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

A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery Launches

This story first appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Edible East End.

Taste of Long Island Blonde

Taste of Long Island Blonde

Jim Thompson and daughter Courtney Citko, co-owners of Farmingdale’s specialty food market A Taste of Long Island, have spent the last two years growing their business and their shared commercial kitchen. Their vendors and kitchen clients include everyone from gourmet bakers to food photographers; they are now venturing into new territory: brewing craft beer.

Thompson and his group of “pioneer brewers,” as they’ve affectionately become known, spent months converting the room under his storefront into a space suitable for fermentation. Brewers will use the existing commercial kitchen to brew, package and distribute their beer; it will then be poured for the market. Charles Becker of 1940’s Brewing Co., The Brewers Collective and Bobby “Po Boy” Rodriguez are the first tenants. Thompson will be host brewer.

Picture Day for Taste of Long Island, The Brewer's Collective, 1940’s Brewing and Po Boy Brewery

Picture Day for Taste of Long Island, The Brewer’s Collective, 1940’s Brewing and Po Boy Brewery

Jim Thompson, a home brewer in the ’90s, re-discovered his one-time hobby just a few years ago. After seeing the booming beer culture across the country, he thought, “I would love to see Long Island become a regional powerhouse of craft beer.” He set out to make it happen. After seemingly never-ending paperwork, his Farmingdale brewhouse is now Long Island’s first alternating proprietorship brewery. Thompson’s beer, Farmingdale Blonde Ale, is clean and accessible, which allows him to tweak it and add adjuncts. He plans to keep the same base recipe while creating variations based on the season and his mood—maybe a strawberry blonde? Thompson says he hopes to put out “something that has more mass appeal and will get those people from the Miller/Coors world to try craft beer.”

Charles Becker’s 1940’s Brewery grew from his family’s long-standing love affair with beer and brewing. His father was a part of the industry in— you guessed it—the 1940s. He and daughter Anne Marie frequently brew together and serve their creations at craft beer events across the island. Their shared hobby led Anne Marie to a job in the beer industry while Charlie decided to make the leap from home brewer to professional. Playing on his family’s heritage, Becker’s lineup is German inspired and will include a hefeweizen, roggenbier and bock.

EEE Photo Editor Doug Young 00Wrangling the Collective

EEE Photo Editor Doug Young Wrangling the Collective

If you’ve been to a craft beer festival on Long Island, chances are you have run into The Brewers Collective. A homebrew club turned professional outfit, the collective is a motley crew that collaborates on recipes and runs its brewery like a commune. They have become known for unique beers such as Bronze Age–inspired herbal gruits* and Fallout Stout, a dry Irish-style stout that uses hand-smoked malt, courtesy of members Tim and Sarah Dougherty. Useful Idiot, a more traditional IPA and their flagship brew, will see its fair share of production at a Taste of Long Island. The IPA will likely be brewed every other batch and alternate with sours, wild ales and experimental beers.

Bobby Rodriguez of Po Boy Brewery & Jim Thompson of Taste of Long Island

Bobby Rodriguez of Po Boy Brewery & Jim Thompson of Taste of Long Island

Bobby Rodriguez, of Po Boy Brewery, began home brewing in 2008 and has been honing his craft ever since. A certified beer judge, Rodriguez has entered and won many homebrew competitions, including one that ended up with his recipe commercially produced at Port Jeff Brewing Company. Under his professional label, Po Boy Brewery, Rodriguez is producing beer with the same attention to detail he employed while home brewing. “If there is ever a product that doesn’t meet my standards,” he says, “I’m not going to release it.” His portfolio is broad and includes everything from an IPA to a sweet potato spiced ale, but his unique ciders will roll out first. With delicious yet potent concoctions like Zombification caramel apple cider, Rodriguez has something for everyone’s tastes.

Edible East End Photographer Doug Young Captures Tim Doughtrey Tasting Honey Blonde Ale From the Brite Tank

Edible East End Photographer Doug Young Captures Tim Doughtrey Tasting Honey Blonde Ale From the Brite Tank

By expediting the rapid addition of four new nano-breweries to Farmingdale, a Taste of Long Island has become a hub for craft beer. As the current breweries meet success and outgrow the space, a new class of start-ups will get their chance to brew in the commercial kitchen. Big things are coming from a Taste of Long Island, and we’re looking forward to following their journey together.

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

20140210-142757.jpg

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?

 

Hops & Props Craft Beer Festival – February 8, 2014 in Garden City

HOPS-&-PROPS

Saturday, February 8, the first annual Hops & Props is coming to The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York. Hops & Props takes place right on the floor of the museum and features craft beer, cigars and food all steps away from historic planes and aviation memorabilia. Though local breweries will have a heavy presence, there will be national favorites on tap as well. To name a few, Blue Point Brewing Company, The Brewers Collective and Long Ireland Beer Company will be representing Long Island while Founders Brewing, 21st Amendment Brewery and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will be right alongside them.

