Blue Point Brewery Press Conference with Owners Mark Burford & Pete Cotter + Andy Goeler of Goose Island/ABInBev

Prior to the 10th Annual Blue Point Cask Ales Festival on April 5, 2014, Blue Point Brewery held a small press conference to discuss the recent sale to Anheuser-Busch In Bev. We were invited, along with several other members of Long Island media, to speak with owners Mark Burford & Pete Cotter as well as Andy Goeler from Goose Island/ABInBev. As you may know, Goose Island is a craft brewery from Chicago that was purchased by ABInBev in 2011.  The setting was very informal, as we sat around the empty tasting room in a big circle, but it was somehow fitting of the laid back vibe Blue Point has been cultivating for all these years. The format took on more of a roundtable Q&A discussion, allowing us to address any questions or concerns about the sale that officially went through on April 1, 2014.

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As expected, the conversation mostly focused on what, if anything, is going to change about Blue Point now that they are under new ownership. Mark & Pete reiterated that the only changes that they anticipate will be positive ones for everyone involved with Blue Point as well as the consumers. Employees now have better benefits and job security, which is something that both owners stated was a top priority. Pete went on to add ,”So many employees have insurance that never had it before. They’re making doctors appointments right now.” The capital behind ABInBev will also allow them to make more and better beer. Though this is all very new, a big priority for both Blue Point and ABInBev will be to expand the current facility in Patchogue, NY, likely to other land on the same lot where the brewery and tasting room currently stand. Though they said there are no current plans to distribute nationwide, there are still many accounts up and down the eastern seaboard demanding Blue Point, but the current brewery is not able to keep up. The facilities and distribution network of ABInBev will allow the production and availability of Blue Point to increase, with Toasted Lager and Hoptical Illusion leading the pack.

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Andy from ABInBev/Goose Island noted that Blue Point was so appealing to them because of the culture that has become ingrained in their brand. They want to preserve and market that culture, while Mark & Pete saw an opportunity to preserve the culture by approaching ABInBev with the sale. Andy mentioned that another huge selling point was the massive cask program that has become so synonymous with Blue Point. Goose Island and the rest of the ABInBev family currently do not produce many cask beers, so this is a place where they feel they can learn from Blue Point and branch out into a new brewing avenue. Andy was eager to get out and fill his sample glass, as he said “I’ve been in the beer business for 34 years and I haven’t had a ton of exposure to cask beer.”Blue Point is also looking to expand creatively due to the vast resources that ABInBev is able to offer, such as growing all their own barley and even having a strain from 1900 still going. As Mark put it, “If i want to make a beer from 1920 I can have them grow the raw material for me and we can make an authentic beer.”

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Everyone involved was aware of the potential negative backlash from the sale, as they saw something similar in Chicago with Goose Island, so Mark & Pete were prepared for it. Of the customers who were let down by the sale, Mark said “In our minds we’re going to win them back with the beer” Andy also understood the hesitance from the consumers and media and suggested that we all meet again in a year to see how Blue Point has changed. He said if all their current employees are fired and the beer is completely different then perhaps the nay sayers were right, but that is not how he sees the future, saying “The real way of proving things is in time”. Though it is extremely fresh and they are still “peeling back the onion”, both sides have a lot of new ideas and hopes for this partnership. We will definitely be revisiting the issue in a year to see if this press conference accurately predicted what’s to come for Blue Point Brewery. Best of luck to Mark & Pete and congratulations on another very successful Cask Festival.

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Hops & Props at The Cradle of Aviation – February 8th 2014

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Saturday, February 8, was the first ever Hops & Props Craft Beer Festival at the Cradle of Aviation. Though a similar event has been held at The Museum of Flight in Seattle for the past 12 years with great success, this was Long Island’s first introduction to the merging of craft beer and aviation. An unlikely match, sure, but they seemed to pair together almost flawlessly.

Since this was the first time this event was held, both the participants and attendees were not positive what to expect. We spoke to many brewers and exhibitors who told us when they arrived earlier in the day to set up they had no idea how the evening was going to pan out. Instead of having everything set up in a large, circular arena, which is how many craft beer festivals tend to operate, Hops & Props saw vendors sprawled throughout the museum in an almost maze-like set up. We admit that it took us quite a while to make our first pass through, though this was more due to lots of stopping and chatting rather than getting lost. The amount of aviation exhibits that were existing in harmony with the craft beer and food tables was really a sight to see, and to everyones credit it seems like the venue was treated with respect.

