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Top 10 Long Island Beer Trends in 2018

 

1) More brewery tap rooms - six new breweries opened tap rooms in 2018, bringing  the total number of brewpubs and brewery tap rooms on Long Island to 36.  This compares to just nine at the end of 2012.  New brewery tap rooms are: Harbor Head Brewing in Northport (January), Small Craft Brewing in Amityville (March), North Fork Brewing in Riverhead and Six Harbors Brewing in Huntington (June), Westhampton Beach Brewing Co. (July) and SquareHead Brewing in Holbrook (October).  Two breweries closed in 2018, Fire Island Beer Co. and Tweaking Frog Brewing, but those seem isolated events and the general inclination is for more expansion, as seen in trends 2, 3 and 4.

2) More tap rooms coming in 2019 -- eight more breweries are in various stages of construction or permits and plan to open new tap rooms in 2019.  These include Patchogue Beer Project, Eastern Front Brewing in Mattituck, Secatogue Brewing in West Islip and HopWins Brewing in Bay Shore. After 10 years of brewing small batches of award-winning beers, Blind Bat Brewery is close to opening a bistro in Centerport that will serve locally sourced food along with its brews. Bellport Brewing changed its name to Sunrise Ales & Lagers and plans to open its new brewery and tap room on Sunrise Highway in Bohemia in early 2019.  Long Beach Brewing and Flying Belgian Brewery have started construction on the new brewery and tap room that they will share in Oceanside.  Bright Eye Beer Company, formerly Point Lookout Brewing, plans to open a new brewery and tap room in Long Beach across from the LIRR station in late summer 2019. 

3) Older breweries expand production -- To keep up with demand, many LI breweries expanded their production and tap rooms in 2018.  Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue, Long Island’s largest craft brewery, began production in July at its new 60,000 square foot facility on West Main Street and celebrated its 20th anniversary in October with a huge outdoor party.  Blue Point plans to open a new tasting room, restaurant and outdoor beer garden at the location in spring 2019.  Other brewery expansions include Moustache Brewing in Riverhead, Garvies Point Craft Brewing in Glen Cove, Destination Unknown Beer Co. (DUBCO) in Bay Shore and BrewSA Brewing in Freeport.   
 
4) More cans lead to crowded shelves at LI beer stores -- the lower cost of canning equipment and booming popularity of craft beer in cans, especially 4-packs of 16 oz. tall boys, led many LI breweries to start canning their beers for the first time.  Colorful cans with cleverly designed labels are distributed at brewery tap rooms and quickly scoffed up by beer lovers looking for the newest beer styles from their favorite breweries.  According to Dave Schultzer, owner of Bellport Cold Beer & Soda and an organizer of Long Island Craft Beer Week, the popularity has some drawbacks.  "There are so many cans being released that shelves are getting too crowded to put them all in the store," said Dave.  He suggests that breweries who want to succeed in the competitive retail market take a long-term approach.  "The new breweries should introduce some of their beers solely in the retail market, even at just five good beer stores, and not just do can drops at their tap room.  This will help them move more product and over time build up more distribution."    

5) Beer festivals spread fun across Long Island -- beerfests continued to thrive on Long Island in 2018.  Established fests from veteran producers Starfish Junction continue to draw big crowds to Belmont Park, Heckscher State Park, and the Nassau Coliseum, while Great South Bay Brewery packs in beer and music lovers to its Bay Fest and Punktoberfest events.  Cask ale festivals are increasingly popular, including Long Island's largest cask ale fest held annually in the spring at Blue Point Brewing.  Two cask festivals are coming up soon in 2019, in Rocky Point in January and at TJ Finley's in Bay Shore in February (details below).  Long Island's beerfest calendar also expanded in 2018 with the addition of the Long Island Fall Beer Festival, held in Farmingdale in October.    

6) Homebrew clubs and competitions flourish -- Some of the biggest crowds at LI beerfests are at the booths hosted by Long Island's homebrew clubs.  The three clubs --  Brewers East End Revival (B.E.E.R.)Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) and Handgrenades Homebrew Club -- had a busy year in 2018 with successful competitions hosted by B.E.E.R. in May and LIBME in November.  All three LI homebrew clubs hold monthly meetings and new members are always welcome.  A highlight of the year was the first time win by LI homebrewers at the National Homebrewing Competition, the world's largest homebrew competition with finals held this year in Portland, Oregon as part of the annual Homebrew Con organized by the American Homebrewers Association.  The 2019 Homebrew Con will be held closer to home in Providence, RI at the end of June. 

7) Bus and bike tours bring beer lovers to the breweries -- beer lovers on LI have more ways to visit breweries and beerfests without driving, thanks to companies like L.I. Brew Bus and Tapped Enterprises.  These companies, listed on LIBeerGuide's Brewery Tours and Transportation page, organize public trips to breweries and festivals, and can also provide transportation for private groups.  Another fun way to visit craft breweries are the popular Brew Crew Cycles bike tours in Riverhead, where groups earn their beer by pedaling from brewery to brewery.   

8) Running for beer -- a great way to earn your beer is to run a race that ends at your favorite brewery.  Some of the most popular brewery races are coming up soon (see details below) at Blue Point Brewing and Great South Bay Brewing.  If you need more time to train, the 15K run to Port Jeff Brewing is coming up in May.  There are also several running clubs on Long Island that combine a love of running with an appreciation of beer, including the Hoptron Running Club that meets on Tuesday evenings at Hoptron Brewtique in Patchogue.
 
9) Gastropubs continue to pair great food and beer -- LI foodies are blessed with an abundance of great restaurants and gastropubs that pair delicious food with tasty craft beer.  Many of these gastropubs hold beer dinners or other tasting events throughout the year with special menus featuring beers specially paired with each course.  Among the many gastropubs who host events (a full listing is at LIBeerGuide's Gastropubs page) are Jackson's in Commack, the new Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails in Lindenhurst and Heneghan's Tavern in Point Lookout with its popular Taps N Apps events featuring Long Island craft breweries.   

10) Long Island's beer community has a big heart -- The beer community on Long Island continues to be a force for good in the larger community, whether it is raising funds for local charities at beer festivals or Long Island Craft Beer Week's “Can for a Can” food drive to benefit Long Island Cares/Harry Chapin Food Bank.  Several LI breweries also raise funds for local environmental groups including Moustache Brewing for the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program and Blue Point Brewing for Save the Great South Bay Inc. 

As we look forward to 2019, we encourage all beer lovers to pitch in to support organizations that help make our beloved Long Island a better place.  Happy New Beer!