Bernie Kilkelly

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Kilkelly is the publisher of the authoritative LIBeerGuide and a frequent contributor to such publications as Ale Street News and The Gotham Imbiber. Reach him via libeerguide@gmail.com.

Homebrewers, New Craft Breweries Shine at Great Beer Expo

The Great Beer Expo, Long Island’s most popular fall beer festival, marked its triumphant return to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

First held in 2007, the annual brewfest was held at Belmont Park for the past five years while the Nassau Coliseum was being renovated. Organizers Andy and Lynda Calimano of Starfish Junction Productions celebrated the return to the Uniondale arena by showcasing more than 60 breweries offering more than 100 beers for tasting.

The stars of the show were more than a dozen Long Island brewers, including both homebrewers and craft breweries founded by former homebrewers. Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME), a homebrew club based in Suffolk County, held its fifth annual Beer and Mead Competition at the festival, attracting over 200 entries in more than 20 categories.

The Brewers Choice award went to Mark Williams and Justin Hansen of the Brewers East End Revival (BEER) homebrew club, and their winning beer will be brewed at Sand City Brewing in Northport early next year. Also participating in the competition and serving their homebrews at the festival were members of Handgrenades Homebrew Club (Grenade Brigade), based in Nassau County.

Long Island brewers that participated included several that got their start in the homebrew clubs. Among those pouring beers at the fest were Barnshed Brewing (Bryan Murphy, Grenade Brigade), Barrage Brewing (Steve Pominski, LIBME) and 1940s Brewing (Charlie Becker, LIBME). Also participating for the first time at the Great Beer Expo were two of Long Island’s newest craft breweries, BrewSA Brewing of Freeport and Jamesport Farm Brewery from the North Fork.

Particularly appropriate since the fest was held on Veterans Day, Starfish Junction chose as the event charity a local group, Project 9 Line, which works to empower veterans with reintegration through the arts and activity. A portion of the event proceeds went directly to Project 9 Line along with proceeds from raffles and a silent auction. Attendees were also able to show their appreciation for men and women currently serving by signing a giant Thank You card and writing holiday cards for the troops.

St. James Brewery: Craft Brewing’s Other Adams

Rachel and Jamie Adams of St. James Brewery. Which is in Holbrook. (Press photo Bob Giglione.)

While craft beer’s popularity is decidedly a national trend, Long Island’s growth in the sector has come in large part from the 2012 New York state law creating the “farm brewery” license.

Under it, breweries that agree to v source at least 20 percent of their hops and other ingredients from New York farms can get special privileges, including the right to open as many as five tasting rooms from which to sell beer by the pint and to take away.

The Farm Brewery law was modeled after a 1976 Farm Winery Act that tripled the number of wineries in New York State. What worked for wine has also worked for beer, with the number of craft breweries in the state doubling to over 300, with more than half of those farm breweries. Our region is now home to 20 farm breweries ranging from Barrier Brewing in Oceanside to Greenport Harbor Brewing on the North Fork.

One of the first breweries on Long Island to take advantage of the farm brewery license was Saint James Brewery, which produces Belgian-style ales at its operation in Holbrook. Its name comes from Saint James the Greater, not the north shore hamlet in Smithtown. Brewmaster Jamie Adams, a Long Island native, fell in love with Belgian beers while attending Colby College in Maine.

“I first tried Allagash White, a delicious unfiltered Belgian-style Witbier, at a pub in Portland,” said Adams. “Around that time I was starting to homebrew, so I decided to try as many Belgian styles as I could learn.”

Adams and his wife Rachel founded Saint James Brewery in 2010 after Jamie’s homebrews got rave reviews at the Blue Point Cask Ales Fest and he was encouraged to go professional. Jamie’s devotion to Belgian-style ales includes following traditional Belgian practices in his brewing.

“All of our beers are made with our own proprietary yeast strain,” he said. “This ensures a unique flavor profile across all Saint James beers.”

Among the brewery’s year-round offerings are Rachelle Blanche, a traditional witbier; Biere Des Chevaliers, a dubbel ale; Belgian Style Tripel; and a Quadrupel Holiday Ale made at year end. Fruit ales are made seasonally based on availability, including Peche (peaches), La Mure (blackberries), Pomme (apples), Framboise (raspberries) and Cherie, a blonde ale made with local honey. For the fall, Saint James is planning a seasonal beer using plums to enhance a rich, malty porter.

The lineup uses hops from Condzella Farm in Wading River, peaches and apples from Richter Orchards in Northport and strawberries from Sujecki Farms in Calverton. The brewery also uses malt from grains grown by New York Craft Malt in upstate Batavia.

“While we’re only required to use 20 percent of our ingredients from New York State, some of our beers are 100 percent New York sourced,” he noted.

In 2015, production moved to a 2,000-square-foot brewhouse in an industrial park in Holbrook, from which the couple have focused on distribution to craft beer bars in Manhattan, Brooklyn and across Long Island, as well as selling bottles and growlers at a number of farmers markets across the Island. With further growth in mind, the brewery added new fermenting tanks earlier this year to increase the production capacity of its six-barrel brewing system.

