S(hop) Talk with Riverhead’s North Fork Brewing Company

North Fork Brewing Co.
Courtesy North Fork Brewing Co.

Located on 2nd Street off the main drag of downtown Riverhead, North Fork Brewing Company is a hidden gem of the East End craft brewing scene. Co-owners and cousins Peter Barraud and Ian Van Bourgondien, owe much of their farm brewery’s success to their own unique blend of skills and expertise.

The pair’s connection to the East End runs deep with Barraud and Van Bourgondien growing up in Baiting Hollow and Southold, respectively. Before North Fork Brewing Co. came to be, Van Bourgondien worked as a chemist for Estée Lauder, and Barraud as a teacher in New Hampshire. Upon his return to Long Island, Barraud cut his teeth on craft beer working as a brewer for Moustache Brewing Company.

Though they opened their brewery to the public last year, they began growing hops on Van Bourgondien’s family farm in Peconic in 2016. When it came time to decide on a location, they settled on a commercially zoned former firehouse in downtown Riverhead, which allowed them to have a production, retail and tasting space under one roof. Friends and family helped design and remodel the space into a tasting room flanked by hand-painted murals and a 40-foot boxed roller garage door. It’s difficult to ascertain what the focal point of the room is, with patrons’ eyes drawn to the white bar, tap lockers and back room full of sparkling brewing equipment.

As a farm brewery, at least 60% of the hops and grain used in all of North Fork Brewing Company’s beers come from New York State. Some IPA hops are trademarked, and they are forced to bring them in from the Syracuse region of upstate, but on many of their styles the brewers exceed these requirements, and say they are proud to play a part in this mission to stimulate and support New York State agriculture.

North Fork Brewing Company, Photo: Courtesy North Fork Brewing Company
North Fork Brewing Company, Photo: Courtesy North Fork Brewing Company

Barraud credits Van Bourgondien’s science and agricultural knowledge as integral to the business, while his partner praises the creativity and technical brewing knowledge Barraud brings to the operation. The pair looks to the intersection of science and creativity in beer making and agree that the combination of their strengths has allowed them to be adventurous with the brews they sell. When pressed to decide on a favorite, Barraud chooses their New England IPA, Sticky Bandit, while Van Bourgondien favors their German Pilsner, Hold Me Closer Tiny Lager. Were someone to ask them in a few weeks, their preferences may have changed entirely, as the pair regularly rotates eight of their 12 taps to reflect new styles and seasons.

For both Barraud and Van Bourgondien, the brewery is a creative and professional dream realized. Van Bourgondien describes what he calls a “pinch me moment” one afternoon when he took notice of the tasting room, abuzz with beer enthusiasts. As he looked around the room, marveling at his brewery, he said to himself, “This looks like a pretty cool place.” The brewery seemed to have taken on a life of its own, belonging more to the community than to him and Barraud.

Moving forward, Barraud and Van Bourgondien hope to maintain the large following they have attracted since opening. They also have their eyes set on expanding eastward and hope to be able to open a tasting room where their hops are grown in Peconic. Van Bourgondien explains that opening a new location between a farm and a winery would be an excellent catalyst to inspire new products and allow them to learn from their neighbors about innovations in distillation and agriculture.

North Fork Brewing Company, located at 24 East 2nd Street, Suite A, Riverhead, is open Wednesday through Sunday with extended hours on the weekends. The brewery is family friendly, including family members with four legs. If you can’t make it to the tasting room, you can also catch them serving up pints at First Fridays on Love Lane.

For more information, visit northforkbrewingco.com.

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