At the southernmost head of Northport Harbor, the aptly named Harbor Head Brewing Company is producing craft beers that are popular with both boaters and landlubbers.
Located in the Brittania Yachting Center, the brewery was founded by Sosh Andriano, the owner of the Whale’s Tale restaurant situated just steps away in the same marina. He recognized the growing popularity of local craft beers and thought a brewery would be complementary to his restaurant. He recruited a few partners and in 2016 started building a five-barrel brewhouse and tasting room in a 1,100-square-foot former bait and tackle shop.
“We wanted our customers to get an overall experience where they can enjoy a sunset by the water and have a delicious fish taco with a blonde ale that’s made next door,” says Andriano. “We also thought customers could enjoy a beer at the brewery either before or after a meal at the restaurant.”
Harbor Head was licensed as a New York State farm brewery and began producing beer to be sold on tap at the Whale’s Tale in summer 2017. As a next step, the brewery opened its tasting room in January 2018 and sold growlers and crowlers for takeaway. In July, Harbor Head received approval from the Village of Northport to sell flights and pints in its tasting room, and opened a small beer garden that was a popular hangout in the summer and fall months.
The brewery quickly developed a loyal following for its wide range of delicious lagers and ales. William Melvin, who took over as head brewer in June 2018, describes Harbor Head’s approach as wanting to produce “drinkable beers that match the classic beer styles.” A native of the Hudson Valley, Melvin got his start in brewing at several brewpubs in the Adirondacks before studying brewing at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Harbor Head typically has eight beers on tap, which vary according to the season. According to Melvin, he tries to always have a pale ale and an IPA in the rotation, along with a lighter-tasting beer and a dark beer style. Among the IPAs is NoPoCo, named after the Northport Coast, which is a double hopped New England style hazy IPA brewed with Citra and dry hopped El Dorado hops. Other pale ales include moderately hopped Top Sail Pale Ale and the crisp Whaleback West Coast IPA brewed with Columbus and dry hopped with Mosaic.
In the summer months, popular beers include Blonde Ale and Bahia margarita-style wheat beer with agave, lime peel, sea salt and coriander. Fall offerings include Oktoberfest and Pumpkin ales, and Harbor Head’s Pumpkin Ale won first place in the Pumpkin Ale Contest at the Long Island Fall Beer Festival held last October in Farmingdale.
On a recent visit in January, robust winter styles were on tap including Vienna Winter Lager, a hearty amber lager, Storm Cloud Oatmeal Stout with rich chocolate and coffee notes, and English Oak Ale, a traditional winter warmer aged in oak wine barrels. During the winter, Harbor Head’s tasting room is open Thursday to Sunday.
In addition to producing beer for its own tasting room and the Whale’s Tale, Harbor Head’s beers can also be enjoyed on tap at several beer bars and gastropubs on the North Shore. These include The Lark Pub & Grub in East Northport, Prato 850 in Commack, Burgerology in Huntington, The Bench Bar & Grill in Stony Brook, and the reopened Gunther’s Tap Room on Main Street in Northport Village.
All the more reason to drop anchor and belly up for a pint.
Harbor Head Brewing Company is located at 81 Fort Salonga Rd. in Northport. For more info visit www.harborheadbrew.com.
Bernie Kilkelly is the editor and publisher of LIBeerGuide.com.