In May, Saint James opened a small tasting room that sells bottles and growlers to take away, and Adams is exploring sites to open additional tasting rooms in more heavily trafficked locations. Potential spots include Manhattan, Brooklyn and Huntington.

Blue Point Breaks Ground on New Brewery in Patchogue

Blue Point Brewing
Blue Point Brewing Co. released this artists's rendering of their new, expanded brewery slated to open in 2018 in downtown Patchogue.

Blue Point Brewing Co. held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 27 for its forthcoming new brewery West Main Street in downtown Patchogue village at a site was formerly the long-time home of a lace factory and most recently housed the now-closed Briarcliffe College.

The 54,000-square-foot building will now be transformed into a state-of-the-art brewery, featuring a second floor restaurant and tasting room overlooking the brewing operations, along with an outdoor beer garden. The new brewery is expected to open in the summer of 2018, just in time for the 20th anniversary of Blue Point’s founding in Patchogue.

“We’re proud to break ground on our new brewery right here where it all began,” said Mark Burford, co-founder and brewmaster emeritus, who added that the new brewery will enable Blue Point’s talented team of brewers to focus on what’s most important to them: the beer. “We will have the equipment and technology to help us bring to life the innovative ideas and recipes we come up for great beers.”

The new brewery is expected to have an annual capacity of 60,000 barrels, substantially higher than Blue Point’s original brewery on River Avenue, just a half mile away.

Blue Point, which was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014, is also committed to remaining an active part of the Patchogue community. Many county and local officials, including Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, were on hand for the groundbreaking and spoke highly of Blue Point’s role in helping to spur economic development in Patchogue.

“Maybe now it is time for us to stop talking about the revitalization of Patchogue and recognize that Patchogue has arrived,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said to Mayor Pontieri.

Long Island Toasts Oktoberfest

(Photo by LenDog64)

Oktoberfest, that annual celebration of German beer, food and music – and short leather pants – is a bit of a misnomer: The start of the annual fall fete is actually in September.
Like many bits of fractured history, drinking was involved.

The name dates back over 200 years to the royal hitching of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The big day was October 12, 1810.

The newlyweds invited everyone – literally the entire population of Munich – and the partying stretched on for five days on the fields in front of the city gates, which became known as Therese’s fields or the Theresienwiese.

The wedding celebration was such fun that it turned into an annual party. In later years, the festival was lengthened – it’s now to more than two weeks and then moved to start in mid-September to take advantage of better weather and the longer hours of daylight.

So the official start of Munich’s Oktoberfest is now the third Saturday of September. The festival ends on the first weekend in October and today is enjoyed by over 5 million visitors each year.

Beer has been an important part of the Munich Oktoberfest since its founding and in 2016 almost 7 million liters were served. Only beer brewed within the city limits and conforming to the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, the Reinheitsgebot (try pronouncing that after a liter or two!), are designated Oktoberfestbiers. Six breweries – Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten received this designation in 1818 and they continue to supply festivalgoers with the traditional amber lager known as Märzen.

“Traditional Oktoberfestbiers were lagers that were brewed in March, or Märzen in German,” said Matt Buck, general manager of Plattduetsche Park in Franklin Square, Long Island’s premier German restaurant and biergarten. “The beer was fermented slowly over the summer months and developed a reddish color from the rich Munich malts used in the recipe. The beer is meant to be smooth and drinkable to enjoy at a festival, so the abv (alcohol by volume) is typically around 5.7 to 5.8 percent.”

Plattduetsche Park holds some of the biggest German festivals on Long Island, including its annual Ompahfest being held this year on September 17. Ompahfest is always held the day after the Steuben Parade in Manhattan and features music from bands that march in the parade, including six bands this year direct from Germany and Austria. Plenty of Oktoberfestbier will be served with authentic German food.

“Plattduetsche is proud to serve beers from the original Munich breweries and this year will feature Oktoberfestbier from Hacker-Pschorr, which is one of our most popular year-round breweries,” Buck said. “We also have an exclusive partnership with Greenport Harbor Brewing from the North Fork and will launch their Leaf Pile Seasonal Ale at the Ompahfest.”

Several craft breweries on Long Island brew their own version of Oktoberfest beer, including Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue.

“I grew up drinking German beers on Long Island, including at Fadeley’s Pub in Patchogue,” said Mark Burford, co-founder and brewmaster emeritus of Blue Point. “So Oktoberfest was one of the first seasonals we brewed at Blue Point in the early 2000s.
According to Burford, Blue Point has always tried to stay true to the traditional German Märzen style in its Oktoberfest beer.

“There are so many hop-forward beers in the craft beer world, so we didn’t want to do that with this style and use primarily Hallertau Continental-style hops.” Burford added, “Malt is the star in this beer style and we strive for the balance and bready flavor notes we get from using German malts.”

Blue Point Oktoberfest beer will be available in six packs at retailers across Long Island beginning in September and will be one of the featured beers on tap at Oktoberfest celebrations at local beer bars.

As they say in Bavaria, “Oans, zwoa, drei! G’suffa!

Related Story: Long Island Oktoberfest Events 2017