The next time you’re in Riverhead and feel a powerful thirst for good beer, take a trip through the wood-paneled, pet-friendly tasting room at Long Ireland Beer Company—you won’t be sorry.
Long Ireland represents the innovation, hard work and good taste of Dan Burke and Greg Martin, who have been brewing beer together since 2009. LIB is a farm brewery—meaning a large portion of its hops and other ingredients come from New York State farms—and boasts a huge range of brews available for tasting. They distribute bottled beer far and wide through Clare Rose Distributors.
Guided by vivacious and knowledgeable bartender Cassandra Dotzel, I began my tasting extravaganza with the Long Ireland Saison, opting for a light start to the afternoon. (The tasting room generally provides customers with six tokens, with which they can choose whichever brews they like. I had a bit more freedom in my sampling, but even so, I wasn’t able to try everything they had to offer—there was that much variety.) This ale, a collaboration with Northport’s Blind Bat Brewery, proved to be mild—a little too mild for me, in fact—despite its brief white-pepper aftertaste. Long Ireland was quickly redeemed by the next beer, a refreshingly crisp, clean Kolsch.
The Double IPA, to no one’s surprise, was powerfully hoppy, but left a lingering malty sweetness that made it worthy of another glass. Next, I tried the Whiskey Aged Breakfast Stout (since I’d already encountered the traditional Breakfast Stout in the wild), and found it to have a delicious sweet-sour aftertaste and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. I followed this up with the Whiskey Aged Black Friday Imperial Stout (about which I was originally skeptical, since I’d had the regular, non-aged version before and found it to be too thick for my liking), and was blown away by its tangy, complex flavor. In fact, all of the whiskey-aged beers really shine—and, as Burke informed me, they are aged locally, in barrels provided by nearby distillery Long Island Spirits.
The Extra Special Bitter was, as its name suggests, bitter, yet somehow filling in its heaviness. The hoppiness hit toward the end, and I savored every sip. Finally, I had a quick sample of the Raspberry Wheat, which was light and, thankfully, not packed with raspberry flavor—in fact, there was only a touch of raspberry, which made it easily drinkable and perfect for a hot summer day. (Dotzel told me that this beer is often mixed with the coffee-tinged flavors of the Breakfast Stout to achieve a “breakfasty flavor” for patrons who wish to take home something unique in their growlers. Another favorite is the “Jelly Roll,” which combines the Raspberry Wheat with the Chocolate Porter.)
What’s “new” now? The re-release of Long Ireland Winter Ale, a holiday-themed amber with an infusion of wintry spices and a bracing, bitter finish, clocking in at 7.2% alcohol by volume
The aged beers—my favorites, if you haven’t picked that up by now—are not yet available in bottles, but Burke isn’t ruling it out. “We age them from anywhere between three months to a year,” he said. “It varies, and the results vary, too.” The whiskey-aged brews were first introduced in February of this year, in an event Burke and Martin called “Whiskey Weekend,” which featured six different aged twists on LIB favorites, and even a food truck for attendees.
The tasting room at Long Island Beer Company offers a variety of T-shirts, pint glasses, and other souvenirs, as well as growlers to take home, and the room is as spacious as it is welcoming—so bring a few friends along to enjoy these hand-crafted brews.
Long Ireland Beer Company, 817 Pulaski Street, Riverhead. 631-403-4303, longirelandbeer.com.