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

The Secret's Out: Rocky Point Artisan Brewers & Secret Engine Brewing Release Collaboration Beer Sticke Handwerker

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Mike Voigt of Rocky Point of Artisan Brewers, left, and Mike Mare of Secret Engine.

“Sometimes the beer just tells you when it is ready,” says Mike Voigt of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers about their recent collaborative brew with Secret Engine Brewing of Brooklyn. Mike Mare, brewer and co-owner of Secret Engine, is currently trying to find a permanent home for the brewery while still getting his beer out there. Though the original plan was to wait until later this month, Sticke Handwerker, the Long Island debut from Secret Engine, will be released this Friday at Tap and Barrel, The Black Sheep Ale House and a to-be-determined location in Brooklyn.

Mare has been brewing for more than 10 years and decided to make the leap to commercial brewing about three years ago. However, as the guys at RPAB know all too well, finding a suitable home for your brewery and an agreeable landlord is not the easiest task. While the search for a headquarters for Secret Engine in Brooklyn continued, Mare decided to reach out to established breweries for some advice and a possible collaboration. As a former touring musician, what Mare missed most about being on the road was the ability to connect with people from all areas and backgrounds, so he sent out e-mails to about 600 breweries. One of the few responses he received was from Mike Voigt of RPAB.

The two met at Voigt’s house to enjoy a few beers, play guitar and get to know each other. That same night they started throwing around ideas for a collaboration and over the next month Sticke Handwerker was born. “We have majorly different brewing styles,” says Voigt. Though they both feel Sticke Handwerker truly reflects the two breweries. RPAB tends to brew to style with small tweaks, while Secret Engine is more outside the box. Together they created something unique. So unique, in fact, when we asked what type of beer it is we were told, “You have to delve around to find out what the secret meaning of the secret beer is.” Thus leaving everything to the palate of the taster.

We were able to try this mysterious beer right out of the fermenter at RPAB and can attest it is one of a kind. Sticke Handwerker hasa velvety mouthfeel and gobstopper-like array of flavors and aromas. The first release this weekend will be in firkins, with kegs to follow. This cask-conditioned version of the brew will be lightly carbonated and served close to cellar temperature allowing the flavor to shine through. Voigt and Mare are already brainstorming their next brew, which is rumored to include mint, so this won’t be the last Long Island sees of the Secret Engine Brewing/Rocky Point Artisan Brewery partnership.

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First Appeared On Edible Long Island

A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale to Add Brewery

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First published on Edible Long Island

A brewery incubator is coming to Farmingdale, but the address should be familiar to many. A Taste of Long Island, the incubator kitchen and local food market run by Jim Thompson with his daughter Courtney, will be home to the next wave of nano-breweries to hit Long Island. Currently, a Taste of Long Island rents its commercial kitchen to local producers who need an insured licensed space to work. Items produced on site are sold in the front of the house specialty market and also independently distributed. The facility gives small startup businesses a way to get their goods to the public without a huge upfront investment. Now the venture will provide several local brewers a space to professionally produce beer under their own licenses and brands.

“It’s cross generational from the millennials to the old guys like me,” says Thompson, who started home brewing in the ’90s. “I’m 60 years old and in the last year I got into craft beer.” He recruited four pioneer brewers, and with their help a Taste of Long Island is being outfitted to brew. Each brewery will rent time in the test kitchen just like anyone else, but the industrial stovetop will be used for brewing. The beer will ferment in the downstairs cold room, where each brewery has its own fermenters. They are then free to keg, bottle and distribute as they please. He envisions their graduating into their own locations, freeing up space for the next round of new brewers.

Thompson has already received federal and state approvals to operate as a farm brewery and is eager to brew once all the equipment is in place. “I would love to see Long Island become a regional powerhouse of craft beer,” he says, “and I’d love to lead that.” His beers will be the first available on tap; the other brewers will follow suit as their licenses come in. Samples, pints and growlers will be available in house and Thompson plans to sell at farmers markets, with distribution to local bars and restaurants as a goal.

Each brewer has their own vision for how they will use this opportunity, and we had the chance to discuss the venture with each of them. As they eagerly await the green light to brew, we will be profiling each of them on Beer Loves Company and Edible Long Island. Stay tuned to the nano-newness coming out of a Taste of Long Island brewery.