I had never heard of a beach plum, let alone had a deep golden beer featuring its tart and sweet notes until, on our way to the ferry, we made a last-minute pit-stop at Shelter Island Craft Brewery.
The roadside shack doesn’t look like much, a bar inside and roughly a half-dozen shaded picnic benches on the lawn.
Breweries are popping up regularly on Long Island, many with contradictory ambitions to be both “small batch” and hugely successful. But Shelter Island Craft Brewery is tiny and proud of it.
Stop, grab a seat and while away a summer afternoon on pint after pint of the easy-drinking Belgian Wit-style beer that brewmaster James Hull has dubbed Nude Beach: Plum Ale ($7 for a 12-ounce glass). The plums, tiny yellow stone fruits, native to the northeast are harvested from Shelter Island beaches, the lemon verbena comes from his backyard, the honey from a local beekeeper. He has even been able to secure hops from Shelter Island.
It’s the small-batch production that allows Hull to source such ingredients for his seven beers. Three years after opening, his process remains the same, beer made in half-barrel or roughly 15-gallon batches no bigger than an industrial-sized stock pot. No large viewing rooms with large vats of beer here.
“The American dream is to get a bigger place and grow, but that’s not what I want out of it,” Hull says. “Then you’re getting back in the whole business world. I just want to make a good beer and relax.”
The only challenge: this time of year, running out of beer before the next batch brews. “What I made this week,” he says, “will be gone by next week.”
Shelter Island Brewery is open during the summer daily from noon to dark. Beers range from $7-8 per glass.
Shelter Island Craft Brewery, 55 North Ferry Rd., Shelter Island; 631-749-5977, shelterislandcraftbrewery.com