The festival runs from 7-10 pm, with general admission tickets costing $65 if they are purchased in advance. Each ticket includes admission, unlimited 2 oz. pours of beer and food samples, with additional food available for purchase. If three hours of food and craft beer just isn’t enough for you, upgrade to a VIP ticket for just $20 more. With your VIP ticket you will be allowed access from 6-10pm, with many exclusive beers only being poured during the first hour. Designated driver tickets are also available for $20, so be sure to either have a DD or get on the Tapped Enterprises Long Island Beer Bus. All patrons (except designated drivers) will receive unlimited 2 oz. samples of any beer of their choosing as well as a souvenir Hops & Props pilsner glass to take home.

Though this will be the first ever Hops & Props at the Cradle of Aviation, it is not the first time craft beer and aviation have met. Similar events have been held for years at the Seattle & Oshkosh Aviation Museums with great success. The Cradle of Aviation is also home to A Taste of Flight, the largest wine expo on Long Island that takes place over two days.

When looking for brewers, event organizers first started with local breweries and expanded out from there, keeping the emphasis on all things craft beer. They were surprised with the amount of breweries that expressed their interest in participating, so the event floor filled up even more quickly than expected. Though all beer at this first event will come from professional breweries, they would love to have homebrew clubs participate next year (we’re looking at you B.E.E.R & L.I.B.M.E).

Limited tickets are still available, so be sure to get yours quickly and be a part of the inaugural Hops & Props Craft Beer Festival.

 

Spring Craft Beer Festival 2013: Until Next Year…

This past Saturday, March 9, was the 7th annual Spring Craft Beer Festival at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. There were two sessions, 12:30 pm-4:00 pm and 5:30 pm-9:00 pm, though we arrived bright and early at 10:30 am to get set up. Upon arrival, the parking lot was already filling up and the bottom floor of the coliseum, where the event was held, was buzzing with brewers and vendors getting set up. Though Starfish Junction did a great job setting this event up, Nassau Coliseum (which was seen better days and may even be a bit behind on the rent) was less than cooperative when brewers and volunteers were arriving to work the event.

20130311-144125.jpg
We were stationed at the LIBME table, as we are members of the club and brewed our Saint Remo Gruit Ale to be on their tap. The club had twelve beers ready to be served, spread between two handcrafted jockey boxes. The selections included a pale ale, a white IPA, a smoked coffee stout, 2 Irish reds, a chocolate cherry stout, a citra IPA, an Irish dry stout, a honey wheat ale, a Jagermeister stout, a gluten free beer and lastly, our gruit.

20130311-143227.jpg
20130311-143322.jpg
20130311-143309.jpg
20130311-143340.jpg
LIBME was not the only home brew club represented, as The Brewers Collective were also in attendance pouring a few of their handcrafted beers. They featured a witbier, a pale ale and a hefeweizen. This club is actually looking to make the jump from home brew club to licensed brewery, though their club and home brew competitions will still be open to the public.
20130311-143953.jpg
In addition to a club presence, many major breweries and cider producers were represented as well. Long Island staples Blue Point Brewing, Long Ireland, Montauk Brewing Company & Great South Bay Brewery were all represented and came equipped with popular members of their beer line ups. But the event was not only limited to local microbreweries. Goose Island featured timed releases throughout the day which always drew a crowd. Craft beer giant Sam Adams had a table where they were pouring some harder to find selections such as Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA. We even had the privilege of meeting some new (to us) breweries like Newburgh Brewing Company from upstate New York. They have a brew pub in Newburgh where they serve their lineup of craft brewed beers. At the show they had their stout, saison, cream ale & more available and based on those samples and speaking with the brewers and owners, we will definitely be making a trip up there soon to check it out.

20130311-143410.jpg
20130311-143430.jpg
20130311-143259.jpg
Lastly, other members of the craft beer community like Kevin from Tapped Enterprises (for pub crawls, brewery tours and transport to beer fests) and Michael & Travis aka The Beer Amigos were there sampling some beers, promoting themselves and just enjoying the day. If you’ve been to a craft beer event on Long Island, chances are you have at least seen The Beer Amigos. A fairly dead giveaway that you’ve spotted an amigo is the giant sombreros they often sport. But, these two are more than just craft beer and large festive hat enthusiasts. They have a podcast that covers everything from events and bars to new beers to magazines and websites (like this one!). So, as they like to say, “listen to the beer amigos”!

20130311-143210.jpg
20130311-143239.jpg
Although the event did get a little rowdier as day turned to night (what can you expect from unlimited pours of high ABV beer), it was a great turnout of everyone from the casual drinker to harsh craft beer critics, drinking together under one roof. It seemed like the first session was a bit heavier on people seeking craft beer knowledge, while the later session was a bit more focused on craft beer consumption (both work in our book). Earlier in the day we definitely got more questions about the brewing process, including one home brewer who was curious about the clubs use of a recirculating mash. LIBME ran out of all 12 beers with almost 2 hours still remaining in the second session which is a definite testament to people’s willingness to try home brew and different beers. It was also a nice confidence boost for all members of the club who brewed (including us!). We look forward to the 8th annual Spring Craft Beer Festival, as we are sure there will be new breweries popping up this year and making their first appearance next spring.

20130311-144302.jpg