Note: This post relates directly to Long Island beer-drinking. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Long Island resident/visitor, you may be able to apply some of these observations, etc. to your own experience, but this I cannot guarantee.
My adult life is a rather predictable tumult comprised of working, cleaning, paying the bills, doing laundry, and making dinners. I’ve never been big into the party lifestyle, even when I was younger, and I am even less interested in partying now. I – for all intents and purposes – am a total bore, and ya know what? I’m good with it.
Outside of the mundane, I have a handful of enjoyable pursuits — one of which includes sampling good, local craft beer. I used to think that this little “hobby” or life pause was a tad random, but man, it’s a competitive market in 2018.
I live in Nassau County on Long Island — yes, on Long Island, not in Long Island. I know the grammar isn’t quite right, but indulge me a local’s pass. In any case, Long Island has become a hotbed for quality craft brews, and the East End of Long Island is no longer a hidden gem in this regard. Swarms of enthusiasts flock east to a nest of well-regarded tasting rooms to enjoy the newest collabs, or whatever just came off the line the week before.
To some degree, I can contend with these crowds, I mean, we’re all like-minded folks, right. Oh, LOL. We are most certainly not. Beer enthusiasts are not among the majority at tasting rooms anymore. What are you most likely to find on the weekends at your favorite watering hole? Brooklyn hipsters, bridal parties, infestations of screaming children accompanied by distracted and half-crocked parents, and quintessential bro gatherings, each bro towing his girlfriend, who is characteristically wearing a dress through which one can see her areolas (in the summer), or some skinny jean, ankle boot, infinity scarf, cropped flannel nonsense (in the fall). Let me take a breath as you process. “RDP, you’re just being judgmental and mean,” you may be saying. Am I going to completely deny this? No, but if you’ve been to a tasting room on a Saturday during the busy seasons, you know what all of this means.
Look, I am happy – exceptionally happy, in fact – for any independent brewing company that is thriving. I believe brewing to be an art, and I appreciate art well-crafted; when I enjoy a really thoughtful brew, the facts are not lost on me that the effort behind the final product is expensive, and scientific, and sometimes arduous. These facts, however, seem largely lost amid seas of douchy 20- and 30-somethings, and hordes of “Brews Before I Dos” t-shirts.
I have stumbled into a point in my life that requires my free time to be relished and taken rather seriously. When you’re making your own way, very often it feels as though every moment of your life is accounted for, and thus, if you can manage a day out, it becomes exceptionally important to savor every second, because who the heck knows how many more weekends of chores and errands you’ll need to endure before you are able to take a deep breath again. As such, I am horribly aggravated – no, nearly enraged – when inconveniences and unpleasantness permeate my free time. Perhaps rage is unwarranted, or extreme, or excessive, but … it is what it is, or so they say.
When I feel the need to pack up and travel east for a casual brewery romp, I make a point to leave my house between 9:00 and 10:00 am on a Saturday. Not 10:30; not 11:00. If you live in Nassau County and you’re leaving after 11:00, you’ve made a grave error in your calculations, and you should simply turn back as fast as you can and hide in your living room for the rest of the day, because if you make it to the East End at 12:30 or 1:00 pm, good luck getting a parking spot, let alone a place at the bar. I like to arrive at my favorite breweries as soon as they open their doors, and this is not just to avoid crowds. I like to ham it up with the bartenders a little bit. I like to learn about what’s on tap. I like to banter about other breweries. I like to take advantage of very small free sips to make my decisions about what I’m drinking, and I like to find the most choice spot to park myself so that I’m generally out of the way, but I can still get to the bathrooms and the bar easily. If I’ve gone to a place with a view, this allows me the time to grab a shady spot, or the location with the best overlook. If I’m visiting a tasting room with a formal bar that includes seating, an early arrival affords me the ability to get snuggy on one of the bar’s ends so as to avoid the armpits of shouting customers throwing their money at the bartender, or a lapful of beer as dozens of hands reach overhead.
“It sounds like you really hate this activity, RDP, why do you even bother going to breweries if you dislike them so much?” I will tell you why: because that first hour and that first beer that you enjoy during that first hour of your early arrival is indeed pure magic. I love getting the first pour of beer from the tap and establishing a connection with folks working the bars. I love getting a good place to sit or stand so that I can make the most of my time with whomever I’m with. I love the vibe of a calm tasting room, in which you can smell the hops, listen to some good music, and grab a fresh bite from a food truck. Best yet, I love being able to sip away, listening to the outside sounds: the storm of the harbor; the gentle North Fork breeze; birds singing; a tractor working; glasses and bottles tinkling. This is the magic that’s lost when something becomes “the thing” to do.
So, if you’ve been to a brewery on a busy Saturday and all you can remember is a hoppy taste and the screaming crowd of the debauched, do yourself a favor and get an early start next time. You owe it to yourself to enjoy a quiet pint, don’t you? Cheers.
Feel like grabbing a pint on the North Fork? Here are the places I recommend most highly:
- Moustache Brewing: 400 Hallett Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901
- Greenport Harbor Brewing Company (two locations): 234 Carpenter Street, Greenport, NY 11944; 42155 Main Road, Peconic, NY 11958
- Jamesport Farm Brewery: 5873 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901
Other New York breweries to check out:
- Barrier Brewing Co.: 3001 New Street, Unit A2, Oceanside, NY 11572
- Crossroads Brewing Company (two locations): 21 2nd Street, Athens, NY 12015; *201 Water Street Catskill, NY 12414
- Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company: 4545 NY-32, Catskill, NY 12414
*My absolute favorite tasting room, hands down.
Remember to drink responsibly. Do not drink and drive.