Blind Bat Brewery and The Brewers Collective: From Farm to Bottle and Back Again

Blind Bat Brewery Paul and Regina

Paul Dlugokencky, owner of Blind Bat Brewery, spends summer weekends waking early to get his farmers market table ready. But he’s not selling fresh produce or homemade baked goods, he’s there with bottles of beer. Dlugokencky embraces Long Island agriculture with a little help from his farmer wife, Regina, and often showcases locally grown ingredients in Blind Bat beers.

Dlugokencky’s microbrewery, in the detached garage of his Centerport home for the past eight years, allows him to use local produce and experiment with his recipes. (There are plans to open a larger tasting room in Smithtown.)

Regina Dlugokencky’s organic produce has been a part of the Long Island farmers market scene for years. In 2011, she encouraged Dlugokencky to try selling Blind Bat at the Northport Farmers Market and he hasn’t looked back.

“You expose yourself to a population that isn’t coming to your brewery,” he says. “They’re already open-minded enough to try something local. Variety is something people respond to; they don’t necessarily want to buy the same thing every week.” This gives him the freedom to brew smaller, more whimsical batches of beer like his Long Island Oyster Stout.

The market also allows Dlugokencky to work with local vendors and growers. When he needs coffee for his Brown Joe brown ale, he looks to Gentle Brew of Long Beach. And it goes both ways; his beer is often used by Ridgewood Pork Store in their sausages.

Dlugokencky doesn’t get all his offbeat ingredients at farmers markets; he often looks to Regina for guidance and fresh crops. “She’s currently growing Thai basil and lemon basil for a Thai-inspired pale ale and IPA,” says Dlugokencky. Her yield also makes its way into the Honey & Basil Ale, along with New York State honey. But it’s not just fresh herbs and spices that wind up in his beer.

Blind Bat Long Island Potato Stout is brewed with—you guessed it—Long Island potatoes. Depending on availability, locally and organically grown Yukon or Keuka Gold potatoes add sugar to the brewing process, which results in a dry, roasted stout with a low alcohol percentage and rich, bold flavors.

Keeping with the potato theme, Blind Bat Sweet Potato Saison uses sweets from Ty Llwyd and is their “beer for the harvest season.” The potatoes are first roasted to bring out their sweetness and are then added to the mash during brewing. A healthy dose of spices rounds out the ingredient list.

The DIY doesn’t stop. The base of several of his beers—including the popular Hellsmoke Porter—uses malt that’s hand smoked at the brewery. While still a homebrewer, Dlugokencky read about a smoked porter from Alaska but couldn’t get his hands on smoked malt. Not one to give up, he thought, “Well, I can’t find any so I’ll try making some.” The first attempt involved a window screen and barbecue and did not go exactly as planned; he wound up burning a hole in the screen. Dlugokencky now has two large smokers that “have never seen a piece of meat” and are solely used for malt.

Also spotted at Long Island farmers markets this season is the Brewers Collective, a group of nine homebrewers recently turned pro. In fact, they alternate weeks with Blind Bat at the Babylon market. A slight departure from Dlugokencky, who sells only bottles, the Collective—as they are sometimes known—brings kegs and fills growlers on the spot. They have been pushing the envelope with unique local ingredients since in 2007.

Their Loot Gruit, a lightly hopped ale brewed with hibiscus flowers, sage and lemon balm, uses New York–grown hops. The Collective had an extensive tasting session where they made teas from each herbal ingredient and added them to commercially brewed beer in order to perfect their recipe. The result is a fresh, brightly colored beverage that tastes more like a harvest bounty than a typical beer.

Come fall, the summery, light gruit gives way to their fall version, Witchbinder. Brewed with herbs and Long Island cheese pumpkin, the ale is a dark, earthy brew that is very sage forward. “Once we have a building, I want to start growing this type of stuff myself,” says brewer Tim Dougherty, whose wife, Sarah, is also a part of the Collective.
“You get into brewing because you enjoy the process, not just the end product,” says Blind Bat’s Dlugokencky. These two local breweries are exploring new avenues in beer by going back to Long Island farms.

