If the recession has taught us anything, it’s that we must reevaluate the way we view the marketplace, identify value and invest our money in quality options rather than ones that just have the most visibility or name recognition. The same goes for beer. It’s easy to get stuck in the same rut most people find themselves in—patronizing the big corporations that produce superior advertisements and marketing campaigns yet consistently churn out, at best, pretty pedestrian products. Our beer review of Long Island breweries is meant to be a roadmap to your future libations that doesn’t just steer you locally for the sake of steering you locally, but gives you an alternative to the Buds and Millers of the world in favor of handcrafted beers with the spirit of our surroundings brewed in every batch.
Blue Point Brewing Company
161 River Avenue, Patchogue
Step inside a Long Island nightspot and you will undoubtedly see dozens of gorgeous copper-colored pint glasses lighting up the barroom. That sight is the Toasted Lager, the flagship of Blue Point’s impressive stable of brews, a World Beer Cup gold medal winner and a source of great local pride among LI beer enthusiasts. The Blue Point Blueberry Ale is also incredibly popular and delicious, but, more impressively, it’s one of the few fruit-flavored beers in existence to gain a serious male-following. Hoptical Illusion is Blue Point’s take on an India Pale Ale. Its psychedelic-styled label instantly distinguishes itself from most beers and the taste, in my opinion, will appeal as well to a specific palate…or person. Then there’s the Oatmeal Stout. It won’t knock 10 points off your cholesterol but it’s a dark, hardy beer that’s as formidable as they come. Oktoberfest’s annual arrival brings consolation to summer’s end, positioning itself similarly to the experience of Toasted Lager but flavored with a distinct seasonal variance. Rastafa Rye Ale, a rare rye beer with a gimmicky Rastafarian label was a highly balanced beer that didn’t need an attention-grabbing appearance to sell me—it is arguably the best beer in Blue Point’s deep repertoire.
The Blue Point Brewery’s (Patchogue) tap room is open Thursday through Saturday. There you can sample their complete menu of craft beers and bring home growlers of your favorite brews. Toasted, Blueberry, Hoptical and Oktoberfest (seasonal) are available bottled and on tap all over the Island. Oatmeal Stout comes in a growler only. Look for Rastafa Rye in 750ml bottle or on tap in selected locations.
#1 Brewers Row
79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn
The (real) King of Beers may very well reside in Kings County. What the Toasted means to Blue Point the Brooklyn Lager is to Brooklyn—the crown jewel of the BK franchise, the Lager is the finest regional beer I’ve sampled. The style exuded in the simplicity of the label design, the flowery aroma, the amber-gold color and the caramel undertones make this beer the total package. Now, if the situation calls for something a little fancier, Brooklyn’s Local 1 or Local 2 are a logical choice. These striking corked finished bottles are ideal for a classy dinner affair. Local 1 and its fruitiness is a nice complement to opening course appetizers and the Local 2, a more mature, rich beer than its counterpart is ideal for a tasteful nightcap. The East India Pale Ale is similarly competent in the category of IPAs, with discernible hints of citrus and pine. It’s a great summer beer.
A pilgrimage to the Brooklyn Brewery is a well-worth-your-time communal experience, complete with draught beer, pizza and picnic tables. Special Brewmaster Reserves are only available exclusively in the brewery and are retired once they’re sold out. The entire line of Brooklyn products is offered in bottles and on tap in locations all over BK and the Island. Local 1 & 2 are only sold exclusively in 750ml cork finished bottles.
Southampton Publick House
40 Bowden Sq., Southampton
Southampton Publick House Brewmaster Phil Markowski deserves acknowledgment for crafting a lineup of beers that ranges so greatly in style and taste. Each brew is truly an experience on its own; an audacious move that Southampton delectably pulls off time and again. Double White is the ideal summer beer. Every sip is light and refreshing, with discernible lemon peel and coriander flavoring throughout. You should free to choose the local DW in favor of Sam Adams Summer. Pumpkin Ale is the perfectly crafted seasonal brew. Balanced flawlessly and spiced just right, it’s as if Willy Wonka created adult pumpkin bread in liquid form. Then there’s Altbier, a dark German-style that’s easy-to-drink feel begs for a chug but it’s flavored so grandly that it really should be savored. Southampton’s India Pale Ale is hybrid style IPA (west coast/old world) that is aptly termed “complex” in its description—the multifaceted explosion of taste lends itself best to a more nuanced palette. Both Saison and Cuveen des Fleurs are elegantly bottled; almost as showpieces that should be saved for occasions that demand such an aesthetic. Saison has a wine-like taste, possessing an abundance of fruit flavor that I could envision being a bit overwhelming to some. Cuveen des Fleurs’ floral essence and fine distinction is best suited for a June picnic but could provide a nice memento as November temperatures bottom out.
Southampton Publick House (Southampton) is microbrewery restaurant offering casual dining and handcrafted ales and lagers. Double White, Pumpkin (seasonal), Altbier and India Pale Ale can be purchased in bottles. Saison and Cuveen des Fleurs are part of the 750 Series of exclusive corked bottles.
John Harvard’s Brew House
2093 Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove
There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. And if there is, it’s not in the world of beer sampling. In house, John Harvard’s Brew House serves its beer in pints and pitchers. If you find a particular homemade brew you love, you have the option, actually mandate, of bringing it home in the form of a 64oz growler. John Harvard’s Schwarzbier, while technically not a stout—it’s a Bavarian dark Lager—is the local alternative to Guinness. It’s very drinkable and without the bitterness typical of this variety. Their Altbier selection, a “light-medium” bodied German-style Ale, also warranted a jug for the road. It exhibits a superb color upon pour and has the versatility to complement a meal or to be drunk en masse at a Bier Hall. Harvard’s Pumpkin Spice Ale is a real crowd pleaser, especially when served with a rim of cinnamon and sugar. Buddies I sampled with quickly quaffed a growler in a time grossly at odds with Surgeon General Guidelines.
John Harvard Brew House (Lake Grove) offers honest American and pub-style food alongside their famous variety of lagers and ales—all brewed on premises. Schwarzbier, Altbier, Pumpkin Spice and a host of others can all be taken home in growlers.
Greenport Harbor Brewing
234 Carpenter Street, Greenport
At first glance, it seems odd that Greenport Harbor Brewing Company provides boldly on their Harbor Ale label the address and phone number of the brewery. After drinking their creation, it’s quite apparent why they’re so forthcoming on how to reach them. Greenport Harbor is proud of their product and with good reason. The Harbor Ale is the essence of its hometown—subtle, simple, and down to earth with some intangible quality that keeps people coming back.
You can pick up a growler of your favorite beer from Greenport Harbor Brewing Company (Greenpoint) or look for it on tap in LI restaurants.
Fire Island Beer Company
PO Box 546, Ocean Beach
Fire Island Beer Company is of a similar brewing standard, believing that their beer should be a living, breathing embodiment of its birthplace. The color, character and laid back experience of FI are evident in their signature Lighthouse Ale. They manage to create this beer experience by staying true to the original character nodes of its home brewing roots, while branding their products with casual spirit of “the other New York.”
Fire Island Lighthouse Lager can be bought in a six-pack on the shelves of supermarkets and beverage distributors across Long Island. They have also just released their newest—Red Wagon IPA.
Fire Island Lighthouse Lager can be bought in a six-pack on the shelves of supermarkets and beverage distributors across Long Island.