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.
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.”
Long Islanders with novel business ideas have been using the fundraising website kickstarter.com to finance innovative projects that promise to add diversity to North Fork commerce.
Four local projects have received the green light thanks to the unique site, and another has high hopes of reaching its goal.
Unlike platforms that raise money for research or medical expenses, Kickstarter is intended to help people with creative ideas generate financial support for a new enterprise.
“There’s a lot of amazing, imaginative projects coming to life, and that’s great,” said Justin Kazmark, spokesperson for Kickstarter.
Everything on Kickstarter must have a specific goal, such as recording an album or publishing a book. Whatever the effort, it must produce a result, according to the Kickstarter website. Approximately 75 percent of proposed projects are accepted by the site.
The concept for Kickstarter emerged in 2001, when co-founder and CEO Perry Chen had such an idea, but no way to tell if it was worth the risk of investing in.
“He thought to himself what if there was a way to determine if there was a sufficient amount of interest in a project like that,” Mr. Kazmark said.
Mr. Chen, along with Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler, launched Kick-starter on April 28, 2009.
Project creators who turn to Kickstarter set a fundraising goal and a deadline up to 60 days away and are given a webpage to explain their goal. They may even include videos to help get their message across. To provide an incentive for donors, who can give as little as a dollar, creators also craft rewards for backers. If the project reaches its fundraising goal by deadline, the backers’ credit cards are charged. Kickstarter.com retains 5 percent of total amount of funding collected.
If the entrepreneurs don’t reach their goal, they receive no money, Mr. Kazmark said.
Since Kickstarter’s launch about 89,709 projects have been proposed and over $518 million has been pledged. More than 37,000 projects reached their fundraising goals, with about $435 million charged to backers’ credit cards, according to the website.
Four of those successfully funded projects are rooted in the North Fork.
Having spent eight years brewing at home, Central Islip couple Matthew and Lauri Spitz dreamed of starting a craft brewery. They created a Kickstarter campaign and met their goal on May 23, 2012. The couple raised over $30,000 to help establish Moustache Brewing Company in Riverhead.
“You basically have to sell yourself and your idea,” said Ms. Spitz. “Why should somebody give you money? Asking for money to fulfill our dream, it’s weird, but we figured we’ll give it a shot.”
The developing brewing industry moved closer to making the North Fork a craft beer destination thanks to another successful Kickstarter campaign.
Wading River hop farmer John Condzella surpassed his Kickstarter goal of raising $27,000 toward bringing a German hop harvesting machine to the East End. It will be available for cooperative use among start-up hop producers on the North Fork.
The hop processor will make the once time-consuming harvesting season fly. Without it, harvesting one plant by hand takes about an hour, Mr. Condzella said. “The machine will do that same plant in about 30 seconds,” he said.
Mr. Condzella reached his goal March 4 and raised $30,398 by March 10 with 320 people backing his project.
Just one day earlier, chef Keith Luce of Mattituck reached his $50,000 Kick-starter goal to create what he described as “true farm-to-table artisan products,” with cured meats from humanely raised animals from his family farm.
Mr. Luce raised $51,090 from 96 backers. He said social media was key to reaching his goal.
“I’m very active on social media and it’s one of the reasons why I decided to go down that avenue,” he said. “I believe I created a bit of a buzz, which is always good when you are starting a new endeavor.”
There was certainly a buzz about Southold couple Regan and Carey Meador’s Kickstarter campaign, “Bring Weird Grapes to the North Fork,” which met its $15,000 goal Saturday. The couple will plant four grape varieties distinct from others cultivated across the North Fork.
Their start-up vineyard, Southold Farm & Cellar, could have its wine ready for tasting by 2015, Mr. Meador said.
So far they’ve raised more than $22,000 from 133 backers. If they reach 223, the Meadors said they’ll let their backers choose the grape varieties they’ll plant next.
“We have reached our goal but we want as many people as possible to hear about it,” Mr. Meador said. “There is a community around what we’re doing and we want them to be part of the process.”
The Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which plans to open soon next to West Main Street’s Digger O’Dell’s pub, may not be the new kid on the block for very long.
Moustache Brewing Company, the brainchild of Central Islip couple Matt and Lauri Spitz, went from a pipe — or rather, barrel — dream to a dream all but realized after a successful kick-starter campaign brought in more than $30,000 in startup capital this past spring, the owners said.
“We’re excited and of course a bit nervous because this is all brand-new territory for us” said Matt Spitz, whose moustache matches the company’s handle-barred logo. “We plan to start small with a one-barrel brew system and build things up over the next few years, as far as the volume of our production goes.”
This is the couple’s first business venture. Mr. Spitz is a musician who plays bass guitar in a reggae band. Ms. Spitz is a health information manager for a medical practice.
Moustache Brewing has leased a commercial building on Hallett Street in Polish Town, which they plan to use mostly for production. Mr. Spitz isn’t expecting a lot of walk-in traffic.
“There won’t be a bar or a fancy tasting room,” he said. “We’ll just have some taps on the wall where people can get samples or growlers and go.”
Lauri Spitz said signing the lease on Saturday brought an exhausting search to an end.
“We’ve been looking for a place since June of last year,” she said. “So it’s really exciting to have found a home.”
The Spitzes, who have been married for over five years and home-brewing for eight, originally wanted to build their brewery in Nassau County, which Mr. Spitz said currently has only one brewery. He cited Riverhead Town’s enthusiasm for their proposed venture as a reason for landing on the North Fork.
“They were 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 the town of Riverhead has been great.”
Riverhead’s first brewery, the Long Ireland Beer Company, not only welcomes the new business but has also helped the first-time entrepreneurs.
“When we heard they were considering coming to Riverhead we directed them to a few possible locations,” said Greg Martin, Long Ireland co-owner. “We don’t see them as competition. We want Riverhead to become a destination for craft beer. Look at the wineries. People will come out here and hit multiple wineries during their visits.”
The addition of Moustache Brewery will bring the number of breweries in a half-mile radius to three.
“There’s us and Long Ireland, and then Digger’s and Crooked Ladder are on their way to building a brew pub,” said Mr. Spitz. “It’s going to be fantastic.”
The owners hope the new brewery will open by the end of this summer.
“That would be optimal,” he said.