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Port Jeff Brewing Company

COVID-19 made it impossible for the traditional Run to the Port Jeff Brewing Company happen in 2020, but the Brewery and the Greater Long Island Running Club [GLIRC] banded together to stage a “virtual” 15K, 10K, and 5K that raised $1000 for the 2020 charitable beneficiary Theatre Three in downtown Port Jefferson.

A check for $1000 was presented to Theatre Three at the Brewing Company on Dec. 18.

Theatre Three is a not-for-profit dedicated to developing an appreciation for the art of live theater among the residents of Long Island. The theater presents a diverse program of fresh and imaginative revivals of classics and modern plays and is an arena for previously unproduced plays, and works towards their future development. Theatre Three provides an environment in which talent can be nurtured, encouraged, and trained in the pursuit of a professional career. 

During the pandemic, there have been no live performances at Theatre Three, so the Brewery and GLIRC were happy to be able to help the theatre stay afloat in these troubled times.

Pictured at the presentation, from left, is GLIRC Race Director Ric DiVeglio; Theatre Three Board of Directors member Brian Hoerger; Theatre Three Managing Director Vivian Koutrakos; Theatre Three Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel; Port Jeff Brewing Company owner Mike Philbrick; and GLIRC Executive Director Sue Fitzpatrick.

Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, announces the kick-off of the Brew to Moo program with the Port Jeff Brewing Company. Photo from Brookhaven Town

By Alex Petroski

The next time you kick back to enjoy a Party Boat IPA or Schooner Pale Ale from the Port Jeff Brewing Company, just know you’re enjoying the suds for the greater good.

Brookhaven Town announced a partnership last week between the brewery, located in Port Jefferson, the town and Double D Bar Ranch in Manorville, a haven for abused or unwanted farm animals.

A by-product of brewing beer is literally tons of spent grains, which until now in Brookhaven would be tossed in the trash and transported via municipal garbage trucks to the landfill. A new town program, called Brew to Moo, will see regular pickups of the spent grains from the Port Jeff Brewing Company that will then be transported to the Manorville ranch, which will then be mixed into feed for the livestock on the premises. The spent grains have reduced caloric content but provide protein and fiber that can supplement corn for feed, according to a press release from the town. The Port Jeff Brewing Company is just the second brewery in Suffolk County to climb onboard with the town initiative, joining BrickHouse Brewery in Patchogue, which agreed to participate in the arrangement earlier this month.

“The fact that the beneficiary in this program is rescue animals really ices the cake for us.”

— Mike Philbrick

“When the town approached us about the Brew to Moo program we were instantly on board,” said Mike Philbrick in an email, the brewer and operator of the Port Jeff establishment. “Since our opening in 2011, we have searched for a secondary use for our spent grains. Unfortunately, we have been throwing them out most of the time with the exception of a few folks who use them as fertilizer accelerants. In other parts of the country, where agriculture and livestock is more prevalent, a brewer doesn’t have any difficulty finding a farmer to source the spent grain to. Long Island’s limited amount of livestock and Suffolk’s large amount of breweries created an anomaly not really seen elsewhere.”

Rich Devoe, the operator of Double D Bar Ranch, which is a nonprofit organization, said during a phone interview the roughly 400 animals living at the ranch never go hungry, but having a steady source of food from the two breweries will allow the organization to spend its donations and money from his own pocket elsewhere, like on barn repairs and fencing. He called the arrangement “great” and “very important.”

“The fact that the beneficiary in this program is rescue animals really ices the cake for us,” Philbrick said. “You have a product that is otherwise waste, being transported by trucks on empty routes that are already on the road, feeding animals that really need it. That’s three wins, not just two. So naturally we wanted to be a part of it and we are happy to help [Supervisor Ed Romaine] make this program a success.”

Romaine (R) said the days prior to the Brew to Moo program’s inception were a missed opportunity to carry out a personal mantra he has adopted during his years at the helm of the town.

“We’re interested in reduce, recycle, reuse,” he said in a phone interview. “This may be something that would be a model project for other towns to do. I think you’ll see in the future, we’re looking at other industries that have waste that we can reuse for allied industries. We’re looking at that every single day because we want to be on the cutting edge of waste management.”

Romaine added the town plans to reach out to more breweries and ranches to gauge interest and try to get others to participate in the sustainably sound project.

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Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Larry Lapointe and Trustee Bruce Miller prepare for Rocketship Park renovations with members of Cub Scout Troop 41. Photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson’s iconic Rocketship Park is getting a facelift this winter. Village board members, mayors past and present, local politicians, community members and donors gathered at the park Oct. 13 to commemorate the kick-off of the project.

