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Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.. (Credit: David Benthal)

It’s hard to imagine that Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. is celebrating its 15th anniversary — the craft brewery, led by Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey and featuring a duo of tasting rooms in Peconic and Greenport, feels like it’s been around forever.

Take the first T-shirt they ever made for sale in their first tasting room; today, it’s kind of become a craft beer collector’s item — and perhaps a bit of a crystal ball to their then-future. “One of the first T-shirts we had was ‘Making quality beer since yesterday,’” says Liegey. “And boom, 15 years go by.”

Liegey and Vandenburgh met in college and have been best friends ever since. On July 12, 2009, the partners — Liegey an advertising expert and Vandenburgh an attorney — opened their passion project, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., in the old firehouse on Carpenter Street in Greenport. The launch was so successful that the two old friends were eventually able to pursue the business full-time.

But even though they knew they had a hit on their hands, they didn’t have the benefit of any prior brewing experience. The early years, Liegey says, proved the steepest learning curve.

John Liegey and Rich Vandenburgh in 2015. (Credit: Pauk Squire)

“We used to keep two separate phone [lines] in our early conversations when we were planning out the brewery, because we really did not have the answers to half the questions we were being asked,” Liegey recalls. “So we would go to our cell phones and say, ‘what are they asking for exactly,’ and discuss it, and then return to the phone call and say, ‘Well, what do you think we should do?’”

Vandenburgh notes that while they both appreciated and respected quality brewing, they knew they had to enlist some experienced talent.

“We knew that we had to secure quality people, starting with DJ Swanson, our first brewer,” Vandenburgh says. “But everything else — if the toilet was clogged or if something had to be rebuilt … we were doing that early on.”

The first year of business was huge for Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. Within the first two months, Liegey says that “every major distributor from New York City came out to meet with us … it was the buzz of what was happening that got us there. Within eight months we were in New York City in Whole Foods. It was pretty quick, awesome growth early on.”

Vandenburgh and Liegey say they knew the business was really going to succeed long-term when they acquired the Peconic location in a former car dealership, which opened in 2014. 

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company co-owners John Liegy (left) and Rich Vandenburgh guide one of the tanks out of the delivery truck at the Peconic location in 2014. (Photo credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

But it wasn’t an easy launch and the process included being rejected for financing, which proved difficult for the company. The Peconic building was opened, in part, thanks to private fundraising. 

“Once we removed the banks as a barrier and pushed through it, we [got over] the wall … People were very supportive,” recalls Vandenburgh. “At that point, it was like, okay, this is no longer a 1,200-square-foot firehouse, this is now a much bigger enterprise.”

The risks all paid off. The Peconic tasting room, a 13,000-square-foot complex on Main Road, has become the group’s flagship location, with beers on tap, cases and cans available for purchase and even a full restaurant. 

Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. in Peconic. (Photo credit: David Benthal)

During the 15-year journey of Greenport Harbor Brewing, the craft brewing industry has certainly changed.

“We started with 120 breweries in New York State,” Vandenburgh says. “Now there’s 532 and over 10,000 nationwide.”

Thankfully, getting on the craft brewery train early has made Greenport Harbor Brewing a very successful and respected brand that is now known all over the country. 

After 15 years, they aren’t resting on their good laurels. The company still looks to foster new talent.

Current brewer, Sean Galligan, didn’t initially pursue a life in beer. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Stony Brook University and intending to pursue a career as a pharmacist, he discovered home brewing. He started working for Greenport Harbor Brewing in 2022 and is now the head brewer in charge of quality control.

“We have a crazy good staff. At this point we’re two old guys and we have a lot of people that know what they’re doing. We’re looking to be in lawn chairs drinking a beer in the field. That’s probably our next 15 years,” Liegey laughs.

The beer and the crop in the Greenport brewery. (Photo credit: Grant Parpan)

“It was really fun. I was making beer in my garage and sharing it with my friends. And I was like, ‘Hmm … would I be crazy enough to see if the brewery down the street is willing to hire a home brewer looking to go professional with a scientific background?'”Galligan says. “The answer was ‘yes’ and it’s been super-rewarding ever since.” 

One goal for both Vandenburgh and Liegey was to keep it fun for both of them. 

“I’ve always said that once it becomes no fun anymore, it’s time to move on,” Vandenburgh says. “But at the heart of it, John and I enjoy socializing with other people, offering a space for people that’s fun and inviting and optimistic and introducing people [who] may not otherwise have understood what good craft beer should taste like.”

“The payoff is that you drink a beer and it’s freaking awesome, and you’re feeling good about it,” adds Liegey. “Your brand should feel all of that. Rich and I try to live that mantra of, ‘If we’re not having fun, why are we doing this?’”

And now, it’s time to raise a glass and celebrate.

John Liegey and Rich Vandenburgh of Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. in 2014 (Credit: Vera Chinese)

On Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a two-day party at both its Peconic and Greenport tasting rooms. At the Greenport Firehouse (234 Carpenter St.), artist Kate Mancini will showcase her art in the upstairs room from 4–7 p.m. while Port Side Hustle performs downstairs from 5–8 p.m. 

Then, on Saturday, July 13, the Peconic tasting room (42155 Main Road) will host a huge celebration from noon on, with more live music, artwork from Mancini, jewelry on sale from Joanne Stoecker, body art by Stay Salted and more, including oysters from Little Ram.

As for the beer, expect a staggering 15 new releases at the Peconic party, ranging from entirely new brews to special variations and small batch experiments.

“We want to thank the community and everyone that supported us,” says Vandenburgh. “We very much appreciate everyone that’s helped us along the way.”

Visit for more information on the special 15th anniversary celebration.