Greenport has long been synonymous with quaint maritime scenery and fresh seafood. Over the last four years, thanks to Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Greenport has developed another claim to fame: it’s home to some of the best local beer in the state.
A recent trip to Greenport Harbor’s tasting room, located right in downtown Greenport, provided ample evidence of this small brewery’s achievements. A tasting included samples of five of their delicious offerings, from their signature Greenport Harbor Ale, a pale ale with a hoppy zing to it, to their Devil’s Plaything IPA, which includes Guajillo and Thai chili peppers (it’s specially brewed for a New York taco restaurant). Also on tap was their #4, a fourth anniversary commemorative brew, made with German noble hops that give it a very distinctive quality. All of the beer is currently produced on-premises, which is quite a feat.
That’s because last year the brewery produced close to 6,000 kegs of beer right in Greenport, brewing at full capacity. They supply their beer to over 450 bars and restaurants across Long Island, New York and upstate. Currently, Greenport Harbor is working on expanding into a larger space in Peconic. But don’t worry, they’re keeping their flagship Greenport location open. And even though they’ve been known to run low on certain popular styles of beer during the long, hot summer, one thing they don’t plan to do is farm any of their brewing out to larger, industrial breweries—a practice known as contract brewing. (Read carefully: is your “local” beer actually brewed in Utica?)
“We are adamant about the complete authenticity of brewing all of our beer locally,” says Rich Vandenburgh, who founded Greenport Harbor with his college friend John Liegey. “We just feel that’s the only way to maintain the highest quality, and we find that our customers are enthusiastic about the local aspect of the beer.” Their new space in Peconic, in the former Lucas Ford showroom on Route 25, will allow them to increase their output, and will include a bottling facility to make it easier for customers to enjoy Greenport Harbor beer at home.
The Peconic location will also feature a brewpub and beer garden, with food and full pints—Greenport Harbor is restricted from pouring full pints at their current tasting room. Vandenburgh says they expect to begin operations there in the fall.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company may have only just turned four years old, but it’s already an old-timer by Long Island micro-brewery standards.
“When we opened there were around three micro-breweries on Long Island,” says Vandenburgh. “Since then, micro-breweries have sprung up all over.” This reflects a growing, nationwide trend towards locally-produced beer, which in turn reflects the burgeoning locavore movement and the farm-to-table ideal.
In fact, there’s a movement in beer production called farm-to-pint, where many micro-breweries across the country are exploring sourcing their ingredients from nearby farms. Greenport Harbor Brewing Company is very much onboard with this idea, with Vandenburgh citing Condzella Hops in Wading River as a source of fresh hops that the brewery uses.
“What needs to happen is for the infrastructure to be created to allow for the processing of the local hops,” says Vandenburgh, explaining that brewers typically require pelletized hops in their processes.
Then there’s the grain—not really a specialty of Long Island agriculture. Beer generally uses malted barley, or barley that has undergone a special germination process to produce the sugars necessary for fermentation.
According to Vandenburgh, Greenport Harbor is seeking to contract with a local farmer to plant a field of winter barley for a spring harvest. The barley will then be malted in facilities upstate, and brewed together with local hops, the resulting beer will be about as farm-to-pint as Long Islanders can reasonably expect.
It wasn’t so long ago that beer was considered a fairly rudimentary drink, with subtle variations in flavor (or lack thereof) among the few national brands you could find in the store. Now, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and other micro-breweries are slowly educating Americans about the wide variation in flavors that are possible, and an exciting new beer culture is emerging—one that emphasizes regional flavors and preferences. You can experience the new beer culture first hand at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company.