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

Craft Beer at Nassau Coliseum: The Final Season

islanders

This is the final countdown for Long Island based fans of the New York Islanders. Next year the team will move from it’s home since 1972, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Isles have been giving their fans a year to remember. If you plan on heading to the “Old Barn” to watch them play you may find yourself in search of a beer. While actual “craft beer” is in short supply there is enough of it peppered throughout the Coliseum to keep those looking to “fuss” over a brew happy. Don’t forget Oyster Bay Brewing Company hooked up to create Barn Rocker with the Isles. It’s their official beer and you can read about it here.

At all the main concession stands and from vendors walking the interior of the Coliseum you can find Bud, Bud Light and Coors Light. Sometimes there is a Miller Lite tossed in for good measure. We figure though you don’t need us to tell you were to find these types of beers so we won’t be mentioning them again. So for you fans of the orange and blue here we present our list of where to find (some) good beer when cheering the Islanders on. It is organized by gate with beers being alphabetical including style with gluten free items marked (GF) and we have put our suggestions in bold.

Kiosk between Gates 1 & 20: Against the outer wall you will find a stand which serves Dos Equis Lager, Goose Island IPA, Heineken Lager, Heineken Light Lager, Oyster Bay Barn Rocker, Oyster Bay IPA, Redbridge Amber Lager (GF), Shock Top Belgian White, Stella Artois Lager and Strongbow Cider (GF).

22’s Brews between Gates 2 & 3: Conveniently located right outside the restroom, 22’s serves Blue Moon Belgian White, Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita Malt Liquor, Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita Malt Liquor, Dos Equis Lager, Fire Island Lighthouse Amber Ale, Grolsch Lager, Hoegarden Witbier, Labatt Blue Lager (24oz), Magic Hat #9, Murphy’s Irish Stout (nitro 16oz can), Oyster Bay IPA, Palm Belgian Pale Ale, Redbridge Amber Lager (GF), Redd’s Apple Ale, Redd’s Strawberry Ale, Spaten Oktoberfest Marzen and Stella Artois Lager.

Brew House with locations between Gates 3 & 4, 7 & 8 and 9 & 10: These kiosks feature a German theme and offer Blue Moon Belgian White, Heineken Lager, Heineken Light Lager, Labatt Blue Lager (24oz), Magic Hat #9 and Molson Canadian Lager.

Knuckle Heads between Gates 10 & 11: Knuckle Heads started out with two locations but has since dwindled to one. They also used to have a very good craft selection but again that has atrophied in recent years. Currently avaivlable are Fire Island Lighthouse Amber Ale, Goose Island IPA, Johnny Appleseed Cider (GF), Magic Hat #9, Oyster Bay IPA, Oyster Bay Honey Ale, Redd’s Apple Ale, Shock Top Belgian White and Shock Top Raspberry Wheat. Knuckle Heads also serves wines and liquors.

Kiosk at Gate 12: This stand serves up Hoegarden Witbier, Spaten Oktoberfest Marzen and Goose Island IPA.

Kiosk between Gates 12 & 13: Here you will find Goose Island IPA and Shock Top Belgian Wheat.

Blue Point Brewery kiosk between Gates 13 & 14: Now owned by Budweiser parent company ABInbev, Blue Point still is brewing in their Patchouge, NY location. This outpost pours Hoptical Illusion IPA, Mosaic Session IPA and Toasted Lager Vienna Lager.

Kiosk at Gate 18: Hoegarden Witbier, Spaten Oktoberfest Marzen, and Goose Island IPA.

Those are pretty much your choices if you want to drink a non-lite beer while watching some hockey. The gamut runs from large scale breweries to the small and local Oyster Bay Brewing Company. There also is a fairly wide selection of styles to choose from including flavored beers and gluten free options such as ciders. With time winding down at the Nassau Coliseum we figure you shouldn’t have to waste yours finding a beverage to enjoy during the game. Let’s go Islanders!

Oyster Bay Brewing Company’s Barn Rocker Premieres as New York Islanders are Reborn

Oyster Bay Brewing Barn Rocker

Barn Rocker on Draft in Doolin’s Pub
EDIT: Barn Rocker is now available at more locations throughout the Coliseum
 

Amazon Local Deal: Try Barn Rocker at Oyster Bay Brewing Co.

Amazon Local Deal: Discounted Islander Tickets

January 16th, 2015 – The walls of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York seemed to rock and reverberate as the celebratory chant of “YES! YES! YES!” rose from the crowd who, along with this year’s group of Islanders, celebrated their 6-3 win over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. It is the last year that the Isles will call the “Old Barn” home and the fans have turned out in droves, at first to say goodbye but now to watch their team take the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference by storm. With many players having come of age within the Islanders system, a bond has developed between these homegrown athletes and their loyal but long absent fan base. Everyone knows this is the end of things as they have been since the team won four straight Stanley Cup Championships in a row from 1980-1983; in that time going on a record run of 19 consecutive playoff series wins.

