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

Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Nano Cask Festival & Farmer's Market – January 25 2014

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It’s that time of the year again. Get ready to drink some lightly carbonated, near room temperature beer! The fourth annual Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Nano Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market is being held Saturday January, 25th 2014. This event has both professional and home brewers pouring their wares from, you guessed it, casks.

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Surge Protecter

For those who may not know a cask is literally a container for beer. To that you might reply, “Obviously”, to which we say well smarty pants did you know that cask conditioned ale has been christened (along with bottle conditioned beer) as “Real Ale” by CAMARA (the Campaign for Real Ale)? Cask conditioned beer served from casks is a traditional method of serving beer. Patrons used to belly up to the bar and order a flagon of ale which was poured directly from the cask/container.

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Montauk

But what makes a beer cask conditioned? Well that is easy: cask beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized and undergoes it’s secondary fermentation and conditioning in the cask. It is also served from said cask without the use of any additional gas (nitrogen or carbon dioxide). This means that the carbonation contributed to the beer as a byproduct of fermentation tends to be light which is why some think cask conditioned beer tastes “flat”. The fermentation in the cask and serving temperature which is warmer then beer served from kegs also leads to loads of flavor coming through a cask poured ale. If you have never tried a cask beer before this event is a good way to try several in a comfortable setting.

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Great South Bay

We attended the third annual festival and it was one of the best events of the year. The brewers go all out with their casks bringing interesting takes on flagship favorites or even one off beers that will never be seen again. Last year there was acoustic music (which was heavy on the Led Zepplin) serving as a background of sorts to the goings on. This year The Beer Amigos, of The Beer Amigos podcast fame, will be performing a few of their tunes for the gathered masses.

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Greenport Harbor

A nice feature of this event is the ability patrons have to purchase beer to go from their favorite brewery or one they may just have discovered. Many of the vendors will have bottles for sale and will also be filling growlers of non-cask selections which attendees can take home and enjoy. Bringing home a fresh filled growler or bottle after a day of trying rare and unusual locally brewed craft beer is one way to keep the party going. The fourth annual Nano Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market has a lot going on! Here are the details as provided by the RPAB guys themselves.

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Ghost Cat Loves You

4th Annual Long Island Nano Cask Festival
Hosted by Rocky Point Artisan Brewers

Saturday January 25th 1-5pm
NSBOA Clubhouse
55 Clubhouse Dr Rocky Point

Tickets can be purchased at www.rpabbeer.com
$40
-entrance
-2014 tasting glass
-unlimited tastings from all brewers/clubs
-live music
-cheese platters for sale by The Big Cheese
-Performance by The Beer Amigos
-Merchandise and growler fills for sale from select brewers

Brewer’s East End Revival and Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiast members are invited to a special VIP hour prior to the event opening to the public!

Please bring your PayPal email confirmation as your ticket in.

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Cask Festival Crowd

We will be attending the Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market as representatives of Brewer’s East End Revival homebrewing club. Our stout/saison A+K and our super limited cider/saison/sour Fizzy Lifting Drink will be available for tastings. In addition we’ll also be pouring a special collaboration “saison” brewed using apple cider instead of water that was balanced with a pinot noir and black currant pyment. This was brewed with Andrew Luberto of LIBME who will also be in attendance. Oh and Beer Loves Company shirts and buttons will be available for purchase too. This is an event not to be missed and we hope to see you there. Come out to the RPAB Cask Fest and try a few cask ales!

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Spicy