While dozens of vineyards have replaced many old potato farms that once dominated the North Fork, enterprising hops farmers rode the farm brewery trend to create Jamesport Farm Brewery two years ago.
The brewery is leading the way in using local ingredients with its Farm to Pint approach. Co-founders Melissa and Anthony Caggiano operate the 43-acre farm that’s also home to their wholesale nursery, Plant Connection, and their hop farm, L.I. Hops.
“Our farm was formerly a potato farm, and the climate and soil are perfect for growing amazing hops,” says Melissa.
Jamesport is one of more than 40 breweries on Long Island, where another 10 are coming soon. Fueling the trend is the New York State farm brewery law passed in 2012 that mandates that farm breweries must use at least 60 percent of hops and other ingredients grown in the state this year, with that number rising to 90 percent in 2024.
L.I. Hops currently grows five types of hops for its own use and sale to other brewers: Willamette, Columbus, Nugget, Centennial and Magnum EU, all of which are harvested in late July and August. In 2015, Melissa and Anthony also began planting barley and wheat, with the goal of having 100 percent of the ingredients for their beer produced on the farm.
The duo renovated a potato barn on the farm to house their 10-barrel brewhouse and tasting room, which opened in August 2017. Anthony is the head brewer, Christine McCormack is assistant brewer, while Melissa and Anthony do recipe development with input from their staff. Flagship beers include Hay Baler pale ale and Ex-Wife, an English-style Extra Special Bitter. Seasonal beers include Prancing Pony, a blackberry wheat beer, and Sound Ave. Summer, a light Blonde Ale. The brewery also makes its own hard ciders, including Wild Thang made from local apple juice grown on the Halsey Farm in Watermill.
Jamesport Farm Brewery expects to produce close to 1,000 barrels of beer and cider this year. Most of the brewery’s production is sold in the tasting room, with limited distribution of kegs to a few select local restaurants. Beers are available in flights or pints, or can be taken away in 64-ounce growlers or 32-ounce crowlers canned on-site. The family- and dog-friendly brewery has outdoor event spaces for parties along with picnic tables and a food truck.
On Sept. 21, it will host the 4th annual Long Island Hop Fest featuring wet hop beers made with freshly picked hops added to the brew kettle, instead of the typical dried hops or hop pellets.
“We had about 500 attendees at our first Hop Fest,” says Melissa, “and we expect over 1,000 this year.”
Several other Long Island craft breweries will have wet hop beers at the Hop Fest, including Long Ireland Beer Company, Port Jeff Brewing, Blue Point Brewing and Harbor Head Brewing. The Hop Fest will also feature Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers, including Jamesport’s Sugar Skull Pumpkin Ale and a limited edition pumpkin ale aged for nine months in oak barrels used for Rough Rider Whisky from Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow.
Fun times at the farm brewery will continue throughout the fall, with a Haunted Hopyard with spooky hayrides and train rides for kids and plenty of tasty brews for hop-loving beer lovers.
Jamesport Farm Brewery is located at 5873 Sound Avenue in Riverhead. For more information visit jfbrewery.com.
Bernie Kilkelly is the editor and publisher of LIBeerGuide.com.