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North Fork breweries such as Riverhead’s übergeek Brewing Company have become communal hubs that go beyond the pint. (Photo credit: Jeremy Garretson)

One evening, David Taylor, an assistant professor of sustainability studies at Stony Brook University, was giving a PowerPoint presentation of his kayak trip circumnavigating Long Island. The twist? He wasn’t in his campus classroom, but at Riverhead’s übergeek Brewing Company, delivering one of their signature Geek Talks, and his audience wasn’t filled with students taking notes but rather locals of all ages taking sips of cold brews with names like Space Age Times Stone Age Minds, Cabin Fever and A Casualty of Circumstance. 

Meanwhile, at other breweries dotting the North Fork, patrons are wracking their brains in trivia competitions, singing at open mic nights, laughing at comedy sessions, dressing up for theme parties and movie nights, shopping and donating at fundraisers, stretching in yoga classes, flirting at singles nights, having their hearts melted at puppy adoptions, and so much more. 

People have been grabbing communal beers with friends — old and new — literally for millennia, and the word “pub” was adapted from age-old British drinking establishments called “public houses.” But lately, the North Fork’s breweries have ramped up efforts to connect customers.


Lizbeth and Cory Scott, both 40, moved from the Jersey Shore to Riverhead about five years ago, knowing few people on the North Fork outside extended family members in the area. They began popping into nearby brewery events to meet some people and now have a “little brew family” on speed dial.

The Scotts are particularly fond of North Fork Brewing Company and its Vinyl Sundays, where patrons bring their own albums to spin a few songs on the record player. “Everyone just starts talking and comparing albums,” Lizbeth said. “I was wearing a Wu-Tang Clan shirt and this guy had a Wu-Tang Clan album in his hand and now we’re friends.” The Scotts have since become members at NFBC — breweries, like wineries, offer members-only events plus discounts on pours or merchandise — making sure to act fast before renewals sell out. 

“We call it home base, because it’s really where we’ve met so many people that have become like family,” Lizbeth said of NFBC, and the breweries in general. “We weren’t even drinking but we’d still pop in because it would feel weird if we didn’t see them!”

Trivia nights have become another popular event where patrons flex their knowledge and have fun. Plus, a person can just as easily walk in with a ready-made team of friends as they can stroll in solo and partner up with others looking for a team addition. “Every person has the topic they’re good at, so it’s good to have a group,” said Riverhead local Steven Winkler, 61, who’s been frequenting Peconic County Brewing “since the day it opened” and counts staff as well as other patrons as friends. “I’m good on general and obscure knowledge, but I have friends that are better at sports and music.” Answers are tallied via score sheets and winners receive gift certificates to the brewery. (Winkler favors Peconic County’s Old House Proud Ale and Colonial Amber.)


The breweries have made connecting with local talent a major passion. Live professional music, open mics and comedy nights all add a great layer — or alternative — to drinking. 

“We have live music every Saturday and Sunday night with amazing local or out-of-state bands for just a five-dollar cover charge,” says Anthony Caggiano, who owns Jamesport Farm Brewery with his wife, Melissa. But while known for its powerful music roster, the brewery is branching out its events. “We’re going to start doing a Friday Night Special, which can be anything from karaoke to a Mambo Loco [Latin] dance night to meet-and-greet singles night,” he said. 

Having a close-knit community also means enthusiastic engagement at dress-up events, like Jamesport Farm Brewery’s Rocky Horror Picture Show outdoor movie night. “My youngest son who runs the brewery dressed up as Frank-N-Furter last year and it was hilarious,” said Caggiano. “I followed him around in the dark with a spotlight when that part of the movie came on, and everyone just went crazy.” 

At North Fork Brewing Co.’s annual Ugly Sweater Members Holiday Party, Lizbeth Scott and her friends ensure everyone gets into the spirit. “There’s usually more men than women who are members,” she said. “But we make sure the guys aren’t lame and also dress up for it!”


The North Fork is proud of its highly engaged audiences eager to learn about East End issues. “Some of the Geek Talks we’ve done in the past have been with South Fork Shark Research or The Sport of Falconry, which we do in conjunction with Fish Guy,” said Jeanne Smith, übergeek’s tasting room manager. “We’ve done talks on bees and ticks, too.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program — which collaborated on a kelp beer when Greenport Harbor Brewing Company opened its Peconic location — is actively involved with the breweries, from talks to environmental fundraisers.

“It was a way to get people excited about the prospect of kelp aquaculture,” said Kimberly Barbour, Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program’s Back to the Bays, which has held events such as Hops for Habitat Art + Awareness Event at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s Greenport location, selling local art focused on the marine environment, like eelgrass meadows and all the species who rely on the bay habitat. 

“For me it doesn’t get much better than enjoying a delicious craft beer while talking about oysters or eelgrass and encouraging people to get involved in our efforts,” said Barbour. “Any time you create a fun and positive environment for conversation, good things tend to happen.” 

Greenport Harbor has also organized beach cleanups with the Surfrider Foundation at 67 Steps Beach in Greenport, for example, inviting volunteers back to the brewery for a free beer afterward. “We collected four tons of trash that day,” says Richard Vandenburgh, the brewery’s co-owner. “Our team takes pride in creating awareness of critical issues facing our oceans by participating and contributing to beach cleanups, and we focus on local businesses, kids and local environmental issues like bays, waterways and farms.” 

Breweries also host shopping and fundraising events to support local businesses and causes, be it a Mother’s Day Bazaar with local businesses setting up tables to sell merchandise, a bingo night benefiting middle and high schools or toy and clothing drives for local missions.

“Talking about community-building, and this seems like eons ago, but we’re incredibly proud of the fact that when COVID-19 shut us down, we converted the brewery into a workspace, and the community came together to assemble 8,000 face shields for hospitals and nursing homes,” said Vandenburgh. 


With so many breweries being dog-friendly, it’s not surprising that animal welfare, pet fostering and adoption events have gained prominence. Greenport Harbor, which has brewed Adoption Series beer in the past, continually sponsors the annual North Fork Dog Dock Diving Event and Fundraiser. 

North Fork Brewing Company hosts Canine Companions, a group that helps train puppies into service and therapy dogs. “We host an annual event where they bring some of their graduate dogs and some in the training program, and we donate $1 of every beer poured to the organization,” says Mariah Fannan, tasting room and sales manager. “Our next adoption event with Southampton Animal Shelter will be on Aug. 26. It will be a Puppy Pool Pawty and we will have kiddie pools set up on the patio for the puppies to splash around and cool off!”


Breweries are also active in the wellness space, sponsoring running events and races, as well as indoor and outdoor yoga events. Peconic County Brewing, for example, recently added a vinyasa yoga class for all levels, with $5 pints for participants. 

But is beer the best thing to drink after a long race or stretch? “Well,” laughs Winkler, a longtime runner and frequent race participant. “You do have to rehydrate!” 

For the most up-to-date information on local brewery events, check their websites, Facebook and Instagram pages.