The Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue.

The Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue. Credit: Steve Pfost

Twenty-six years after it became a bellwether for Long Island’s craft brewing scene, Patchogue’s BrickHouse Brewery has new owners — folk not so far removed from the old owners, just a bit younger.

“My dad is one of the original investors of the BrickHouse, so I kind of grew up inside of it,” said James McPeak III, one of the BrickHouse’s new partners, who — along with Stephen Rizzo and Dave Prunier — took over this summer, easing in gently and rekindling a focus on food.

“We’ve been updating everything, first and foremost. It was not neglected but certainly needed some love and repairs, some cleaning and attention,” said McPeak. “We’re trying to expose people to new things.”

So far, their most dramatic shift has been in the kitchen, where chef Francis Derby, formerly of Prime in Huntington, has taken the reins, introducing new spins on tavern food — street-corn nachos, blackened tuna BLTs and Nashville hot chicken sandwiches among them.

In 1996, Tom Keegan, George Hoag, David Knapp and James McPeak Jr. (McPeak’s dad) opened the BrickHouse long before the recent boom of bars and restaurants swept Patchogue’s downtown. (Blue Point Brewing Co. opened two years later, in 1998). The group took over the former Shand’s General Store on the west end of Main Street, spending more than $1 million at the time, transforming the place into a restaurant with a 20-barrel brewing system that turned out IPAs, porter, stout and other beers. On the menu were fried cod sandwiches, baby back ribs, sweet potato and ginger soup and dishes such as pecan-crusted catfish with a jalapeño-lemon glaze, all of which generated a scene at the time.

Over the years, BrickHouse remained a dynamic part of the local brewing scene even as bigger and splashier places opened around the island. “The BrickHouse Brewery was a cruise ship in motion for 26 years, and now we are trying to turn on a dime,” said McPeak.

Between them, the partners each have a hand in a web of other local spots — Great South Bar in Patchogue; King’s Chophouse and Tullulah’s in Bay Shore; and Off the Block Kitchen & Meats and Sayville Athletic Club in Sayville — that are well regarded, in no small part to their focus on local produce, prime meats and locally caught seafood.

Derby carries that same wand, using veggies from places such as Early Girl Farm in East Moriches for a re-imagined pub menu: Shepherd’s pie and fish and chips share the bill with roasted beet hummus, coconut shrimp banh mi, crispy cauliflower tacos, grain bowls, linguine with local clams and hanger steak frites. On the brunch menu are pork-belly eggs Benedict, avocado toast and an “Early Girl frittata” with burrata. (Most starters fall between $12 and $16, while sandwiches and main plates ring in between $15 and $34).

“Francis has a world of experience, and is tasked with this large issue of getting people to try new things,” said McPeak. When the group took long-standing dishes such as the giant pretzel and battered pickle chips off of the menu, “people walked out. A lot of people were comfortable with what was there, and nobody likes change.”

Brewing is no long happening on the building’s 26-year-old system, partly due to its age, and instead the bar is tapping beers from other local breweries and further afield. (The week of Oct. 16, German beers will proliferate during the restaurant’s Oktoberfest celebration, as will German dishes such as sauerbraten and schnitzel). 

Bartender Bert Wiegand turns out old fashioneds, hibiscus mules and drinks with all manner of thoughtfulness and complexity.

The BrickHouse Restaurant, 67 W. Main St., Patchogue; 631-447-2337, brickhousebrewery.com

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