In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, there's a tiny, tucked-away brewhouse that's legendary among beer lovers for its eclectic vibe and approach: Earth Eagle Brewings, a homespun tasting room where you can sip beers and gruit ales made with parsnips, wild grapes, maple sap, sage — a vast array of local botanicals.
About 200 miles to the south, that ethos has taken root in the bay of a former Riverhead firehouse, where North Fork Brewing Co. opened this July. Head brewer Peter Barraud is turning out small batches of beers made with local hops, herbs and fruit, as well as wild yeasts. "[Earth Eagle] is where I cut my teeth," said Barraud, who grew up in Baiting Hollow and spent a few years in Portsmouth before returning home to the East End. After a stint at Moustache Brewing Co., Barraud partnered with biologist and chemist Ian Van Bourgondien (also his wife's cousin) to open their five-barrel farm-brewery and tasting room.
North Fork Brewing Co. is sleek and airy, with a long bar, both indoor and outdoor tables and beers that draw on North Fork-grown herbs and fruit, as well as hops raised on a 1-acre plot that Van Bourgondien's family owns in Peconic. (Barraud also uses hops from elsewhere, but some of their hops make it into every beer. Malted grain comes from upstate New York). In an on-site lab, Van Bourgondien cultivates wild yeasts harvested from huckleberries and blackberries, which are used for a saison and a Weissbier, respectively. "Being able to work with Sang Lee [Farms] and other herb farms helps educate people on what grows out here," said Barraud.
North Fork Brewing also counts a few IPAs, a Belgian-style dubbel, a pale ale, a Scotch ale and a stout on its current tap list, as well as a root beer bittered with those Peconic-grown hops. Food trucks park outside on the weekends, too. "People know that Riverhead's becoming a brewing destination, and we hope to become part of the community," said Van Bourgondien. "There's a lot of challenges for maintaining farms and agriculture on the North Fork, and breweries and wineries can help push that forward."
North Fork Brewing Co., 24 E. Second St., Suite A, Riverhead; no phone; open Wednesday to Sunday; check website for hours, northforkbrewingco.com