This article originally appeared in Edible Long Island

Brian Giebel: The Amateur Professional

Brian Giebel the Amateur Professional

We met up with self-proclaimed “professional amateur” brewer Brian Giebel early one morning at the BrickHouse Brewery, while staff was busy zesting limes for an upcoming brew day of Lima Libre. Meanwhile, Flying Dutchman IPA, a beer Giebel collaborated on, is on tap right alongside the other BrickHouse staples. Though Giebel is still technically a homebrewer, this isn’t the first time his beer has been served at a Long Island brewery.

Giebel, who holds a Ph.D in chemistry, has homebrewing down to a science. The result has been several award winning beers, some of which have been produced commercially. His beers are a true labor of love; Giebel checks the fermentation temperature up to five times a day. “I obsess over them like children,” he says.

His success led him to approach Arthur Zimmerman, head brewer of BrickHouse, for some hands on experience on a larger scale. “They were more than willing to take me on,” says Giebel. He helped them out with general tasks but never got involved in recipe development until they wanted to talk about his Belgian beers.

So Zimmerman and Giebel sat down, along with brewer Paul Komsic, and set out to revamp BrickHouse’s Flying Dutchman IPA. “The cool thing about working with them is we constantly bounce ideas off each other,” says Giebel. The three formulated a recipe. Giebel suggested Sorachi Ace hops to add a peppery note to the beer.

Brewing on a larger scale still feels familiar to Giebel. One big difference is “more precise temperature controls.” In addition to Flying Dutchman, Giebel will have another beer on the Long Island scene shortly.

Muscat Love is a grape triple that Giebel produced with Great South Bay Brewery after winning a monthly homebrew competition. They were so pleased with the beer it is being entered into the Great American Beer Festival “Pro-Am” competition, which is an award for the best collaboration beer between a professional and amateur.

“It’s a real positive feeling to know people enjoy my beer,” says Giebel. “It really makes you think about doing something in the future.”

A limited amount of Flying Dutchman IPA is currently on tap at BrickHouse Brewery and Muscat Love will be on tap at Great South Bay by mid August.

This article originally appeared on Edible Long Island.

Spider Bite Beer Company Expands Their Web With New Tasting Room

image1-4A version of this story first appeared on Edible Long Island

Over the last few months we have dropped by the in-flux headquarters of Spider Bite Beer Company on several occasions. What was once a simple industrial unit consisting of an office and warehouse space is now a brewery and tasting room. The goal which Larry Goldstein and his partner Anthony LiCausi (also his neighbor) have built towards is a spot in where they can finally brew and serve Spider Bite beer to thirsty Long Islanders.

Goldstein and LiCausi had previously been producing their beer through the process referred to as “contract brewing.” In simple terms, this means a recipe is given to a another brewery where it is made and then packaged for sale. Their product was being contract brewed in upstate New York until a change in ownership at one of the locations making their beer neccesitated finding a new contracting partner.

This mid-stream shift resulted in a shortage in product coming to market. Venues and customers wanted Spider Bite beer but there was none to go around. Instead of hurrying into a new relationship Goldstein did his homework and finally settled on a facility in Ipswich Massachusetts, a location whose output he was confident in. Parallel to this the brewery headquarters in Holbrook, New York began to take shape,.”We wanted to stay in New York but it was about quality and we knew we wer about to go online here as well.” It was only a matter of time before this Long Island beer company was producing beer themselves on Long Island.

Fast fowarding to today the brewhouse is in place at Spider Bite’s Holbrook home. At the new space several batches have now gone through the new one and a half barrel system. Among the locally crafted brews was an IPA which taught them lessons about their new brewhouse and earned itself the acronym P.I.T.A. and a brown porter named “Silk Spinner” which Goldstein described thus, “It’s nice. A little roasty, coffee, chocolate at 5.1%abv.” There have also been batches brewed as part of a relationship for a soon to open joint in Williamsburg Brooklyn. The recipes for two of these beers were a collaboration with the venues owners and Spider Bite Beer Company and the rest were originals. Among these will be a vanilla infused Porter which we are looking forward to trying in it’s final form.

