Just off Montauk Highway in Montauk sits one of the latest additions to Long Island’s craft beer explosion. Montauk Brewing Company, open for just over a year, operates out of a charming little house on South Erie Avenue, where they also run a tasting room and do a brisk business in filling growlers to go.
Montauk Brewing Company is the brainchild of three local guys—Montauk natives Vaughan Cutillo and Eric Moss and Joe Sullivan from East Hampton. The three have known each other since their school days, and the brewery began as a hobby. They started out by homebrewing for themselves and friends.
“When we decided to turn it into a business, it was just a matter of paperwork, really,” according to Cutillo, with whom I spoke on a recent visit to the brewery. “We had developed several beer recipes over the years,” explains Cutillo, “tweaking our processes to get beers we felt would have broad appeal.” Cutillo adds that the recipes originated with Moss, who began learning to brew in college and is now the brewmaster at Montauk Brewing.
At Montauk Brewing Company I was able to sample the four different beers they had on tap, a selection that changes with the season! First up was the Montauk Summer Ale, a very clean-tasting refresher. Cutillo points out that the Montauk Summer Ale is produced from standard beer ingredients, without the exotic citrus elements that some brewers add to summer seasonals. This simplicity of approach is a hallmark of all of Montauk Brewing Company’s current offerings.
Next up was the Driftwood Ale, a full-bodied beer in the E.S.B. style. E.S.B. stands for Extra Special Bitter, but Montauk’s take on it is very smooth, not so bitter, but with a subtlety of hops and without the heaviness of some British E.S.B.s.
“It’s an American E.S.B.,” points out Cutillo. “We designed the Driftwood Ale to pair nicely with all kinds of food, especially seafood.” The Driftwood Ale is Montauk Brewing’s flagship beer, and is available on tap at lots of area seafood restaurants, including the West Lake Clam and Chowder House and The Crow’s Nest. Cutillo also happily notes that the beer is proving quite popular up-island at Hoptron Brewtique, Patchogue’s beer-lover haven.
My third sampling was the Offland I.P.A. For the uninitiated, I.P.A. stands for India Pale Ale, a style of beer that is more “hoppy,” or bitter, than most. You see, back in the 1800s, British brewers began adding more hops to beers that were being shipped all the way to India—hops are, among other things, a preservative, and adding more of them allowed the beer to stay fresh for the long trip. Of course, people came to enjoy the special flavor of I.P.A.’s, and now most American craft brewers produce at least one kind of I.P.A.
Montauk Brewing Company’s Offland I.P.A. is perhaps less hoppy than some others, emphasizing a strong hop aroma over the biting bitter flavor usually associated with I.P.A.’s. Once again, the tendency here is toward smoothness and simplicity, with a drinkability that would go well with food. That’s part of the plan, according to Cutillo.
“Down the road we’ll definitely be offering some hoppier I.P.A.’s,” he says, “but we’d like for our introduction to people to be with smooth beers that have rich, complex flavors but that don’t shock.” He points out that beer, like wine, can have a lot of character without going to extremes. “Balanced beers allow lots of different, unique flavors to come out.” And to the average beer drinker, habituated to essentially tasteless national beers, the smooth yet full-bodied beers of Montauk Brewing will be a revelation.
By way of example, take Montauk’s Eastbound Brown Ale, which was the last sample of my visit. A dark beer, made with roasted malt, the beer yields a whole palette of subtle flavors, from toast to coffee to chocolate, and of course stout, the classic roasted malt beer. It’s easy to imagine getting to the bottom of one pint of Eastbound Brown and still not having a full picture of its flavor. In which case, you’ll have to order another. And maybe one after that.
For more info, go to montaukbrewingco.com.