The ghost of these victorious memories seemed a stretch for teams to live up to through the 90’s and early 2000’s and the Islanders saw attendance and interest drop. Some loyal fans have held onto their season tickets through thick and the extremely prolonged period of thin, but most just dismissed their beloved Isles and moved on. Things are different this year. The group on the ice coached by Jack Capuano and put together by the team’s former back-up goalie turned general manager Garth Snow has brought that old “Lovin’ Feelin” back to the Coliseum and energized Long Island. Fans faithfully show up for games and this team has bonded with and reveled in their adoration. This relationship has not gone unnoticed by the marketing staff who connected with local Oyster Bay Brewing Company on the official beer of the New York Islanders, “Barn Rocker.”

Islanders Playing the Penguins

The Isles Battle the Pens
Brewery owner Gabe Haim calls the beer a “session ale for lack of a better description” and at 4% ABV this is a brew meant to be readily consumed while leaving the consumer on an even keel. Barn Rocker is built on a British Malt profile using Fuggle hops and is ” a simple beer like a Bud or Bud Light but crafty,” says Haim. This moderate strength brew debuted at the Coliseum in two locations, Doolin’s Pub and a stand outside of gate 20, whilst the Islanders hammered the Penguins.

TJ Johnson, a fan attending the game, called the beer “unique” and said it “had a lot of flavor to it” while his friend Patrick Cook added, “This you sip and drink it for a few periods and it will get you feeling nice.” The two were trying Barn Rocker for the first time in the crowded Doolin’s Pub before the puck drop. Not normally craft beer drinkers, the brews connection to the team drew the duo, clad in Islanders garb, in. Likewise, fellow fan Michael Rugen is not a locally made beer consumer saying, “I am not going to lie, I was drinking Bud Light when I came in.” But friend Craig Schnaars pointed out the orange and blue Oyster Bay tap handle and, “I was like eh let me give it a shot.” Schnaars, a bar manager at Yankee Stadium, “loved” the fact that the beer was from Oyster Bay and thought it was “actually very good”. Also among the Doolin’s crowd was Jen Davis, homebrewer and secretary of local homebrew club Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts. “It was very light and it tasted like a wheat beer,” was how she described Barn Rocker. Being a veteran of the craft beer community she went on to add, “I wanted like a hop heavy IPA,” having developed a palate for the pungent and bitter flavors imparted by female flowers of Humulus lupulus (hop plant) concluding, “It wasn’t what I was in the mood for before the game.”

Fans Drinking Oyster Bay Brewing Barn Rocker

Fans TJ Johnson and Craig Schnaars
But perhaps that is the point of Barn Rocker, a beer meant for the macro beer drinker and not the hop-fiend craft beer geek. Oyster Bay Brewing Company’s brewmaster Peter DeLuca has produced a brew which is light but has a presence, that is flavorful but will not overwhelm and most of all is drinkable. It reminded us of the British style of beer, ESB or Extra Special Bitter which despite it’s name is not an overly bitter style of beer at all. The brew was light with sweet accents upon a malty and bread crust backbone. Barn Rocker, while not a “White Whale” or fetish brew, is one that fits the workman like feeling of the “Old Barn” for which it is named.

Fans of the New York Islanders were out in force while their team was pummeling the Penguins. The familiar orange and blue were worn proudly by a majority of the sold-out crowd easily out numbering and out cheering the Pittsburgh fans in attendance. The lopsided win over a hated division rival had the crowd in a frenzy and has fans like Rugen and Schnaars hoping the Isles can deliver the cup to Long Island one more time before their move to Brooklyn next year. Hopefully the team’s winning ways can continue and loyalists can see Long Island’s team drive deep into the NHL playoffs. That would be something all of their faithful followers could toast with the Isles official beer, Barn Rocker.

New York Islanders Nassau Coliseum

Nassau Coliseum aka the “Old Barn”
A version of this story orginally appeared on Edible Long Island

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.

 

 

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.

Oyster Bay Brewing Company Releases Barn Rocker, The Official Beer of the New York Islanders

To commemorate the New York Islanders last season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, aka the “Old Barn,” Oyster Bay Brewing Company is releasing Barn Rocker, a “session ale.” The beer is already on tap in the Oyster Bay tasting room and will be debuting at the Coliseum Friday 1/16 for the game vs. the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. In case any Islander fan is looking for yet another excuse to drink during a Penguins game, here it is.

islanders

Owner and brewer Gabe Haim calls the beer “crafty” and says, “We tried to make a beer that the Budweiser crowd could drink and craft beer people would appreciate also.” Coming in at 4% ABV, he describes it at as a flavorful, easy to drink crisp ale. For those who skew more towards the “craft beer people” end of the spectrum, it was brewed with a British malt profile, fuggle hops and Oyster Bay Brewing Company’s house yeast.

Haim has been an Islander fan all his life and knows people within the organization. After speaking to the Islanders marketing department, who loved the idea and named the brew, the collaboration came together and the beer is now ready for ice time. They also will have occasional Islander game viewings at the brewery, starting 1/13 vs. the Rangers, at the suggestion of possible attendee and Islander alum Rick DiPietro.

We are going the game on Friday to try the beer (and of course cheer on the Islanders) and will report back to let you know where in the coliseum Barn Rocker can be found on tap. We will also be updating our Craft Beer at Nassau Coliseum post so you can plan your beer consumption when attending a game accordingly. Here’s hoping the Isles rock the Penguins while we taste this local brew.