From left; Trustee Stanley Loucks, Mayor Margot Garant, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright's (D-Port Jefferson) office, help to kick off Rocketship Park renovations. Photo by Alex Petroski
From left; Trustee Stanley Loucks, Mayor Margot Garant, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson) office, help to kick off Rocketship Park renovations. Photo by Alex Petroski

“In the seven years that I’ve been your mayor, we’ve done a lot of projects here in Port Jefferson … but of all of those projects, I don’t think one is more important or near and dear to our hearts than this little park, because Rocketship Park is really the heartbeat of the community,” Mayor Margot Garant said.

In all, nearly $275,000 has been raised toward the project, in large part thanks to the efforts of the Village’s Treasure Your Parks campaign.

On Oct. 9, a 15K Run to the Port Jeff Brewing Company hosted nearly 1,000 runners and raised more than $5,000 toward the renovations. The brewery’s owner, Mike Philbrick, said he decided to donate the proceeds from the race toward the Rocketship Park initiative because he has four kids and the cause is very personal to him.

Local Cub Scout Troop 41 held a bake sale and sold candy and popcorn for movie night events at Harborfront Park during the summer to raise money as well, and representatives from the group were in attendance Oct. 13 to hand over a $350 check to Garant.

“It takes a village to rebuild Rocketship Park,” Garant said. “It’s about our children and it’s about the local economy, because parks are critically important to our community.”

Former village trustee and a member of the fundraising committee, Adrienne Kessel, thanked those involved for their hard work.

“No one does this alone — we have a committee that has worked tirelessly for the last four years to get us to where we are today,” she said.

Garant also recognized the long list of private donors who supported the fundraising efforts.

The park will be dismantled beginning in late November, equipment will be ordered and installed, and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the brand new Rocketship Park will be held sometime in late April or early May, according to an estimate from Garant.

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The remnants of Hurricane Matthew made for a sloppy morning, but that didn’t stop more than a thousand runners who laced up their shoes and hit the streets of Port Jefferson for a good cause.

The 15K Run to the Port Jeff Brewing Company took place Oct. 9 to raise money for the Port Jefferson “Treasure Your Parks” campaign, an initiative created to help refurbish the more than 50-year-old Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, which is commonly known as Rocketship Park.

The roughly nine-mile race began on West Broadway near Schafer’s restaurant, and concluded on Mill Creek Road near the Port Jeff Brewing Company, where participants celebrated the run with a cold beer. Runner Chris Steenkamer crossed the finish line first, and Chris Koegel came in second.

An event to kick off the refurbishing process, called the Rocketship Park Launch Off, will be held Oct. 13 at 4:30 p.m. at the park located behind Port Jefferson Village Hall about a half a block away from Port Jeff Brewing Company. For more information visit www.rebuildrocketship.org.

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Spider Bite’s founder and brewmaster Larry Goldstein says his beer has developed a loyal following.

By Steve Mosco

Personality goes a long way, even in beer. Far removed from the stale sameness of big-name beer companies, micro- and nanobreweries throughout Long Island are offering unique options to the brew drinker who craves more than watered-down sips from cold-activated, color-changing cans.

It’s no secret that Long Island is overflowing with craft breweries. What craft beer devotees may not know is how much work — and ingredients — go into keeping breweries afloat and churning out dynamic, foamy goodness. It’s more than just the expected barley, hops, water and yeast. Brewmasters must employ peppery grains and floral bouquets, enlivening fruits and balancing bitterness along with equal measures of patience, flexibility and plenty of capital.

Born in basements and garages, with and without spousal approval, homespun ale artistry on the Island often froths forward from conversations over really bad beer. Those initial beer-side chats about the betterment of the drinker’s experience sometimes morph into a far grander dream of bringing beer brewed with care to the masses.

Port Jeff Brewing Company has grown an enthusiastic following, especially on the local level. Beer drinkers in Port Jefferson hoist the brewery’s offerings with a healthy dose of local pride, and crowd the brewery’s tasting room, open daily from noon to 8 p.m., along with brew followers from beyond town limits. The brewery also hosts free tours every Saturday at 4 p.m., where visitors learn about the brewing process for popular Port Jeff beers like Schooner Pale Ale, Port Jeff Porter and more.

The Port Jeff Brewing Company has many different beers to choose from. Photo by M. Furman
The Port Jeff Brewing Company has many different beers to choose from. Photo by M. Furman

“For the first few years, it was just a hobby that was cool,” said Michael Philbrick, who went from 10-year home brewing hobbyist to head brewmaster at Port Jeff Brewing Company in 2011. “When we first opened, there were no breweries even close to here. Now there seems to be another five every few years.”

