The brewery opened for business in June 2013 in a 1,400-square-foot space on South Street that barely housed a 3-barrel brewing system and small tasting area. Word quickly spread and the tasting area started to overflow with visitors. But the brewery reached a tipping point after the founders, both lifelong Islanders fans, brewed a special beer in 2015 for the Islanders’ last season at the Nassau Coliseum.
“We named it ‘Barn Rocker’ after the nickname for the coliseum and we couldn’t keep up with demand,” said Haim.
The crisp, lightly hopped ale helped make Oyster Bay Brewing a household name among Islander fans and craft beer fans across Long Island. It proved so popular that the Islanders requested it the next year at their new home at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Mets requested it at Citi Field Haim and Schlotter needed to expand but they didn’t have to look far for a new space.
In late 2015, the brewery closed for a short time and reopened the following year around the corner in a 6,000-square-foot space on Audrey Avenue. The new space, located next door to an Oyster Bay institution, Canterbury’s Oyster Bar & Grill, had ample room for a 15-barrel brewing system and a spacious tasting room.
Around this time, the founders hired a new brewmaster who could fully utilize the new system. Oyster Bay brought in Ivan Dedek, a graduate of Oregon State University with a degree in Fermentation Science, who apprenticed at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, near where he grew up. He had also been a research and development brewer at Sam Adams in Boston and a supervising brewer at Schmaltz Brewing.
Last year, Oyster Bay made a major investment in canning equipment and new fermentation tanks that increased production by more than half. According to Dedek, the brewery should be at an annual production level close to 2,500 barrels by the end of the year. The new canning line makes both 12-ounce and 16-ounce cans, which will come in handy this summer for supplying expected orders from Citi Field.
In addition to pumping out Barn Rocker, Dedek has been experimenting with beer styles ranging from pilsners and German-style Helles lagers to porters and stouts, including an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels and pinot noir wine barrels. Oyster Bay recently brewed a collaboration beer with KCBC (Kings County Brewers Collective) from Brooklyn.
The beer, cheekily named The Adventures of Troutman and Oysterboy Downunder, was brewed using only hops from the Southern Hemisphere such as Motueka and Vic Secret. Dedek is experimenting with other recipes, including a Gose made with Ethiopian coffee beans from neighboring coffee shop Southdown Coffee, and Baymen’s Oyster Stout brewed with two dozen Oyster Bay oysters added to the boil in the last five minutes.
Oyster Bay Brewing began distributing its beers through Manhattan Beer in 2015, focusing primarily on Long Island and NYC. Distribution expanded to Connecticut last year and, according to Haim, will focus on the current locations this year.
“We want to control our growth as much as possible,” says Haim.
Both Haim and Schlotter quit their day jobs to focus full time on the brewery.
“Ryan is heading up marketing and sales, spending a lot of time on the road,” says Haim, “and I’m overseeing our brewery operations.”
This commitment is clearly paying off as Oyster Bay Brewing was recently voted the 2018 Bethpage Best of Long Island winner for Best Craft Beer Brewery. The brewery is celebrating its fifth anniversary in early June, and as it has done for each anniversary, will brew a special beer to mark the occasion. Haim says the weekend-long celebration will include special collaboration beers and a party with food from local restaurants.
The celebration will surely include a few pints.
Oyster Bay Brewing Co. is located at 36 Audrey Avenue in Oyster Bay. They can be reached at 516-802-5546 or oysterbaybrewing.com.
Bernie Kilkelly is the editor and publisher of LIBeerGuide.com.