The Cradle of Aviation housed over 40 tables most of which were pouring beer. Along side those were tables from Tapped Enterprises, The Beer Amigos & Earth Glass Project on hand to compliment the craft beer being served. In addition to the pretzel necklaces that could be had by simply signing up for the Tapped mailing list, there was also food for sale and to a lesser extent, free samples.

The local Long Island brewing community was well represented at Hops & Pros. We enjoyed the brews being offered by many of the local establishments. A few standout beers were being poured by up and coming breweries The Brewers Collective and Saint James Brewery.

Owner and brewmaster Jamie Adams was manning the tap handles himself behind the Saint James Brewery table. He was serving up his delicious Belgian inspired IPA, Single, Dubbel and Quad to event patrons. Each beer was well crafted and carefully considered. The Quad is a brew we wish was available commercially. Hopefully that day will be coming soon as Mr. Adams is working on getting SJB up and running (our article on SJB is coming soon). These are nicely produced ales and we believe they will satisfy both beer and non-beer drinkers of Long Island.

Our comrades The Brewers Collective are another local group looking to make the move from homebrewers to professional brewery in the near future. The BC, in keeping with their off-kilter brewing themes, is not aiming to accomplish this goal in the “normal” manner. More on their long march toward their dream soon. At Hops & Props The Collective once again was offering an eclectic selection of hand crafted beer. Arguably one of our favorites was Tim Dougherty’s “Fallout Stout”. This dark, smoky ale is a play on the brewery’s standard dry Irish Stout (ICBS). According to The Collective Tim, “…added some smoked malts from his backyard smoker” which achieves the perfect combination in their estimation. This beer was a highlight for both of us at Hops & Props and at The Brewers Collective Winter Homebrew Contest where we first sampled it. The beer that attendees could not get enough of was Brad Khole’s Black Berry Wheat Beer. The Collective told us that it was, “…the first keg to “get kicked” with people saying it was, “…like drinking fruit loops”. How could a beer like that not go over well? Excellent job comrades!

Among the up and coming breweries Long Island staples like Blue Point Brewing Company, Montauk Brewing Company, Great South Bay Brewery, Long Ireland Beer Company and Greenport Harbor Brewing Company were also out in full force. We even got to try beer from breweries which were new to us, such as Singlecut Beersmiths and Chatham Brewing LLC. To round it all out, craft beer giants and favorites like Sam Adams Brewery, Dogfish Head Brewery & Founders Brewing Company each had a few taps flowing. In a complete turn was Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer, which was fairly flavorful and could make a decent hot summer day cocktail.

Though we were a bit tired from the Southampton Publick House Russian Imperial Stout release earlier that morning (more about that soon), we enjoyed our time at Hops & Props thouhrally and wound up staying until the very end. The setting definitely enhanced the beer sampling experience and it is an event that we hope to participate in for years to come. All in attendance seem to have had a great time and we would declare the innaugural Hops & Props at The Cradle of Aviation a success. Beer & aviation…who knew?

 

North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ and Wine Festival @ Martha Clara

This Saturday, August 10th, the 7th annual North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ and Wine Festival will take place at Martha Clara Vineyard in Riverhead, New York. The festival will run from 2 pm-6 pm, with VIP entry starting at 1 pm, giving those patrons an extra hour of tasting, eating and socializing. Unfortunately, tickets are completely sold out, though there are a few pairs floating around on Craigslist if you decide to make a last minute appearance.
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For those of you who have your tickets purchased and ready to go, this is one of our personal favorite beer festivals so you are in for a real treat. There will be tasting booths set up from virtually all the Long Island breweries, as well as national favorites like Founders, Captain Lawrence, Jolly Pumpkin and more. Additionally, some of these booths will have timed releases of special brews (such as Goose Island Bourbon County Stout), so be sure to set a festival schedule for yourself. If for some reason you need a break from beer, there will also be selections from several Long Island wineries and food supplied by Maple Tree BBQ.
We will be pouring our Hopless Romantic gruit we brewed with Frank F of “Big C Brewery” as well as a small selection of BLC ciders at the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts table. The gruit is a summer take on our Saint Remo while the ciders were our first venture into the genre, inspired by a seminar we attended at the AHA Conference. In addition to (hopefully) delicious beverages, we will also have custom made “Beer Loves Long Island” T-shirts and an array of buttons for sale. We hope to see everyone there, as it is sure to be a day filled with good beer, food and company.
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