Over the past 10 years, Riverhead has emerged as a vital hub in the LI craft beer scene. Riverhead is currently home to three craft breweries with tasting rooms, with two more in development, and has a growing number of gastropubs with farm to table menus taking advantage of the proximity to North Fork farms. Downtown Riverhead has been revitalized in recent years with the restoration of the historic Suffolk Theater and new walkways along the downtown waterfront. Riverhead is also home to the historic Polish Town neighborhood, anchored by St. Isidore's Church and the Riverhead Polish Hall on Pulaski Street, home to the annual Polish Town Civic Association Fair that draws thousands of festival goers in mid-August to enjoy pierogies and polka music.
Breweries: Long Ireland Beer Co. was founded in 2009 by longtime friends Dan Burke and Greg Martin, who started out contract brewing their flagship Celtic Ale and then opened their Riverhead brewery and tasting room in 2011 with a 15-barrel brewing system. Last year Long Ireland moved most of the production of Celtic Ale and its popular Summer Ale and IPA from bottles to cans, which helped to increase production to keep up with increased demand. This brewery, proudly named after the Irish heritage of its founders, is nonetheless located in Riverhead's Polish Town and hosts many cool events throughout the year, including the Pintwood Derby coming up on July 22 and the Halfway to St. Patrick's Party in mid-September. Crooked Ladder Brewing opened in fall 2013 in downtown Riverhead on West Main Street next to Digger's Pub. Originally founded by brothers David and Steve Wirth and brewmaster Duffy Griffiths (formerly brewmaster at John Harvard's in Lake Grove), Crooked Ladder has a 7-barrel brewing system and has added more fermenters to keep up with demand. After Duffy Griffiths left the brewery to join Greenport Harbor Brewing, assistant brewer Stevie Czelatka took over as head brewer and now oversees brewing of mainstay brews Gypsy Red and Downtown Red along with many delicious seasonals. Moustache Brewing Co. opened in April 2014 following a successful KickStarter campaign (proudly supported by LIBeerGuide) launched by co-founders, co-brewers and spouses Lauri and Matt Spitz. They opened in an industrial space on Hallett Street, across from Polish Park, with a 2-barrel brewing system and quickly established a loyal following for their great beers and fun events. Like the other Riverhead breweries, Moustache has expanded production and added a canning line to keep up with demand.
All of the Riverhead breweries have made beers using hops from local growers including Condzella Farms in Wading River, L.I. Hops in Riverhead and Weskofske Farms in Peconic. There are two other craft breweries in Riverhead with plans to open tasting rooms: Long Beard Brewing is renovating a former firehouse on Second Street and Twin Forks Brewing has submitted plans for a brewery and tasting room in an industrial area on Raynor Avenue.
Gastropubs and Beer Bars: There are many good places in Riverhead to enjoy locally sourced food paired with great LI beers. Tweeds Restaurant & Buffalo Bar is located in the historic J.J. Sullivan's Hotel that dates back to 1896. Tweeds is known for serving bison steaks and burgers under the watchful eyes of the trophy head of the last bison hunted by Teddy Roosevelt in the Dakota Badlands. Another Riverhead institution is The Birchwood of Polish Town, which has offered hearty Polish food for over 80 years. Downtown on West Main Street is a longtime local favorite, Digger's Ales & Eats, which first opened as Digger O'Dells in 1993 and was relaunched in 2005 by owners Cheri and Steve Wirth. Digger's offers hearty pub food and 16 beers on tap, including brews from next door neighbor Crooked Ladder. Two more recent additions to the downtown foodie scene are Joe's Garage & Grill, which opened in 2014 and serves delicious BBQ and local brews in a unique car-themed setting, and Perabell Food Bar, the second location for the popular gastropub in Patchogue, which opened in 2015.
Brewery Tours: For visitors coming on the LIRR, the Riverhead station (on the Ronkonkoma branch) is located a stone's throw from Moustache Brewing, and Crooked Ladder on Main Street and Long Ireland Beer Co. in Polish Town are all within a mile walking distance. But for a fun way to tour the breweries and burn off some calories, check out Brew Crew Cycles located in Polish Town. Now in its third year, Brew Crew Cycles offers a 2 1/2 hour tour of two of the three breweries plus a stop at The Birchwood of Polish Town, all reached by pedaling on a 14 person bicycle. Brew Crew cyclers receive discounted prices on beers and snacks. Tours are currently offered on Saturdays and Sundays with weekday tours coming later this summer and special events throughout the summer and fall.
Another convenient way to experience the Riverhead beer scene is with Tapped Enterprises/LI Beer Bus, which offers customized bus or van trips to visit the breweries and have lunch at a gastropub.