It was almost five years ago that home beer brewers Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey opened Greenport Harbor Brewing Company on Carpenter Street.
In terms of intoxicating beverages, the North Fork was known at that time almost exclusively as a wine region, with about 50 well-established vineyards and wineries. There were no breweries when the doors of Greenport Harbor’s tasting room opened in summer 2009 — but once they did, an emerging market for Long Island craft beers makers quickly developed. There are now four breweries from Riverhead to Greenport, and the industry is growing.
Evidence of that expansion comes in the form of another first from Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, which is set to open the largest brewing facility on the North Fork. The company’s second, larger location will include a 150-seat restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.
Work has been underway since June 2012 and the new facility is expected to open in early summer.
“It’s really coming together,” Mr. Vandenburgh said.
Once completed, the 13,000-square-foot facility on Main Road in Peconic will house a tasting room, on-site restaurant and separate brewing operation capable of producing 18 times more beer than is possible at Greenport Harbor’s original location.
The expansion resulted from much thought and careful planning, starting about a year after .
Mr. Vandenburgh and Mr. Liegy had sought a space to grow their operation since about a year after opening in the Star Hose firehouse building in Greenport.
For months, each location they scouted for a second site was too small — until they purchased Lucas Ford’s former showroom in 2011. The property has plenty of room to grow the operation long-term, Mr. Vandenburgh said.
Remodeling of the three-acre property got off to a running start, but hit a snag last year after the company applied for a small business loan to complete the work, he said.
Now that those financial hurdles have been cleared, the $4 million project is on track to receive permits from the town Planning Board in the coming weeks, he said.
When the brewers approached Greenport Village’s Planning Board in the spring of 2008 about converting the old Carpenter Street firehouse, the idea was so popular that planners were ready to approve it almost as soon as they heard the proposal, according to prior Suffolk Times reports.
Southold officials appear to feel the same about the new location, according to planning department director Heather Lanza, who said Friday that the town was “supportive” of the brewery.
“The town has been really helpful,” Mr. Vandenburgh said. “Everyone has been excited to see a building that was once considered an eyesore being put to good use.”
Count area business owners among those eagerly anticipating the brewery’s opening in Peconic — the North Fork’s least populated hamlet.
“We are super-excited,” said Sarah Nappa, owner of Winemakers Studio, just down Peconic Lane from the new brewery. “The more people on this road the better it is for all of us.”
Fellow brewers are also sharing in the excitement.
“It’s good for the whole area,” said Greg Martin, co-founder of Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead, which opened in 2011. “The reason wineries are so good on the weekends is that people come out and make a day of it and go to multiple places. Now there will be the Peconic location, us, Moustache and Crooked Ladder so it will be more of a destination for craft beer lovers.”
The new Greenport Harbor brewery has already received state and county permits and the owners hope the new operation will be in full swing when the company celebrates its fifth anniversary in July, Mr. Vandenburgh said.
“We are planning a huge bash,” he said.
And there will be plenty of room to party.
The 11,000-square-foot production area, known as the brew house, will contain eight 90-gallon barrel fermenters, a 5,400-cubic-foot refrigerator and a bottling station that will help move six-packs to retail stores.
“We’ll be able to brew a lot more different styles of beer,” he said. “It will also increase of efficiency.”
The 2,000-square-foot tasting room — located in a separate building just steps from the brew house — is the project’s highlight, Mr. Vandenburgh said.
The former showroom dates back to the late 1950s and was previously used as a garage, Mr. Vandenburgh said. The old garage will be renovated and expanded to include a bar and seating, both outside and under the building’s newly restored exposed wood beam ceilings. There are plans to add a stone fireplace and hold movie screenings during the summer months.
The menu hasn’t been finalized yet, but Mr. Vandenburgh said the restaurant will serve “really, really, really good food” using local ingredients.
He said the tasting room will be rustic yet modern, with wall-to-wall windows so patrons can enjoy views of the vines at Lenz Winery next door.
The added brewing capacity the new facility will provide will also allow people outside New York State to enjoy a Greenport Harbor beer.
The thriving company has received requests to distribute its product regionally in Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island, but has been unable to fulfill them because of production limitations at the Carpenter Street site.
“We wanted to grow the right way,” Mr. Vandenburgh said. “We wanted to serve New York first.”
Once the Peconic location is complete, the two sites will be able to produce roughly 20 times as much beer, filling 115,000 kegs annually compared to the current 6,000, he said.
No matter how much larger Greenport Harbor Brewery Company gets, Mr. Vandenburgh said the original tasting room in Greenport Village will remain open and will always be “our heart and soul.”