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Long Island craft brewers showcased at Great Beer Expo


More than 60 breweries attended the Long Island Great Beer Expo at Belmont Park Race Track on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, attracting beer lovers sampling brews from local and international companies. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

With some Long Island bars pouring dozens of types of craft beers, Twin Fork Beer Co. finds it a challenge to stand out.

But at Saturday’s Long Island Great Beer Expo at Belmont Park, Twin Fork’s Peter Chekijian had a built-in audience of people who are more likely to try a 2-ounce sample of his Chromatic Ale than plunk down $6 to $8 for a pint of beer they had never heard of.

“It’s a crowded marketplace,” said Chekijian, who is planning to open a brewery in Riverhead next year and now contracts to brew his beer in another Long Island facility. “This is great exposure for us.”

More than 60 breweries from Long Island, across the country, and as far away as China gathered on the ground floor of Belmont Park racetrack for the ninth annual expo, where hundreds of patrons meandered from booth to booth drinking small glasses of beer. Tickets were $50 to $65.

Vendors were looking for craft-beer fans like Bill Powell of East Islip. He had seen beer from Bay Shore’s Great South Bay Brewery in stores but never tried it — until Saturday.

The verdict on the Massive IPA in his glass?

“It’s delicious,” said Powell, 47. “I’d definitely buy it.”

Greg Martin, owner of Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead, said the expo is ideal advertising for his brewery, offering a built-in market of people eager to experiment with different types of beer.

“You get beer nerds who want to come in and smell it and analyze it, and they may go to a variety of apps and websites to rate them or do their own reviews on them,” Martin said.

There are also people who may typically drink mass-market beers and want to try a few craft brews, he said.

“You can typically tell who’s a novice because a lot of times they’ll come up and say, ‘What’s the lightest offering you have?’ ” Martin said.

Martin on Saturday had four beers on tap, including one he described as a “light, bright, crisp German pilsner.”

“It’s a great entry point” for people not used to the strong hop flavor that is common in many craft beers, he said.

Craft beer has exploded in recent years, with some stores on Long Island offering shelves stacked with hundreds of brands.

In New York State, the number of craft breweries has tripled in the past four years, to 288 in September 2016 from 95 in 2012, a New York State Brewers Association tally shows.

Craft beer represents about 10 percent of the state’s beer market, nearly double the 2012 percentage, said Paul Leone, the state association’s executive director. There are 37 craft breweries that the association counts on Long Island.

“Long Island has really seen tremendous growth” in the past several years, Leone said.

Some of the breweries on Long Island and in the Finger Lakes region opened near wineries, giving them “a built-in tourism base,” he said.

“By having breweries on wine trails, everyone can get what they want,” Leone said.

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