After unfulfilling careers as oil servicemen, Greg Martin and Dan Burke transitioned to another liquid-based profession: beer.
The duo started homebrewing in 2003, creating an IPA on Burke’s stove, and connected with Rob Leonard at New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, Conn., to “learn the ropes on a commercial system,” says Martin. The bi-weekly internship permitted practice while licenses were obtained, provided access to brew Long Ireland Beer Company’s first release, a malty Irish-inspired amber named Celtic Ale, and built the duo’s confidence to secure a residence on the North Fork.
“Rob is a veteran and the time we spent there was invaluable,” says Martin. “It saved us thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches when we started building our own place.”
After seven months of hardcore renovations, Long Ireland opened an 8,800-square-foot brewery in Riverhead in 2011. The timber-framed building was “just a front door and back wall with no running water,” says Burke. There was also a “curveball with the outdated sewer system.” It now contains a thirdhand brewhouse originally created for Connecticut’s New Haven Brewing Company (Leonard was actually an employee and brewed his first batch with the same equipment), but purchased from Pennichuck Brewing Company in Milford, N.H.
Beer is everywhere.
Since its first North Fork-brewed batch of Celtic Ale in 2011, Long Ireland has exhibited continuous progress. The brewery produced approximately 3,000 barrels in 2012, and expects to roll out 3,500 to 4,000 barrels in 2013. A new line of 12-ounce bottles also adds 300 cases of Celtic Ale, Pale Ale and Pumpkin Ale per week. It’s created exclusive house beers for two businesses in 2013—10 NUTTY YEARS (a citrusy wheat ale for The Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore and Farmingdale) and Plattduetsche Kolsch (brewed with all-German specialty grains and hops for Franklin Square’s Plattduetsche Park Restaurant). It’s also procured barrels of Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Baiting Hollow’s Long Island Spirits to age Celtic Ale, ESB, Breakfast Stout and Black Friday Imperial Stout (the latter is due on Nov. 29).
“Once we were able to get established and meet production requirements with our core beers, it allowed us to start bottling and play a little bit more,” says Martin.
The “play” has even helped convert some tourists on vineyard-bound buses.
“They’ll visit two wineries and us, and start off by saying they don’t like beer,” says Martin. “But they end up really enjoying it.”
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.