Beer brewing is now under way in Polish Town

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Long Ireland owner Greg Martin pours Celtic Ale from carbonation tanks at the brewery Thursday. He said the company will start filling kegs Saturday and shipping next week.

The long-awaited opening of Riverhead’s first microbrewery is upon us.

Fermenting began last week at the Long Ireland Brewery on Pulaski Street, and the first kegs are getting shipped out next week, the owners told the News-Review Thursday.

The tasting room is set to open in the next two to three weeks.

What started as a hobby morphed into a dream job for Greg Martin of Port Jefferson and pal Dan Burke of Shoreham. The two worked at Marran Oil in Holtsville when they realized they both had a penchant for home brewing.

They began making their own beer after work and soon released their first brew, Long Ireland Celtic Ale. Just a few months ago, that beer was sold in 120 bars, restaurants and beer distributors across Long Island; now, 250 establishments are stocked with the ale.

When the tasting room opens, the public is welcome to stop in for a keg or a growler, a half-gallon jug.

“I think people are anticipating it,” Mr. Martin said of the soon-to-open tasting room. “We have people drop in every day to see what’s going on. People are excited they’ll be able to come down and taste the beer fresh right out of the brewery and see where it’s actually made.”

The beer is being made in the 8,800-square-foot former Agway building, which Mr. Martin and Mr. Burke have been transforming since October. The construction project came with a $500,000 price tag, which the men footed with personal savings and private investors.

In the brewery are five giant fermentation tanks, and plans are in the works for a bottling line. The men are brewing Breakfast Stouts, pale ales and seasonal beers. A Raspberry Wheat beer is now available, and kegs of Pumpkin Ale will be ready come this fall, they said.

A grand opening for the Long Ireland Brewery will be held Sept. 17 to celebrate the half-way mark to St. Patrick’s Day. Guests can take tours of the brewery and there will likely be live music.

Mr. Martin still can’t believe what began as a conversation and vague plan has turned into a full-time employment he loves. But there doesn’t seem to be time to celebrate just yet.

“We’re too busy to be excited,” he said, adding he and Mr. Burke have been churning out 80-hour work weeks as of late.

He also said looks forward to the next few weeks when the two buddies can sit back and have a couple of beers.

“That would be nice,” he said with a chuckle.

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