Goldstein and LiCausi truly are spinning their web at a rapid pace to draw in some Long Island craft beer “flys”. Was that too much of a stretch? If it was tough nuggets! Their tasting room is now open, so visit Spider Bite at 920 Lincoln Ave. #5 in Holbrook. Their hours are: Thursday 4-8 | Friday 3-8 | Saturday 12-4 | Sunday 12-4.

The Brewers Collective: 9 Brewers Unite Under One Banner

Brewers Collective When a newly licensed nanobrewery gathers it’s owners and brewers to construct tap handles, you picture a couple people sitting around a computer with renderings of a logo imposed on virtual paddles. The Brewers Collective, however, is not your average nanobrewery. All nine members have a stake and equal say in the company that is now producing beer at A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale. So when they asked us to join them while creating their first professional tap handles, we were not surprised that the day began outdoors with a stack of 2×4’s and ended with each hand cut handle being shaped and eventually branded with The Brewers Collective logo. And when we say branded we don’t mean stamped or printed on; there was a backyard fire and poker involved. Oh, and there may have been a bow and arrow broken out at some point for a little target practice. All in all a pretty typical day with “The Collective” if you ask the members or most who know them.

Brewers Collective Logo

Though The Brewers Collective is a new nanobrewery, you may have seen the crew and their unique beers at festivals across Long Island. This is because The Collective began as a few friends who enjoyed brewing, transitioned to a small tight knit homebrew club and as of December 2014 is a fully licensed and operational brewery. It all started back in 2006 when members Tim Dougherty, Terry Gillen, Dan Russo, Mike DePietto and Joe Vella were working together at a tech company. Joe had been homebrewing since the 90’s and would “share” his creations with those curious co-workers. At the time, craft beer was not prevalent like it is today and Dougherty recalls him brewing “pumpkin beer when it was still novel and new.” Eventually the group figured if Joe could brew beer they could too and they slowly but surely began to purchase equipment, share recipes and have joint brew days. A co-worker joked that they were approaching their new hobby in a “communist” manner and they retorted by calling themselves a collective. The name stuck, a few friends (Matt Bentivegna, Sarah Dougherty, Brad Kohles & Jason Weingarten), some of who belonged to other homebrew clubs at the time, joined in and The Brewers Collective was born.

Now an official brewery, The Collective are ready to serve their beer to the public. Useful idiot, the groups flagship IPA, along with Intercontinental Ballistic Stout were the first beers crafted at A Taste of Long Island. Though scaling up to a professional level is new for all nine brewers involved, they feel their communal approach is an advantage with Gillen saying, “That’s what’s going to set us apart. It’s not one persons idea.” Having a large cast of characters means consistency is key for The Collective and they have made sure their entire process is outlined so each member can easily produce every beer.

The Brewers Collective

The Brewers Collective beer can now be found on tap locally and they will also be pouring at the Long Island Nano Cask Festival this Saturday. Tickets are still available, so if you want to try their Sahti, Rum barrel aged stout or pale get on it. Lots of others brewers will be there (including us) and this is one of our favorite beer events of the year.



Brewer Profile: Bobby Rodriguez of Po’ Boy Brewery

Bobby Rodriguez of Po’ Boy Brewery is the new kid on the block as far as Long Island nano breweries go, but he’s far from a brewing novice. Rodriguez began homebrewing in 2008 and since then he has won over 30 awards for his beers and ciders; most notably having his Imperial Force produced by Port Jeff Brewing Company. Now Rodriguez has launched Po’ Boy Brewery out of A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale, but he’s not quitting his day job just yet.

bobby poboy

In addition to brewing, Rodriguez works in health care and shares a passion for both fiends. So when he connected with Jim Thompson in 2013, who at the time was just considering launching an alternating proprietorship brewery at A Taste of Long Island, a spark was ignited. Of brewing professionally Rodriguez says, “It’s different for me. It’s not that I have to do this to make a living, I’m doing this because i’m passionate about it.” He saw A Taste of Long Island as a way to enter the brewing industry without giving up his career and him and Thompson worked together to get the location ready as a host brewery.

