Riverhead’s latest microbrewery hopes to open on Main Street in November

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Digger O’Dell’s owner Stephen Wirth with his daughter at the future home of his latest business venture, Crooked Ladder Brewing Company.

Riverhead’s newest microbrewery, the latest member of a growing East End beer community, is ready to begin construction downtown, and may be up and running this fall.

Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, a craft beer operation being built next to Digger O’Dell’s on West Main Street, is awaiting one last set of permits from the town before workers can begin laying down plumbing and installing equipment, said Digger’s owner and Crooked Ladder co-owner Stephen Wirth.

The floor and much of the plumbing for the new 1,600-square-foot brewery hasn’t been installed yet; the space that will eventually house the microbrew’s fermentors, boilers and chiller is now a dirt pit.

“The seven-barrel system we’re putting in gives us the ability, if we ran it around the clock, to do anywhere up to about 3,500 barrels a year … about 2,000 more barrels a year than I would sell next door on a regular basis,” Mr. Wirth said.

The back area of the microbrewery will include a cold-storage space to keep up to 70 kegs of Crooked Ladder’s beer cool, he added.

Mr. Wirth said the West Main Street location will be “the face” of the microbrewery to the public, and will have a tasting area near the front entrance.

The building’s entrance will be torn out during construction to allow the brewery’s equipment to be installed, he said.

After the fermentors and bright tanks, the front will be replaced with two large barn doors for visitors to enter through. Mr. Wirth hopes the whole operation will be brewing by November.

The microbrewery will also use the location to try new beers with the public and with Mr. Wirth’s customers next door at Digger’s.

The restaurant will get a first-hand look at the microbrewery in action, with windows expected to be installed to let customers at the bar look through the wall into the brewing operation while they try one of Crooked Ladder’s or another company’s craft beers.

“We really look at this as the test kitchen for what we hope will become a bigger company,” Mr. Wirth said. “This is already too small for what we want to do, but it was the space to get started.”

It’s all part of what he sees as an opportunity for beer lovers and brewers to flourish on Long Island.

“The beer community, I think, is a pretty fun bunch,” Mr. Wirth said. “It’s not cut-throat or anything. People are happy for each other’s success. We all want the same things, but we also want to have fun.”

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