Long Island Wine Press: Greenport Harbor Brewing Company

greenport harbor brewing wine press north fork

Photos by Matt Furman (bottom left photo by Randee Daddona)

John Liegey and Richard Vandenburgh are local innovators, opening the North Fork’s first brewery in Greenport in 2009. They perceived opportunity, not adversity, during prior visits to the beer-desolate peninsula and wanted to inject variety into the village, once a prominent whaling port, with a hops-wrapped harpoon.

“I’m not a wine guy, so it was a drag to not see beer represented out here before the brewery,” says Vandenburgh. “We saw the concept in our minds instantly, so we did it. There should be a mix of both on the North Fork.”

After four years of beer-making within a converted firehouse on Carpenter Street, acuity continues to propel Greenport Harbor Brewing Company into new territories and larger fermenters. The brewery has recently extended distribution to Hudson Valley, and out-of-state visitors are traveling to the North Fork specifically for Black Duck Porter (a malty black ale showcasing cocoa and espresso), Devils’ Plaything IPA (a citrusy, chili-infused IPA created exclusively for New York’s Salvation Taco) and Leaf Pile Ale (an orangey blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and vanilla bean).

“People would find us by accident at first, but now we’re a planned destination, which is an honor,” says Liegey.

Greenport Harbor’s brewmaster, DJ Swanson, is a proponent of malty beers with depth. His effort to “avoid being one-dimensional in both overall lineup and individual formulations” is on continuous display in Project Hoppiness, a string of experimental hop-dominant releases. Swanson will continue producing a diverse portfolio for Greenport Harbor’s newest project: a second location in Peconic. After two years of renovations and several delays involving “a week’s worth of progress taking a month,” says Liegey, the 13,000-square-foot building should open in May 2014. The brewery initially expects to double its annual capacity to 6,000 barrels of beer, but the new 30-barrel brewhouse will have a maximum capacity of

54,000 barrels.

That’s a lot of beer.

The additional space will also create new opportunities for other North Fork artisans. Greenport Harbor plans to contract with a nearby farm to harvest barley for special beers. It will also bottle-release a collaboration with Martha Clara Vineyards from 2011. The beer, 225.15.1, is a Belgian-style golden ale brewed with hand-plucked sauvignon blanc grapes.

“We’ve been saving the beer for two years and watched it change,” says Vandenburgh. “It’s wild. We’re gonna release it sometime in the fall.”

Check out the full Long Island Wine Press cover story “Craft Beer Makes Home in Wine Country,” which includes articles on Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Long Ireland Beer Company, Crooked Ladder Brewing Company and Moustache Brewing Company.