Grapes & Greens adds grains, signing up local breweries

Grapes & Greens began distributing Port Jefferson Brewing Company beer on Monday. (courtesy photo)
Grapes & Greens began distributing Port Jefferson Brewing Company beer on Monday. (courtesy photo)

Grapes and Greens is not just shipping grapes and greens anymore.

The distribution company on Sound Avenue, which opened up in 2012 in the former Blackman Plumbing building, for the past six months has added beer to its core business model, adding to the vineyards and produce farmers it currently services.

“We kind of accommodate everything now,” said Jim Alessi, director of the facility.

Starting last week, Grapes & Greens began distributing Port Jefferson Brewing Company beer to the five boroughs. The deal allows the brewery, which previously self-distributed its product, to have more face time with customers and put the focus back on making beer, owner Mike Philbrick said.

“This is an excellent opportunity for us,” he said.

The Long Island Farm Bureau originally received a $500,000 grant to help get the project started nearly two years ago. The money came from Albany through the New York State Economic Development Council.

A key factor in the facility included LIFB partnering with distributor J. Kings, which ships 30 trucks into New York City daily, said owner John King.

“The biggest challenge they have is delivering into Manhattan,” said Mr. King, referring to smaller breweries trying to break into the competitive New York City market.

Port Jefferson Brewing Company is the second brewery in the past six months to use the Calverton company to move its brews. Riverhead’s Long Ireland Beer Company also uses the company to bring their beer to customers in New York City, switching from a previous distributor about six months ago.

Grapes & Greens’ ability to distribute to the city seven days a week is “quantum leap” for vineyards and breweries on the North Fork, Mr. Alessi said, allowing them to reach larger markets and expand their customer base.

“Our reach in New York City has grown since being with Grapes & Greens,” said Greg Martin, co-owner of Long Ireland Beer Company.
Martin’s business partner, Dan Burke, said on Friday that the Polish Town brewery purchased three 50-gallon fermenters over the winter in anticipation of increased demand. Long Ireland previously was able to produce about 300 barrels of beer per month. The additional tanks increased production to about 450 barrels per month, a 50 percent increase.

While Long Ireland worked with a previous distributor in New York City, Mr. Burke said J. Kings existing business model distributing food made the move a logical one for Long Ireland.

“They are quite established in the food industry, and his whole basis of business is based on service to their customer base,” he said. “You can buy beer from anybody. But it’s how you service accounts and interact with customers that matters.”

Mr. Alessi said that expanding their products to offer beer has been a no-brainer. Beyond beer makers, local businesses to support the breweries such as hop farmers and boutique like as Vines and Hops and North Fork Tasting Room have popped up to support the growing industry.

“I think what we did best was listen and asked, ‘What do you need?’ to find what the missing link what was,” he said. “We took what they were looking for and we built it, and then more people came.”

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