Five Long Island Craft Breweries to Try
The craft beer movement is alive and well on Long Island, with a growing clutch of craft breweries not only making beer locally, but also often growing their own hops, barley and other seasonal ingredients too. The many concentrated in Riverhead make it easy to put together a craft beer bar-hop, while others in more far-flung locales are reason to take day-trips out to Shelter Island or Greenport. Bottoms up!
North Fork Brewing Co. (24 E. 2nd St., Suite A, Riverhead)The beers of North Fork Brewing Co. in Peconic could be best described as a farm- to-glass. Opened last year by a pair of North Fork–native cousins in the old Riverhead Fire Department headquarters, this brewery has a farm onsite where it grows most of its own hops: Nugget, Chinook, Perle, Liberty, Cascade, and Magnum for now, with more to come. But its ethos doesn’t stop there. With the exception of a few specialty ingredients, such as coconut in the light Iron Porter, North Fork sources whatever ingredients it isn’t growing itself from other local farms and regional small producers, such as strawberries in the German-style sour First Step, First Leap and New Hampshire maple syrup and North Fork Roasting Co. cold brew in the Gaffer’s Hearth coffee stout.
North Fork mainly produces IPAs, but they’re not all created equal, with flavors running from stonefruit in the Hop Palace Ballet IPA to pine in the imperial Hop Contagion to grass and bitters in Pierce the Ale. If you haven’t already dug deep into the craft beer scene, bring a curious palette, because most of the beers here won’t taste much like other beers you’ve tried before.
Jamesport Farm Brewery (5873 Sound Ave, Riverhead)
As its name suggests, this same farm- based ethos is at the core of Jamesport Farm Brewery as well. Spread across 43 acres, Jamesport now grows the majority of its hops and barley on what was once potato farm fields, the soil of which has been so fertile that Jamesport now sells some of its produce to other breweries too. Owners Anthony Caggiano and Melissa Daniels, who started the operation after decades of horticulture experience, not only have green thumbs but also a penchant for green living, and the farm is home to a plant nursery and small enterprise that grows and sells “living architecture,” such as green walls and roofs. This is all to say that the beer-brewing here prides itself on being as fresh and as sustainable as possible, and the output doesn’t disappoint.
The menu is easily accessible to any beer drinker, with all the staples: pale, red, blonde and brown ales; an IPA and a stronger but still light double IPA; a rich and malty porter; and a wheat beer brewed with blackberries. Cider fans will be happy to find classic, berry and cinnamon- apple ciders brewed with apples picked from the farm, while even oenophiles are catered to with homemade wine. Can’t try it all in one tasting? Use that as an excuse to come back in the fall, when the brewery’s annual Fresh Hop Fest fills the 43 acres with food trucks, live music, games and tastings not only of their own beers but also of those from other local beer producers.
Moustache Brewing Co. (400 Hallett Ave., Riverhead)
Think “retro gent” or “steampunk-lite” and you’ll get the vibe of Moustache Brewing Co., established in 2014 in Riverhead. Cheeky and full of quirky intrigue, Moustache’s beers are some of the best in the area despite the brewery being among the youngest. There’s the Life of Leisure pale ale brewed with four different types of hops, or the ultra- crisp light lager simply titled Lawn.
With the exception of a couple of special beers brewed this year in collaboration with the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts, a local network of brewers – the Double the Pleasure doppelbock and the Least Belgiany Belgian, a uniquely fruit-forward French lager – Moustache’s beers clock in at below 6 percent alcohol content, which makes them perfectly suited for hot summer days. Check Moustache’s online calendar to see which weekends the Pizza Rita truck will park itself at the brewery to enjoy wood-fired pizza with your ales, or, for the inquisitive, come on a Tuesday evening for weekly trivia night.
Greenport Harbor Brewing (234 Carpenter St., Greenport; 42155 Main Rd., Peconic)
Near the tip of Long Island, Greenport Harbor Brewing has since 2009 been brewing some of the best beers not only in New York but in the entire region of the Northeast. Opened by a pair of college friends in an old firehouse, Greenport creates its beers carefully, with choice hops and small- batch brews. While some beers are available all year long – the citrusy Harbor Ale, the award-winning Otherside IPA, the malty and chocolatey Black Duck Porter – a number of offerings are limited, brewed uniquely for the season.
This summer, there’s the Summer Ale made with orange blossom honey, the tropical and juicy Far Out There IPA, and the hop-forward Light Work, with a low alcohol content making it an easy beer to sip throughout a beach afternoon. While Greenport Harbor’s illustrated cans can be found in stores around the region, the best way to try its offerings is by paying either the brewery in Greenport or restaurant and tasting room in Peconic a visit; at the latter, flights pair perfectly with Chef Greg Ling’s beer-brined wings.
Shelter Island Craft Brewery (55 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island)
Saving the smallest for last, Shelter Island Craft Brewery is worth a trip out to its namesake island for its small-batch beers that can be found only here. Set in the heart of town, the brewery is impossible to miss with its picnic tables packed with drinkers coming to sample the beers made a half-barrel at a time – and not because there’s no greater demand. Owner James Hull could easily have a wide clientele of restaurants and other food purveyors, but his commitment to quality and creativity over profit and growth has seen his keep his operation pint-sized.
Four flagship beers are available year-round, but other seasonal beers often make use of ingredients grown in his backyard garden such as plums, honey, apples or raspberries. A chef by training, Hull began brewing beers as an extension of his love for cooking, and while the brewery doesn’t have a full kitchen, a handful of drinking snacks include some of the doughiest German pretzels and delicious hummus around. And for the non-purists, the menu includes a happy portion of beer cocktails, such as ales mixed with lemonade, grapefruit juice, or sriracha hot sauce and lime. Cheers!