In 2014, Moustache Brewery — the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Matthew and Lauri Spitz, opened its doors to the public. The brewery began as a one-barrel system, based in Riverhead.
Within two years, they had expanded to a seven-barrel brew house, and had increased their distribution footprint to include Long Island, New York City, Westchester, and the Hudson Valley.
Beers are currently being updated, although a roster of “core” beers remains the same: the Needle Point and DJ Night IPAs; the Life of Leisure Pale American Ale; the Lawn Cream Ale; and the Everyman’s Porter. Seasonal and specialty brews include the compelling Beyond the Shore Sour Ale, a low-alcohol brew flavored with sea salt and coriander (truly summer in a can).
The brewery’s tasting room, located in Riverhead, is open Thursdays through Sundays.
Nine years ago, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company launched its project in the heart of the North Fork’s maritime community. The brewery’s original space was in downtown Greenport, on Carpenter Street (although the company has since opened an annex with an accompanying restaurant outside of town, in neighboring Peconic). Rich Vandenburgh started the company with college friend John Liegey with the goal of producing authentic, high-quality, local beer in Greenport. “There were only 1500 breweries in the United States and just over 100 in New York State,” Mr. Vanderburgh said. “We anticipated that this would be a fun passion project that he and I would do and that we would continue to work… but what we didn’t realize was that we were lucky in our timing because we hit the big uptick in the explosion in craft.”
Years later, the partners have left their previous careers (attorney and global communications director for Time Warner, respectively) to focus on the brewery full-time, where they now brew an impressive 10,000 barrels of beer a year, all in Greenport and Peconic. Their nascent restaurant serves millennial pub-fare to a raucous, happy crowd: soft pretzels, local duck spring rolls, oysters on the half shell, burgers on Blue Duck brioche, fried pickles, and a de rigueur poké bowl.
Perhaps the most telling hops-to-riches tale comes from the South Fork’s Montauk Brewing Company, which opened its doors in 2012. Vaughan Cutillo, Eric Moss, and Joe Sullivan—three East End natives—began their pursuit of beer after college.
“It was hobby brewing, and we realized that we were onto something bigger,” Mr. Cutillo said. The brewery, housed adjacent to the Montauk baseball fields, opened to nonstop crowds. Montauk Brewing Company represents more than a beer, of course; it is, in a sense, a lifestyle, embraced by the young and the young-ish who have, in recent years, decamped to Montauk for relaxation and a heavy dose of partying. “Our motto is ‘Come As You Are,’” Mr. Cutillo said. A perfect storm of time and place has elevated the brewery to serious craft brew status. “We didn’t expect this kind of growth,” Mr. Cutillo said. “And not just beer-drinking, but it’s sort of a lifestyle brand that we’ve created. Everything starts in Montauk. We test batch it and if it performs well, we scale up.” The brewery’s standard beer line includes the Driftwood Ale (the brewery’s first), Summer Ale, Wave Chaser IPA, Arrowhead Red Ale, Session IPA, and Watermelon Session Ale, but new iterations are regularly available at the brewery.
Craft brewing is enjoying its moment in the sun. “I think a lot of it had to do with increased awareness,” Mr. Vanderburgh said. “There was a moment when there was a real awareness that came to be about what you eat and where does it come from—the artisanal nature of these sorts of things.” These Long Island breweries have capitalized on the moment, a moment wherein the locavore ethos is keenly popular. Still, branding is also an important part the culture of 2018. Moustache Brewery has found innovative ways to brand its beers, including its “pizza Fridays,” bi-monthly visits from Pizza Rita, a Long Island traveling pizzeria housed in a 1946 Chevrolet rack truck. Moustache has also launched the Society for Fine Liquid Provisions, a beer club that entitles members to secret tap beers, VIP events, brewery discounts, monthly growlers, merchandise discounts, and free birthday pints. Memberships begin at $165. Like Montauk Brewing Company, for which a line of clothing has become nearly as marketable as the beer itself, Moustache’s iconic wear (it sports a cheeky moustache) has proven profitable.
Of course, cool duds are not the end all and be all of a successful brew company. “It doesn’t matter how good the brand is,” Mr. Cutillo said. “If the beer isn’t good, it’s over.” For these three Long Island breweries, though, “over” feels far on the horizon. Years in, with no sign of slowing, the craft beer cool appears to be the provenance of both the now and the future.
On Friday, July 20, at 6 p.m., the East Hampton Library, located at 159 Main Street, East Hampton, will host the latest installment of its Tom Twomey Series, “Craft Brewing Out East.” The panel discussion will include three brewers: Vaughan Cutillo of Montauk Brewing Company; Lauri Spitz of Moustache Brewing Company; and Richard Vandenburgh of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. Following the discussion, guests will be invited to taste through a flight of each brewery’s products. Tickets are free, and guests can make a reservation at tomtwomeyseries.org.