Nassau County’s newest brewery, Somerset Brewing Company, opened its taproom in West Hempstead at the end of June. The new brewery, which is already drawing lively crowds, represents the third chapter in the interesting career story of its co-owner and brewer, Dr. Manny Fajardo, who grew up on Somerset Avenue in nearby Garden City.
After graduating from college and spending five years in the construction business in Miami, Fajardo followed his parents (father a doctor, mother a nurse) into the healthcare field. He graduated medical school and began working as a physician in New York City. While living on the Upper East Side about 10 years ago, he discovered homebrewing and began regularly brewing in his small apartment.
“I grew up with an appreciation for good beer from my family, enjoying beer with dinner and at parties,” said Fajardo. “Then homebrewing tapped into my love for organic chemistry, which was one of my favorite subjects in med school.”
While still working as a doctor, Fajardo began planning to open a brewery. He installed a 1-barrel brewing system in his brother Michael’s garage in Garden City and developed the recipes for many of the beers now served at Somerset.
“We saw there were no breweries close to where we grew up,” said Fajardo, “and my brother found a good space in West Hempstead in 2019.” Fajardo, who owns Somerset with his brother and their brother-in-law Brendan Trillhaase, signed a lease in late 2019 for about 2,100 square feet in a small industrial zone just north of Hempstead Turnpike.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic erupted and Fajardo was working around the clock in Manhattan, which put plans for the brewery on hold. In late 2020, he began building out the space for a 1,200-square-foot brewhouse and 900-square-foot taproom, putting his construction skills to use and doing the work together with his best friend Peter Rhall.
For the new brewhouse, Fajardo installed both a 4-barrel brewing system and, thinking ahead, a 10-barrel system. “I was used to brewing on a 1-barrel system so I didn’t want to go straight from that to a 10-barrel system,” said Fajardo. Construction was finished, recipes perfected on the new system, and a New York State farm brewery license and microbrewery license were obtained; Somerset opened on June 24.
Somerset is currently open on the weekends. To keep eight beers on tap, Fajardo has been brewing full batches at least twice a week. The best seller overall is Harmon, a hazy summer Kolsch with 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), with Memphis, a German-style festbier at 5.5% ABV, close behind. “I’m a fan of traditional beer styles and want to have easy-drinking beers on tap that people can enjoy all night,” said Fajardo.
The tap lineup also includes several IPAs including Millie, a single dry hopped IPA with Amarillo, Galaxy and Mosaic hops and 6.2% ABV. Other IPAs are double dry hopped Percius at 6.4% ABV and double dry hopped Pandamonium at a robust 9.8% ABV.
With its farm brewery license, Somerset also serves other New York State libations including Hudson Valley ciders from Pennings Farm Cidery in Warwick, New York. Beers are available to take out in crowlers and growlers.
In addition to its cozy taproom, Somerset has an outdoor patio with picnic tables and room for cornhole games. The brewery will host food trucks on most weekends, including recent favorites Taste Buddyz and B Bistro.
Fajardo grew up in a close-knit family and Somerset is child-friendly and dog-friendly. Several of the beers on tap are named after dogs owned by the Fajardos, including Memphis, which was the name of Manny’s first dog. The newest addition to the family is Wookie, a Rottweiler puppy who is symbolic of the start-up brewery and is already growing into a welcoming mascot.
Somerset Brewing Company is located at 94C Cherry Valley Ave., West Hempstead. For more information, visit somersetbrewing.com.
Bernie Kilkelly is the editor and publisher of LIBeerGuide.com.