After she gets her three kids off to school, a typical day for Catie Callaghan, head cellarman and brewery operations coordinator at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company starts around 9 a.m.
“I’ll come in, I’ll go over the production schedule that was made for the week to see what’s changed, write on several post-its what needs to get done for the day, and attack those tasks as they come,” Catie explains. “Sometimes it’s cleaning tanks, it’s checking gravities … It’s a lot of just monitoring whatever the universe has given us on that day, and making sure all the things work out, really. And that everybody’s happy enough to come back tomorrow.”
11 AM I arrive at the brewery and a few different crew members help me track Catie down. She’s welcoming, down-to-earth and dives right into educating me on the summer beer lineup that’s fermenting in numerous barrels and tanks throughout the cellar. In addition to the flagship beers Greenport Harbor Brewing Company hangs its hat on, there are several small batch beer programs they’re working on at any given time, including a few limited release beers aging in whiskey and local winemaker barrels. “Soundings” is their numbered series that’s hand stamped and named by style. I got to sample the No. 3, a smooth, malty Baltic Porter inspired by a beer Catie had on a recent trip to Philly.
“These programs allow us to try things to see what kind of beer the market might want or to just experiment with making these cool beers,” Catie says.
11:30 AM Just like Jennifer Grey in “Dirty Dancing,” I’m having the time of my life sampling some up-and-coming summer beers and talking inspiration and local collaboration with Catie and head brewer and innovations director Greg Doroski. I ask them what they’re looking for when they sample their creations.
“Well, first if we like it, especially in barrels because it’s not as controlled and can get some really funky flavors,” Catie says. “Sometimes those funky flavors are desirable, and sometimes they’re not.”
Greg chimes in: “I think similar to winemaking, you take various components together. One may have more acidity, one may have more fruitiness. And any one of the components singularly may not work, but when you blend them together and layer them on top of each other, then they work.”
My favorite was a coming-this-summer creation made from two of their base beers seeped in 400 pounds of peaches from Wesnofske Farms that Catie later tells me was a labor of love working until midnight one night to get all the fruit peeled.
“That really is what helped take off this program, to be able to utilize the fruit from around here,” she beams. “And they’re just special and keep us motivated. And people seem to be responding well to them, so we hope to do more and more.”
Where does the inspiration for these blended concoctions come from?
Catie credits lively conversations among the bar staff.
“They’ll let us know what’s working or what they want to see. The seltzers in particular are usually inspired by seasonal things,” she says. “With the one with rhubarb, [bartender] Michael Romeo’s mom grows a bunch of rhubarb at their house, so that’s where the inspiration for that one came from. Making sure everybody feels heard is a really important thing to all of us.”
NOON Catie takes me on the grand tour of the brewery, which she gives Sundays at 1 p.m. for $20 to people who sign up on the website. We start at the prominent signature silo that sits in front of the building and is filled (multiple times a week in summer) with a pilsner malt from Canada that serves as the base grain for most of the beers made in this 30-barrel brewhouse.
We then wind our way past various contraptions in what Catie refers to as the “hot side” of the brewery as she explains the beer making process, until we get to her territory: the cellar, also known as the “cold side.” The vibe is lively as pop tunes blare over worn-out office speakers. We look up together to the tippy top of six gigantic 90-barrel fermenters filled with fan favorites Other Side and Naturally Juiced that almost touch the roof as Catie points to the cherry picker they use to hoist someone up there, along with the 100+ pounds of hops that get dumped in the top.
Catie tells me, “It’s very important with gravity to make sure you kind of hit that right. It is a dangerous step in fermenting and too high up. So I shut down all music and we take that very seriously.”
She draws my attention to the digital board next to the tanks.
“Once the gravities have reached a point where they’re stabilized and they have VDK, we will cold crash the beer. We’ll bring them to 33 degrees to get as much of the yeast and hops and all of that stuff down to the bottom. And for anything but our hazy IPAs, they’ll all come through this centrifuge. It basically spins out all those particulates and sends over the clearest beer we can without having to put chemicals into it. We’re the only brewery that has a centrifuge on the North Fork. Then the oxygen gets removed and it gets canned or put into kegs.
I ask Catie how long the process takes from start to finish, and she tells me it varies, with lagers taking longer than, say, a hazy IPA, which can potentially be finished in just two and a half to three weeks.
12:30 PM We belly up to the bar and I sample their smoked beer, Soundings No. 1 — Smoky Helles — while we talk about how Catie got started in this industry. She tells me she went to college and held various jobs before finding her true calling.
“I kind of want to do all the things, but once I found this place, I knew this was right,” she smiles. “I really found a home here, and every year it gets better. Pretty much everybody you see is local who works here, which is pretty awesome — and our team right now, we say all the time is like the best it’s been for a long time. For me, it’s when the universe brings everything together.”
Catie always liked production and lives close to Paumanok Vineyards, and so about seven years ago she was able to land a job on their bottling line. She then moved over to GHBC when the same job opened up and started doing more and more cellar work, which she says suits her.
“I knew that I wanted to stay in the cellar. The brewhouse itself gets ungodly hot, which is not for me. And there’s so much oversight that needs to happen in the cellar. The temperature is dropped so much and our alcohol levels are so much lower than wine that we have to be so much more sanitary, making sure that no bacteria is introduced, temperatures remain the same, head pressures don’t get too high … There’s kind of that element of controlled chaos, which I do well with.”
1 PM We head to staff lunch, a delectable spread of roasted chicken, salad, coleslaw and French fries made by one of the brewery’s chefs, and continue our conversation about her career.
She lights up when we start talking about the Lady Brewsters of Long Island and their annual beer collaboration event in celebration of Women’s History Month. The organization, which includes women from 10 Long Island breweries, works to highlight the strength and ingenuity of underrepresented groups within the male-dominated craft beer industry.
“This is the fourth year we’ve done it. I was pretty excited to host this year. We did a fruited sour.”
2 PM After lunch, Catie surprises me when she says we’re going to make a cask of beer using some Lemon-Ups Girl Scout cookies and Second Round Knockout, a New England IPA. While I jumped at the opportunity to “make my own beer”, I had no idea that half the work would be cleaning and sanitizing all of the equipment — sometimes twice! She tells me cleaning is probably what she does more than anything else, if you break down the job into tasks. After we crush some cookies and fill and cap the cask, she tells me to name it! I hesitate (my own self-imposed pressure to come up with something clever is palpable) and eventually name our five-gallon masterpiece, “When Life Gives You Lemons,” which seems to go over well.
4 PM Catie’s work day typically ends around 4 p.m., although she admits in the summer high season she might be here until 9 p.m. or later on any given night cleaning, cleaning, cleaning to get ready for the next day. But today is Thursday, which means even though her work in the cellar is done, her role as trivia host is just beginning. Catie and her co-host, brewer Sean Galligan, are a dynamic duo, writing quirky questions that are sure to stump most of the locals who frequent the brewery’s weekly trivia night.
“Sean and I have a lot of fun,” Catie laughs. “People really get into it. I love that this is part of my job!”