When COVID-19, and the strict health mandates that followed, hit the East End, many businesses and restaurants scrambled to find creative, cost-effective ways to keep themselves afloat during this time of immensely decreased cash flow. Rather than trudging ahead on their own and hoping for the best, several of the North Fork’s breweries put their heads together and came up with a plan—an event to raise awareness and funds for their collective plight. And thus, Craft Aid, a two-day concert benefit and socially distanced beer festival, was created and set for July 2 and 3.
The idea was birthed by Jamesport Farm Brewery co-founder Anthony Caggiano, who was inspired by the annual Farm Aid concert to benefit American farms. He reports that his brewery’s profits are down by about 60%, largely due to the fact that Jamesport Farm Brewery beers, like many other North Fork brews, are not distributed to local shops and bars. “Our distribution is in the tasting room. This effort is to help the tasting rooms regain a foothold and get back to where we were,” he says, emphasizing how vital Craft Aid is to improving the current financial state of local breweries. “We haven’t spent a lot of money, because we haven’t been open, but we haven’t made money to pay rent.”
Craft Aid includes two nights of virtual concerts on Thursday, July 2 and Friday, July 3 from 8–10 p.m.—featuring East End favorites Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, Barbados Slim, Who Are Those Guys, Foster Europe, Slingshot, Shepard the Breeze, ’70s Rock Parade and the Jan Hanna Band. Each band’s set has been pre-recorded and will be preceded and followed by live commentary, band introductions and interviews hosted by Caggiano, Jamesport Farm Brewery co-founder Melissa Caggiano and Diane Tucci of Main Street Productions. “It gives a little live feature to it, so that somebody’s not just watching a recording that has no human element to it,” Caggiano says. The show will be livestreamed on YouTube, Facebook and craftaid.org.
People viewing the free concerts are encouraged to support participating breweries by donating to Craft Aid’s GoFundMe page, with proceeds being split between Jamesport Farm Brewery, Long Ireland Beer Co., Moustache Brewing Co., Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Eastern Front Brewing, North Fork Brewery, Twin Fork Beer Co. and the recently opened Tradewinds Brewery. Each participant will debut a limited-edition Craft Aid beer for the event, some of which include Tradewinds’ New Guy! IPA, North Fork Brewing’s Stickier Bandit and an exciting new Kölsch from Caggiano’s team. Each brew can be purchased at their respective brewery, and patrons will receive an event passport challenging them to taste all eight before they’re sold out. Those who accomplish the task will receive a special Craft Aid pin at Moustache Brewing Co.
Caggiano is excited to invite visitors to Jamesport Farm Brewery for the event, as he admits the takeout model hasn’t worked well due to the brewery’s remote location. The farm has no shortage of space, however, so he’s set up an expansive beer garden with picnic and high-top tables available for one-hour timeslots. “I always wanted the big grass area, but I never knew it was going to come in handy,” he says. An order window is set up outside the tasting room, so visitors never have to step inside.
As much as he’d love to see a spike in his own business, Caggiano hopes for the same for the other local breweries, as well. “The North Fork breweries are closer than normal competition breweries are,” he says. “Everybody’s friendly. We all help each other out. It’s kind of a weird dynamic that we would help ‘the competition’ out, but we’re not really competition.”