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North Fork Brewing Co. (Photo credit: Nicholas Grasso)

According to the Brewers Association, the United States added more craft breweries to its ever-growing roster, climbing from 9,118 in 2021 to 9,552 in 2022. Over the last 15 years on the East End, we’ve seen that growth fermenting here, too, with spots popping up as far east as Montauk and Greenport, all the way to Riverhead, which has undeniably become the epicenter of the East End’s beer culture.

Whether you pop into one this weekend, or decide to craft a little day-long beer crawl around visits, these spots will offer a unique experience no matter how you pour it. Just remember: drink responsibly and do not drink and drive, friends!

Situated inside the old Riverhead Fire Department building, North Fork Brewing Co. (24 East Second St. Suite A, Riverhead, 631-591-1191) is great for small groups. The brewery opens its large truck bay doors to create a fluid indoor-outdoor space (bonus: Montauk Distilling is right next door), ideal for conversation and with a family-friendly vibe.

Patrons can peek at the tanks in which North Fork brews its beers named after movies and music, such as the sour-style Mango McFly and Careless Crisper lager. Ask co-owner and brewer Peter Barraud or tasting room manager Mariah Fannan, and they’re happy to talk you through the brewing process. They also welcome those who avoid crazed IPAs like the plague.

“I like to call our IPAs — lovingly — beginner IPAs,” Fannan says. “They’re very light for easy drinking, not super bitter. We don’t serve hop bombs.” 

Just a short drive away is another hopping brewery: Übergeek (400 Hallett Ave., Riverhead, 631-381-0848). With its intergalactic decor and easygoing vibe, owner and brewer Rob Raffa created the kind of place he’d like to hang, with ongoing events like Geek Talks, a Thursday lecture series with topics slated for this spring like owls, beekeeping and wildlife photography, or weekend heavy metal karaoke. And while the beer names are downright hilarious (the Existential Meltdown Is a Vibe fruit tart, Rockets Don’t Fuel Themselves pilsner and Morality Has Always Been Subjective East Coast IPA among them) this four-year-old brewery keeps the quality high without taking itself too seriously.

Leaving downtown and heading east on Sound Avenue, beer fans must pull into Jamesport Farm Brewery (5873 Sound Ave., Riverhead, 844-532-2337), an ideal backdrop for outdoor imbibing and vibing. As the name implies, Jamesport Farm Brewery is a 43-acre farm which grows many of the ingredients guests taste in its brews, from the hops to the blackberries and pumpkins for seasonal beers. Throughout the spring, check out Vendor Sundays where treats like homemade cookies, art, dog toys, jewelry and live music abound.

The Branch recently opened in Mattituck. (Photo credit: Nicholas Grasso)

Local brewers know they need each other to create a vibrant craft brewing scene, and new-brewery-on-the-block The Branch (9095 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck, 631-315-2739) embodies this spirit. Their two current offerings — “Pith Happens” grapefruit IPA and a German-style pilsner dubbed “Glückspillen” — are brewed at Übergeek while they finish setting up their on-premise brew system. The rest of their 72 taps are primed with other local brewery offerings. But it’s their atmosphere that sets them apart from other beer spots, with an ambiance more akin to a winery or a boutique event space.

“We’re in wine country, right?” says Larry Frasca, who owns the establishment alongside his brother, Peter. “Wine is elegant and beer has always been considered the common man’s drink. Our goal is to try to elevate beer to the status that I believe it really deserves.”