Greenport Harbor Brewing: Still Innovating on the North Fork
College buddies John Liegey and Rich Vandenburgh bonded over a mutual love for beer and dreamed about opening a brewery someday. They also shared a love for the North Fork, and after building successful careers in advertising and the law, the beer bug took over and they decided to take the plunge. The partners spent a year of weekends and vacations renovating the old Star Hose firehouse building on Carpenter Street in Greenport Village and opened for business in July 2009.
As the first craft brewery in a region primarily known for its vineyards, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. quickly developed a loyal following for its distinctive beers. Several of the original brews developed by Greenport Harbor’s first head brewer, DJ Swanson, continue to be favorites today, including the Leaf Pile Ale fall seasonal, Otherside IPA and Black Duck Porter.
With no room to expand at the Greenport location, Liegey and Vandenburgh searched for a second location that would give them more space for production and a larger tasting room. “We wanted to be in total control of every ounce of beer we brewed,” Liegey says. “So we decided not to contract brew and looked for a space to build a larger brewhouse.” They purchased the former Lucas Ford showroom on Main Road in Peconic in 2011 and after extensive renovations on the three-acre property, opened the second location in July 2014.
The 13,000-square-foot Peconic facility houses a 2,000-square-foot tasting room and restaurant with garage door-style windows that open onto a large outdoor lawn. The brewhouse has a 30-barrel brewing system along with bottling and canning lines to supply retail distribution across New York State and Connecticut. With the original 15-barrel system still at the Greenport location, the brewery currently produces about 10,000 barrels a year.
Pat Alfred, who got his start at Barrier Brewing in Oceanside, took over as head brewer at Greenport in 2018 after Swanson moved on to join Sierra Nevada Brewing. In addition to keeping up with demand for Greenport’s mainstay offerings, Alfred has experimented with barrel-aged beers, sours and fruit beers including Tiki Paradise, a wheat beer with piña colada flavors.
Alfred also launched an innovative series of pastry-style beers including Leaf Pile Pie, Gingerbread Cookie Pie and Cherry Pastry Stout. Other popular special releases include imperial versions of Black Duck Porter such as Double Duck Porter Mexican Hot Chocolate with cocoa nibs, coconut, vanilla beans and chili peppers.
Since its founding, Greenport has been an active contributor to charities helping the North Fork community. At the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, Vandenburgh helped to form a team of local businesses that produced over 8,000 plastic face shields for local medical facilities and first responders, using Greenport’s Peconic facility to assemble the face shields. Greenport maintains its “Giving Tank” program to donate beer to fundraising events for local charities and children’s programs.
Greenport’s Peconic location regularly has live music and hosts events including a recent Oompahfest on October 2 to celebrate Oktoberfest with a special German menu at the restaurant, live Oompah music, a stein holding contest and the release of its seasonal FestBier.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company has two locations, the tasting room at 234 Carpenter Street in Greenport and the tasting room/restaurant at 42155 Main Road in Peconic.
For more information, visit greenportharborbrewing.com.
Bernie Kilkelly is the editor and publisher of LIBeerGuide.com.