Located on Riverhead’s hectic main drag, Crooked Ladder Brewing Company (CLB) is serving up a cold glass of East End innovation. Space is at a premium inside this brick-walled brewery, where the bar and the brewing equipment occupy the same room, but the crowd of patrons gives the place a friendly vibe, and the draft beer flows well into the evening.
Bartender Gia Geraghty smilingly served me the “sample flight”—eight consecutive small pours of the range of beers currently on tap at Crooked Ladder Brewing.
Brewing partner Duffy Griffiths assured me that these eight are not all CLB has to offer. I sampled the seasonal Summeritis ale, which is still on tap, as is the seasonal pumpkin ale (Outta My Vine). Also in the seasonal rotation is an Oktoberfest brew available October 1, a Christmas beer, an amber IPA dubbed the “Midwinter Warmer” and eventually the Inisfada, a March beer brewed specially for St. Patrick’s day and named for the Gaelic phrase for “Long Island.” Griffiths added that the brewery, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in July, has been looking to use locally grown hops, “when we start doing wet-hopped beer.” (Wet-hopping refers to the process by which vibrant, fresh-cut hops are added to a brew, rather than dried pellet hops shipped from afar.) The beer was kegged on Tuesday, and should be on tap as of this publication.
The first brew on offer, a German Kolsch, was light, mild and refreshing, with a little hoppy edge to it and a fizzy mouthfeel. Kolsches are not my preferred style, but this was definitely on the higher end of the spectrum. The next, however—the cleverly-named 9.0 Brew 1.0—was a bit of a disappointment; a California Common, it came off as a fairly bland offering. There was a good dose of hop bitterness, but the overall effect was not particularly impressive. The same, I felt, could be said for the Gypsy Red, Crooked Ladder’s flagship beer, if not for its saving grace—a delicious caramel aftertaste that kicked in right when it was most needed. (Gypsy Red is CLB’s most popular beer, and is sold year-round). I hit the halfway point with Shinnecock Bock, a highly alcoholic Maibock that holds the title of “brewers’ favorite beer.” This one, though a tad thick for my taste, was a stellar representation of the style, and its heaviness is perfect for a rainy day at home.
The second half of the tasting, which took a turn towards the dark and hoppy, was nothing short of fantastic. Ponquogue Porter kicked off this delight, proving itself to be full, rich and somewhat hoppier than you’d expect for a porter (which, in this case, is in no way a criticism). Next, I sampled the Sundown Stout, a sweet and smoky brew featuring maple and rye flavors. This particular beer was first brewed in conjunction with Chicago-based DryHop Brewers, but CLB liked it so much, they made it again on their own. (As a personal testament to the merits of Sundown Stout, I snagged a growler full to take home. Did I mention that CLB offers growlers, half-growlers, hydroflasks, pint glasses, and merchandise? Now I have mentioned it.)
My penultimate sample went by the prolix name of Capone Meets Gotti (or “CMG”) Black IPA (another combined effort with DryHop Brewers), but proved itself to be substantially more to-the-point than its moniker—this beer is an assault on the taste buds, in the best possible way. Brewed with 10 pounds of hops, CMG is on the sour side of the scale and much lighter than you’d expect of a standard black IPA. I closed the deal with a brew I was already familiar with—the locally lauded 70 West IPA. This beer’s name is doubly significant; it is a West Coast IPA which boasts a rating of 70 IBUs, and 70 West Main Street is the address of its parent brewery. Featuring four distinct hop varieties, this popular and highly available brew is extravagantly bitter, and merits a second glass.
Crooked Ladder’s beers are currently available in approximately 100 establishments across Long Island—so don’t take my word for it. Grab a pint.
Crooked Ladder Brewery is located at 70 West Main Street in Riverhead. For more information, visit crookedladderbrewing.com or call 631-591-3565.