10/18/13 7:00am
10/18/2013 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Long Ireland Brewery co-owner Greg Martin (center) harvests hop cones with assistant brewers Liam Hudcock (left) and Fred Keller at Condzella Farm in Wading River last year. Long Ireland is one of a few local breweries to spring for a farm brewery license, which requires a specific amount of local ingredients to be used each year.

If you build it, said the voice in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” they will come.

Such is the state’s hope as a growing New York beer industry builds itself up. Now, the state is also trying to spur interest in growing products – namely, hops and barley — to create a truly local beer.

And so far, a few local breweries have ordered up one of the state’s new farm brewery licenses, created last year by legislators to promote local hops and barley cultivation— and one more plans to do so soon.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first round of farm brewery licensees last week, noting that Riverhead’s Long Ireland Beer Co. was among the first 14 in the state to be granted the new classification. Distinct from microbreweries, farm breweries are expected to use a certain percentage of New York State-grown ingredients each year, with thresholds for each key ingredient, excluding water, increasing from 20 percent to 90 percent over the next 10 years. In return, their beer earns the label of New York State-made product, and breweries are eligible for incentives such as the ability to sell pints of beer for consumption on premises and exemptions from certain state fees and tax filing requirements.

Greg Martin, Long Ireland co-owner, said the Pulaski Street brewery obtained its new license several weeks ago. And while the incentives to use New York State-grown hops and barley may prove beneficial, he and others say working enough local ingredients into their brews is posing some difficulties.

“It’s a little challenging now,” said Mr. Martin, who opened Long Ireland in 2010 along with partner Dan Burke. “We’re trying to lock in suppliers so we can hit our compliance rate, but we’re getting a lot of people who are saying, ‘We’re out of product for the season.’ ”

While much has been written recently about the increase in hops production on the East End, barley — one of the other main ingredients in beer — remains less attractive to growers.

“I don’t think if we bought all the barley in New York State that would be enough to support us,” Mr. Martin said.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Long Ireland brewmaster and co-owner Dan Burke brewing in Riverhead.

David Katleski, president of the New York State’s Brewer’s Association, said a task force led by the state’s deputy commissioner of agriculture and markets has said that sustaining the state’s farm brewery industry would require 30,000 acres a year of pale two-row barley, a base grain used in many beers. He estimates that less than 1,000 acres of barley are grown currently in New York State.

Dale Moyer, agriculture program director at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, said that barley could be grown on Long Island — it would take to the soil and climate just fine — but would be expensive. “With the cost of land on Long Island, it doesn’t lend itself very well to growing grains,” he said, adding that grain takes up a relatively large amount of space compared to other crops. Getting brewers to pay more for the homegrown product, he noted, might be difficult and could help explain why barley isn’t being grown locally.

The high cost of land has John Condzella — a Wading River hops farmer who purchased a $27,000 hops processor earlier this year — wondering how much more investment would really be worth it. Mr. Condzella is doubling the size of his one-acre farm in the coming year, but if he knew that New York State-grown hops would be worth the effort, increasing the farm 20-fold instead of twofold wouldn’t be out of the question.

It’s difficult to balance the economic needs of start-up breweries with those of hops and barley growers, and that challenge could lead to changes in the law.

“It’s certainly aggressive,” said Rich Vandenburgh, co-owner of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, and a member of the New York Brewers’ Association board of directors, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the thresholds required to maintain a farm brewery license adjusted or increased more slowly over a longer period.

But, Mr. Katleski said, “the state recognizes that brewers won’t be able to fulfill their obligations unless local ingredients are readily available … and [the state] won’t hold their feet to the fire if supply can’t meet demand.”

Mr. Katleski, owner of Empire Brewing in Syracuse and a member of the task force looking into the future of craft beer in New York, said that pelletizing hops — which increases their efficiency for brewers and makes the ingredient more marketable — is currently a solution that’s being explored to make the investment in hops growing more worthwhile. And creating either multiple small malting facilities for processing barley or one large centralized location is another possibility the task force is exploring.

“This forces the hands of farmers and everybody else to step up and make it happen,” Mr. Katleski said.

Gov. Cuomo’s office said that over $2 million has been invested statewide in hops production over the past couple of years, including the hiring of a full-time hops specialist, who recently made a trip to Wading River and met with 20 to 30 people interested in growing hops.

And while work remains to be done on the supply side of locally grown ingredients, not all brewers say they won’t be able to meet the initial 20 percent threshold. Moustache Brewing Co., expected to open soon in Riverhead, will be a much smaller operation than Greenport Harbor or Long Ireland. Co-owner Lauri Spitz said she and her husband, Matt, will be able to find enough locally grown grains to hit the 20 percent mark, and some of the perks that come with the new license stood out as they were filing their initial paperwork.

The same goes for Duffy Griffiths, co-owner of Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which just opened in downtown Riverhead. Mr. Griffiths said that while his brewery is currently classified as a microbrewery, he and partners David and Steven Wirth, after reviewing the pros and cons, will likely apply for the new license soon.

“The tax incentives are a lot better and we try to buy local anyway,” Mr. Griffiths said. “So now, hopefully, we can create more of a market for them local growers, and this is an incentive for them to take care of it.”