After about a year of paperwork, waiting on licensing and equipment and outfitting A Taste of Long Island to brew, Po’ Boy Brewery finally sold their first commercial beer. Though Rodriguez is a running a craft brewery, he holds a farm brewers license which allows him to also produce ciders under the name Po’ Boy. Rodriguez honed his cider making craft at home and is now scaling it up, turning out spiced, sweet yet potent creations that draw in customers beyond the craft beer crowd. Among the first releases are Catch Me If You Can Gingerbread Cookie Cider, All American Apple Pie Cider and Monster Eye Rye IPA.

Po’ Boy Brewery beer and cider can currently be found on tap at A Taste of Long Island, The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale and Tap & Barrel in Hauppauge. Rodriguez also plans to expand his distribution beyond the usual locations saying, “The people that buy beer in a bar or a brewery are the people already looking for it. You’re not going to reach that couple who just went out to eat and stops by a farmers market. That’s how you get your name out there.” As production increases so will the reach of Po’ Boy Brewery beer and cider, so keep an eye out for it on tap across Long Island.

1940’s Brewing Company: Built on a History of Brewing

1940's Brewing Company Charlie Becker in Taste of Long Island Brewery

History runs deep for 1940’s Brewing Company

Charlie Becker recently launched 1940’s Brewing Company out of A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale, but brewing has always been part of his family heritage. His great grandfather worked for a New York brewery and helped Becker’s father Walter Becker get into the U.S. Brewing Academy. 1940 was a big year in the Becker family, as it saw Walter graduate from the academy and marry his wife. He went on to become the assistant brewmaster at Rheingold Beer and worked there for 41 years.

Charlie Becker still recalls his fathers career proudly and even brought photo albums of him on the job when we met him at AToLI .1940’s Brewing Co. is aiming to continue the family brewing lineage, as Charlie honed his craft while homebrewing with daughter Anne Marie. His son Joseph created the logo, artwork and branding for 1940’s, further keeping it “all in the family”. The Becker’s have relatives that come from Germany, Ireland and Austria so 1940’s plans to brew a mix of American and European styles, as a tribute. Becker does not want his beers to be too extreme saying, “we just want to brew a good product that people are going to enjoy.”

Hefie Injustice, a 4.7% ABV hefeweizen, is the first offering from 1940’s that is being commercially distributed. Though Becker is pleased with the result of his first commercial batch and plans to make his hefeweizen the flagship of 1940’s, scaling up to a professional system did not come without it’s share of challenges. Becker laments, “you have to understand it’s a commercial kitchen we are brewing in. It’s more compact and there is a learning curve.” He saw just how steep this curve was when he had a problem with one of his fermenters which led to a beer overflow. The issue was  fixed with a little handy work  and he plans to re-brew and tweak many of his recipes as he becomes more familiar with the equipment and new environment.

1940's Brewing Company Charlie Becker in Taste of Long Island Brewery

Charlie Beckers sip his Hefeweizen at A Taste of Long Island

1940’s Brewing Company currently has their beer on tap at a couple bars and restaurants on Long Island, but look for them to ramp up their production and distribution in the coming months. Becker hopes to branch out to taprooms in Nassau and Suffolk to cover the island and also plans to have a presence at beer festivals and farmers markets. His beer will draught only and is currently on tap at A Taste of Long Island and a couple other Long Island locations. Po’ Boy Brewery and The Brewers Collective, the other pioneer brewers, have beer out as well. We had the chance to speak with those breweries, so look for their profiles to come out soon as part of our continuing series.