For a few weeks each June, strawberries reach perfect ripeness on Long Island. It’s a fleeting season, and for brewer Jamie Adams, time to hustle to use the fresh fruit for his Fraise, or Belgian-style strawberry ale.
The process repeats itself with Long Island-grown peaches, plums, apricots and apples, which Adams also grabs in season. All of his hops are raised on Long Island, too — at Condzella’s Farm in Wading River — and his grain is grown and malted upstate. Such are the ways of being a New York State farm brewery, a designation created in 2012 that, for now, requires breweries to use 20 percent state-grown ingredients. Adams and his wife and business partner, Rachel, use almost 100 percent. “When we started using local ingredients, we could really taste the difference,” said Adams, a longtime home brewer who left a career in finance to begin brewing commercially in 2014.
Saint James Brewery is not actually in Saint James, but in a Holbrook industrial building. In mid-May, the Adamses opened their first tasting room, a tidy white space where visitors can get growler fills or bottles of ales such as Peche, Pomme, Rachelle Blanche witbier or Plum Stout that were previously found only on tap elsewhere or at farmers markets.
Rather than walloping IPAs, they are rich and round ales where hoppiness is kept in check. “I use hops to balance the sweetness that the fruit provides,” said Adams. He also doses the ales with sugar while bottling, as is done with Champagne, and the ales are naturally carbonated and bottle conditioned — sort of like wine. “The goal is for the beers to be around great food,” said Rachel Adams.
While the Adamses will still work a handful of local farmers’ markets this season, their bottle room is open a few days each week — and they’re quick to point out that they’re within walking or quick driving distance to the tasting rooms of Spider Bite Beer Co. and 1940s Brewing Company. “We’re starting a beer trail,” Adams said.
Saint James Brewery, 929 Lincoln Ave., Holbrook. saintjamesbrewery.com. Check Saint James’ Facebook page for tasting room hours.