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

02/23/13 7:00am
02/23/2013 7:00 AM
Greenport Harbor

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Kaitlen Berry, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s tasting room manager, pulls a pint.

As the East End continues to polish its image as a leading wine region, a new effort’s a-brewing to turn the region into a destination for craft beer enthusiasts.

Last month, Wine Enthusiast Magazine named the North and South Forks one of the world’s top wine destinations for 2013. In concert with that, two new Riverhead breweries are in the works, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company is expanding, and local farmers have begun to grow hops, an important ingredient in beer.

“If you have three, four or five breweries out here, then people can make a day trip out of coming to the area for craft beer,” said brewer Greg Doroski of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. “Its becoming a destination similar to the vineyards.”

Mr. Doroski noted that the expansion of the local beer industry is similar to what’s happened in Brooklyn, with its trendy craft beer scene. And, he added, Greenport and Riverhead seem to be developing similarly to the way Brooklyn has been gentrifying.

“Growing up out here in Greenport, I can notice the difference. Greenport and Riverhead used to be a little more rough around the edges, but things are changing,” he said. “In Riverhead you have the hotel, the aquarium, the apartments, Long Ireland Beer Company, The Riverhead Project and out here you’ve always had Bruce’s, but now you have places like The Blue Canoe and First and South — there’s more high-end farm-to-table stuff going on.”

When it comes to brewing, Riverhead has an advantage over the rest of the North Fork, Mr. Doroski said, because it offers sewer connections.

“Having sewers makes it an easier place to open breweries,” he said. “There’s also more commercial industrial space.”

Riverhead’s Crooked Ladder Brewing Company is well on its way to opening its doors. Digger O’Dell is about to install a new 16-beer tap system to serve Crooked Ladder and other local brews, and the people behind Moustache Brewing Company recently entered into a lease for a commercial building in Polish Town.

Does Riverhead believe it’s on its way to grabbing the craft beer crown?

“Absolutely,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said. “One hundred percent. There’s a method to our madness about how the downtown is coming up. Becoming a craft brewing mecca will have a positive effect on both Polish Town and downtown. I love the wineries and I do like my chianti or a glass of merlot, but I’m a beer drinker so I concentrate on what I know.”

Mr. Walter said he is happy to see the camaraderie between Long Ireland, an established local beer maker, and brewers just starting out. Long Ireland, which opened in 2011, seems to be thriving, he said.

The Central Islip couple behind Moustache brewery, Matt and Lauri Spitz, said they chose Riverhead over other Long Island locations because of the town’s encouragement.

“Riverhead was one of the only towns to welcome us with open arms,” said Mr. Spitz. “A lot of the towns we talked to weren’t sure what to do with a brewery.” But Riverhead, he said, “is trying to revitalize and pull small businesses in, which is great.”

Through Kickstarter, an online fundraising website, the couple pulled in more than $30,000 in start-up capital for their brewery, which Ms. Spitz said she hopes will contribute to the “blooming” of the East End as a craft beer destination.

“Now we have two breweries and a brew pub in Riverhead,” said Ms. Spitz. “Between that and the wineries, it’s going to be great.”

Growing along with the craft beer industry is its sister business, cultivating hops. Hops, the flower of the Humulus lupulus plant, are used in the brewing process to offset the sweetness of malt sugars and add aroma to beer. A century ago New York produced most of the hops grown in the U.S. Today, that distinction is shared by the Pacific Northwest and Midwest.

Wading River farmer John Condzella wants to change that and make the burgeoning local beer industry even more local.

However, the fourth generation farmer had a difficult time making the most of his farm’s first 800-pound hop harvest this past spring using nothing but human hands.

“We were even having hops-induced nightmares from the picking,” he said, laughing.

And because Mr. Condzella’s hops plants are still maturing, he estimates they will produce between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds next season.

“It takes about an hour for someone to harvest one plant and we’re going to be doubling our hop yard this spring,” he said. He plans to plant an acre’s worth of Willamette, Perle, and Fuggle hops varieties to bring his hop yard to two acres.

He is currently raising money through Kickstarter to import a Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine harvester from Germany for cooperative use among North Fork growers.

One of these growers is Peconic hops farmer Andrew Tralka.

“We just got our license for Farm to Pint,” said Mr. Tralka. “We hope to educate people about hops, to show them what they look like, and the North Fork is the perfect spot for it.”

A harvester would mean more local hops, enabling the growing number of local breweries to make a wet-hopped ale, which requires fresh hops.

“The Wolf has the ability to harvest an acre of hops in an eight-hour day with two people operating the machine,” Mr. Condzella said. “If hand-picking, it would take about 500 hours for the same two people.”

Mr. Condzella said he is in a rush to raise $27,000 to bring the harvester to the North Fork and eliminate “a serious barrier to producing local hops. We want to create a sense of urgency because we feel that sense of urgency and want to show we’re very serious in what we’re doing,” he said. “We want to show the local beer movement is strong. It’s an exciting time for craft and local beer on Long Island. The people involved are very passionate.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com