(516) 766-9547, Oceanside
Opened: 2014 | Beers: 40
Tagline: The Beer Garden of EATin.
What To Know: I applaud the ambition of John Maher, who once worked as a chef in the kitchens of Le Cirque in Manhattan and Sole in Oceanside, because of his new gastronomic venture in the space formerly occupied by the Union Park Café. There is, for example, a greenhouse in the narrow restaurant’s backyard where he grows arugula and fennel for a hefty roster of salads (one features compressed watermelon, another strips of duck confit), there is also a small rectangular bar and a smokehouse out there.
They offer several hip items alongside these leafy arrangements: A bacon-wrapped hot dog, nine types of burgers, poutine with duck- fat fries and a “meatloaf TV dinner” cleverly served in a metal tray. EAT’s beer program is less manic, helmed by Joe Chierchie, event manager of Starfish Junction Productions, the company responsible for the annual North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ & Wine Festival. His lineup of 24 drafts, poured by bartenders in black aprons, is tightly focused on American powerhouses like Two Roads, Avery and Firestone Walker. It’s quickly become one of the best in Nassau County. (Note: Once spring arrives, Chierchie will start growing hops in the backyard for staff home brewing contests.)
What To Drink: A hop-driven departure from the warming stouts and porters that typically occupy taps during winter, EAT’s drafts are currently heavy on IPAs. “It’s an unorthodox approach for sure, but you have to listen to your customers. They’re clamoring for the hoppy stuff,” Chierchie said. On a recent visit I encountered 11 drafts of “the hoppy stuff.” My favorite of the bitter litter was Ithaca’s Flower Power, bursting with elegant floral and tropical aromas and a just-right amount of sweetness. Another that required no effort to swig, though more traditional for February, is Boulder’s Shake Chocolate Porter. It delivers exactly as advertised.
Vines & Hops
(631) 369-3100, Riverhead
Opened: 2013 | Beers: 30
Tagline: Climb this vine for a good time!
What To Know: Jeff and Christine McKay had specific intentions for their first brew-and- chew venture. “We wanted to be Riverhead’s living room, a place where you could kick back and relax with a drink,” Jeff said. The couple, who both shifted from careers in fitness, largely succeed with this homely café on Main Street, a commodious and dimly-lit room featuring a stage for live music; a cluster of high tables made from oak barrels; plump couches eying a stone fireplace and a 38-foot cedar bar. My only complaint is the excessive use of grapevines and hops to strangle, er, adorn the space. This botanical mishap doesn’t asphyxiate the selection of beers, fortunately, which is perhaps Riverhead’s strongest (only Digger’s, associated with Crooked Ladder Brewing, is comparable).
I was thoroughly impressed with the 15 drafts of Saratoga, Stone, Great Divide and The Bruery, which, when higher in alcohol, are sold in six-ounce pours. A sparse menu of snacks (paninis, hummus, cheese platters) may deter patrons from committing to an entire evening, but Team McKay is content in the role of a “before” or “after” destination. “More and more restaurants have opened here and more are coming,” Christine said. “I see us as the perfect place to start an evening with a drink, or end one with a few.”
What To Drink: Vines & Hops’ drafts mostly rotate with the seasons. This month, expect beers similar to Allagash’s Curieux, a boozy blend of two versions of the brewery’s Tripel Ale (fresh, and aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels). There are also several mainstays: Delirium Tremens and Delirium Nocturnum, a pair of dangerously gulpable Belgian ales (Delirium Noël was also available at Christmas), and a permanent spot for Twin Fork Beer Co., a new brand from Peter and Dan Chekijian (both sides are longtime friends). Twin Fork isn’t a brewery with a tangible facility yet; instead, the twin brothers rent equipment to make their beers at an undisclosed location while in the midst of building a facility in Riverhead. They launched with Chromatic Ale, a crisp and sweet pale ale. An unnamed IPA will follow soon.
Drink These New Local Brews in February
Brrrrrr. Winter’s icy grip is unrelenting. But this duo of dark and brawny beers— each made on Long Island—will help youendure the season.
Moustache Brewing: Snügg
This old ale, a complex, malt-driven style with significant alcoholic strength, is one of the newest releases from Moustache, a husband- and-wife operation in Riverhead. It’s also a tangible mark of the brewery’s growth as Snügg is the first barrel-aged and bottled liquid made by Matt and Lauri Spitz since launching Moustache in 2013. The garnet-colored brew was inspired by a family recipe for glögg and matured in Bordeaux barrels with cinnamon sticks, clove, cardamom, raisins, oranges and lemons. Each sip reveals nuances of dark fruit, citrus and spice. moustachebrewing.com
BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant: Totes Big Oats
After years of hit-or-miss execution at BrickHouse, the newly formed team of Arthur Zimmerman and Paul Komsic are elevating the brewpub’s reputation. The latest example is Totes Big Oats, the bewhiskered brewers’ high-octane oatmeal stout with 1,000 pounds of grains stuffed into one 10-barrel batch. This ballsy pitch- black brew could facilitate the hair growth on anyone’s chinny chin chin. Its body is malted milkshake-creamy and flavors of chocolate, dark-roasted malts and molasses (the latter due to the addition of dark Belgian candi sugar) dominate. brickhousebrewery.com