All of these breweries are proving to be a financial boon to New York State. According to a report released in April by the New York State Brewers Association and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the craft beer industry in the state grew 59 percent from 2013 to 2014 — with a total economic impact estimated at $3.5 billion.

But even with those growing numbers and the industry’s popularity with imbibers, Philbrick said the craft beer industry only accounts for a small shred of the market share on Long Island — domestic juggernauts and foreign imports still rule the cooler.

“Of all the beers on the Island, you’re looking at a very small share of the market for craft brews,” he says. “Amazingly, there is still room to grow.”

Philbrick believes this produces a healthy amount of camaraderie among brewmasters on Long Island. They all want each other to survive and thrive in this industry.

“We all do the same events and deal with the same people,” he says. “And we all got into this for the same reason: the love of beer. We learn about the business from each other and we do group purchasing of equipment. I ran out of bottles once and the guys at Great South Bay [Brewery] helped me out. And I know they’ll call me for a certain hop or grain.”

Port Jeff has also worked with Spider Bite Beer Company, a fledgling brewery out of Holbrook. Spider Bite’s founder and co-owner, Larry Goldstein, agreed with Philbrick that it makes no sense to undercut other local breweries in order to get ahead. Goldstein routinely works with Barrage Brewing Company in East Farmingdale, participating in tap takeovers at bars together and lending each other equipment.

“We’re only going to survive if we cooperate,” he said. “This business is way too expensive to be selfish.”

When Goldstein first decided to back out of his chiropractic practice in favor of the brew life, he was floored by the sheer amount of operational expenses. But he pushed through, buying equipment fit for a laboratory, kegs and key ingredients to achieve some truly remarkable flavor profiles.

“It’s a huge investment even to just get started,” he says. “You have to buy all the equipment, all the kegs, the ingredients. And everything is expensive. It’s insane.”

The insanely enticing flavors of Goldstein’s Boris the Spider Russian Imperial Stout, Rophenia Belgian Quad and more are available to imbibe at Spider Bite’s Holbrook tasting room, open Thursdays, 4 to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 3 to 8 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.

Even considering the sky-high cost involved in the production of beer, each brewmaster says they would rather work their fingers to the bone and push their bank accounts to the brink doing what they love than anything else. Obstacles often stand in the way — a busted septic tank here, an uncooperative municipality there — but most brew heads learn to roll with problems in order to get their product to the public.

Michael Philbrick, founder and owner of Port Jeff Brewing Company. Photo by M. Furman
Michael Philbrick, founder and owner of Port Jeff Brewing Company. Photo by M. Furman

For Jamie Adams, founder of Saint James Brewery, this is no vanity project. There is purpose behind all of this hard work and investment. Established in 2012, Saint James is a New York State farm-certified brewery that creates Belgian-inspired ales in a farm-to-pint initiative. Culling fresh ingredients like apricots, raspberries, barley and select spices from local farms, including Condzella’s Farm in Wading River, Adams and his wife and co-owner Rachel are getting back to the roots of beer making.

“We want the customer to understand and appreciate the value of a locally brewed product,” said Adams. “For us, it’s all about Long Island. Whether it’s fruit farmers on the East End or honey farmers or local barely, the goal is to enlighten people and help appreciate the value of working with local raw materials.”

A former clerk in the New York Stock Exchange, Adams is a self-taught brewer and meticulous worker. Those days on Wall Street are a distant memory, but his worker-bee mentality has remained intact. He now focuses on raising his standards with every batch of farmhouse Belgian ale.

“Chances are when someone is drinking our beer, they are having it for the first time. So each batch we make has to be perfect,” says Adams. “This is a higher calling for me. The agricultural economy is so important to everything we do. And if it grows, it can help this island tremendously. It’s not cost effective for all brewers to use locally grown ingredients, but we want to get to the point where that is the norm.”

Adams wants the emboldening medley of flavors so singular to craft beer to change the mind-set of beer drinkers and distributors. And like his beer-brewing brethren, he wants to pop the cap on the craft industry’s share of the Island’s beer market.

He envisions a time when local craft breweries can claim 20 percent of the market — a monumental task that actually seems achievable when comparing the charisma and personality of craft brew to the demoralizing drudgery of mass-produced beer.

“Our job as brewers is to work together to get bar owners to put more craft beers on tap,” he says. “I believe if you give consumers a local option, they will take it. And that is how we grow this business.”