When the Weiss family purchased the 80-acre tract of land off Wading River Road in Manorville in 2018 to open Waterdrinker Farm, they had plenty of ideas about what they wanted to do as they dove into the agri-tourism industry. In the three years since opening the farm, the family has found a way to be busy and keep customers coming in every season — beyond the traditional pumpkin patch outings of the fall, they host a tulip festival in the spring, and a holiday-themed village in the winter, and they make sunflowers the stars of the show in the summer.
For brothers Kirk and Joe Weiss, and their friend, Nick Giuffre, however, their sights were always set on an old and unused potato barn not far from the farm entrance.
Two months ago, they turned their passion for beer into another arm of the family business, with a soft opening of the Long Island Farm Brewery in the renovated space. While Joe and Kirk Weiss and Giuffre run the brewery, Joe and Kirk’s other brother, Marc Weiss, is the general manager of the farm. Their father, also named Kirk Weiss, helps to run and oversee the farm with his brother, Wayne Weiss. The three Weiss brothers are the sixth generation of a family that has been in the agriculture business — primarily greenhouse plantings — for decades.
The brewery is a perfect addition to an operation that aims to provide a little something for everyone who visits the farm, no matter their age.
On a recent weekday evening, guests had started filling out both the spacious indoor tap room, with high ceilings and a view of the brewing area at the back — where brewmaster Brian Smith was hard at work — and the area outside of the sleek, black remodeled barn, outfitted with picnic tables and surrounded by natural grass plantings that did not obstruct the view of the farm and the sunflowers in the distance. For people who want a little something to eat while they sip one of the many varieties of beer offered on tap, there is a revolving rotation of food trucks that set up shop outside the brewery.
Kirk and Joe Weiss had been tinkering with making their own beer for years, but when it came time to open the brewery, they knew they needed to bring on a more seasoned expert. That’s where Smith comes in. He learned the trade under the mentorship of Paul Komsic, who is now at Ghost Brewery in Bay Shore. Before coming to Long Island Farm Brewery, Smith worked for two years at Long Island Spirits, making whisky and vodka in addition to beer. While that was a valuable learning experience, Smith said he jumped at the chance to run the show making beer at Long Island Farm Brewery.
“This was a bit more of a creative opportunity instead of making the same thing over and over,” he said, while showing off the shiny new stainless steel machinery he uses to hone his craft.
Waterdrinker Farm manager Marc Weiss jokingly refers to Smith as Thor, because of Smith’s bushy blond beard and long blond hair, which was pulled into a ponytail the day I visited. As he detailed the many steps involved in what he does, Smith referred to what he creates as his “beer babies,” and summed up what he said is a three-part process when it comes to beer making.
“It’s 40 percent science, 30 percent art and 30 percent cleaning up,” he said with a smile, clear plastic safety goggles sitting atop his head while standing on a floor that was sprinkled with bits of grain.
Smith takes the “farm” part of the brewery name seriously when he’s crafting beers. The most popular offering at the moment is the Sunny Honey, an ale brewed with sunflower seeds and local honey. Visitors to the farm can spend the afternoon frolicking in the fields with their children, checking out the collection of animals — pigs, goats, chickens and more — taking “sunflower selfies,” and even enjoying the sunflower fields at sunset, when the field, which normally closes at 5 p.m., is open until sunset on Friday and Saturday. The farm even created a sunflower maze earlier this year, with the fields of flowers planted in stages to ensure they have sunflowers throughout the summer.
The sunflower festival is ongoing, and families who visit with their children will find plenty to do. In addition to the sunflower sunsets on Friday and Saturday night, the field is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the week, with a wooden play land, obstacle course, jump pads, mini golf and more to keep kids entertained. Dogs are welcome in both the farm fields and at the brewery, as long as they are leashed. Live music and food trucks are regular features on the weekends.
Waterdrinker Farm charges a $15 admission fee to enter, and there is also limited availability for families to pick their own sunflowers, at $2 per stem.