Long Island's once pint-size brewing industry is all hopped up. And there's more on tap.
"It's a good time to be in beer," said Evan Klein, who has made more than 60 beers at Barrier Brewing Co. in Oceanside.
Barrier is part of the boomlet in craft breweries. There are 17 beer-making enterprises from Oceanside to Montauk, compared with none in the mid-1990s. There also are four brewpubs, which make their own beer.
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"This is tied to 'shop local, eat local,' " said Amanda Danielson, co-owner of Hoptron Brewtique in Patchogue, a craft-beer retailer, tasting room and home-brew supplier.
"It's a kind of explosion," she said. "Seeing breweries in your own town, discovering the kinds of beer styles, knowing where the product is coming from. . . . There's high demand."
The brewpubs take in Southampton Publick House, BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant in Patchogue, Black Forest Brew Haus in Farmingdale and John Harvard's Brewery & Ale House in Lake Grove. Almost all of the breweries are in Suffolk, where there's more available space and lower cost for it. Two breweries are in Nassau.
GROWING SINCE THE '60S
Craft breweries, or independent, small operations, spurred in part by home brewers, have been growing in the United States since the 1960s and 1970s.
Blue Point Brewing Co., the first Long Island brewery of the new era, was founded in 1998 by Mark Burford and Pete Cotter. "In the early days, people thought we were crazy," said Burford.
The largest local brewer, it produced 60,000 barrels last year, with Toasted Lager the big seller. In February, Blue Point was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's biggest brewer. Anheuser-Busch beers, which include Budweiser and Bud Light, represent a 47.6-percent share of the U.S. beer market.
Burford, now a Blue Point adviser, said the Patchogue brewery will be expanded. "They're 100 percent committed to this location . . . to make more beer, better quality beer."
Craft breweries typically are defined by traditional techniques and expressive, assertive brews that you wouldn't mistake for the top-selling suds of giants such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.
"People are actually changing their taste in beer," said Steve Pominski, owner-brewer of Barrage Brewing Co. in East Farmingdale. "When we grew up, it was Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, Heineken, and we didn't stray." Now, he said, "We're willing to try something new."
FAST REVENUE GROWTH
Craft beers are predicted to grow 16.8 percent in the United States this year, according to IBISWorld, a market-research group. The industry should expand at a 7.4-percent rate through 2019, compared with 1.4 percent on average for all breweries -- "the fastest revenue growth of any alcoholic beverage industry."
"The last couple of years, we've just started catching up with the rest of the country," said Paul Dlugokencky, owner-brewer of Blind Bat Brewery, a very small operation, or "nanobrewery" that he began with 10-gallon batches in his Centerport garage. Dlugokencky is "trying to work out logistics" to open a brewery in either Huntington Station or Smithtown. Currently, he sells his brews at the Northport farmers market on Saturdays; and at markets in Babylon and Rockville Centre on alternate Sundays.
Larry Goldstein of Nesconset, founder of Spider Bite Beer Co., is optimistic about getting the remaining approvals to open his brewery in Holbrook. "I'm hoping this month to brew there," said Goldstein, who, while "waiting for the gas to be turned on and the state to look at it," has had beer made at Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Spider Bite produces 300 barrels. "I give the recipe."
And that's part of the appeal to brewers pouring in. Rocky Point Artisan Brewers makes 60 barrels a year. Co-founder Donavan Hall noted, "We make the beer we want to drink ourselves and release to good people who know and enjoy craft beer."