With Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint taking up so much of the spotlight reserved for locally produced beer, it's easy to overlook the impressive amount of breweries doing really great work just a short train ride east, out on Long Island. They've been getting a good amount of attention lately, though, for a project that came about in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged huge portions of the Island. One of the hardest hit towns was Oceanside, where Barrier Brewing is located.
Started by former Sixpoint employees Evan Klein and Craig Frymarck, the brewery sustained over $100,000 in equipment damages and lost ingredients. As news of their predicament spread, Long Island natives Matt Furman and Niko Krommydas set out to make a mini-documentary to call attention to what had happened. Before long, though, the project turned into something else entirely: eight Long Island breweries teamed up (they each contributed one ingredient) to produce a beer called Surge Protector IPA, half of the proceeds from which will go to benefit Barrier, while the other half will go to Long Island Cares, a charity organization founded in 1980 by the late Harry Chapin. The beer, a crisp, easy-drinking IPA, is set to make its official debut this evening at release parties at five bars across Long Island and NYC. The Brooklyn event is being held at 61 Local starting at 8pm.
On the following pages, we'll look at the the most noteworthy beers from the eight participating breweries.
Bulkhead Red, Barrier Brewing
I suppose it makes sense to start with these guys (kudos to them for chipping in as well; remember, they're not the only ones who stand to benefit from all this). Barrier's known for producing an absurd amount of beers across countless styles, but my favorite of theirs is among their most straightforward. Bulkhead Red is a super citrusy, hop-forward red ale with pleasant hints of caramel providing a nice base. If they ever bite the bullet and decide on a flagship beer, this one would get my vote.
Toxic Sludge, Blue Point Brewery
Undoubtedly the most widely available of all the Long Island breweries, Blue Point is known mostly for its delicious and ubiquitous Toasted Lager, but they've got a more adventurous side as well. Toxic Sludge is a black IPA that has an initial burst of citrus followed by big, robust roasted malts. Also worth noting: the first run of this beer a few years back generated money for the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research organization to benefit the birds that were affected by the BP oil spill.
Hellsmoke Porter, Blind Bat Brewing
From the biggest brewery on this list, and now to the smallest: Blind Bat Brewing is a tiny operation run out of Centerport, Long Island, and specializing in "wood-smoked and other odd rustic ales." For the dark, rich, Hellsmoke Porter, founder Paul Dlugokencky smokes some of the grains over alder and applewood, adding a flavor that sits nicely along side hints of chocolate and coffee.
Boris the Spider, Spider Bite Brewing
I've written about these guys a few times over the years, first for their excellent Eight Legged Rye IPA, and then for their first-ever bottling of their flagship First Bite Pale Ale, but my favorite beer of theirs is a big, boozy imperial stout called Boris the Spider, which clocks in at 10% ABV and boasts a massive flavor profile including everything from smoke and coffee to licorice and chocolate.
Black Friday, Long Ireland Brewery
This one's released in small quantities the day after Thanksgiving, and it's way better than whatever other bullshit you'd be doing that day. An 8.3% Russian Imperial Stout, it's actually really similar to the immensely popular Founders Breakfast Stout, with huge amounts of coffee and chocolate and a nice, substantial alcohol presence.
Port Jeff Porter, Port Jeff Brewing
Having been in operation for just over a year now, Port Jeff Brewing is already putting together an impressive lineup of beers, from their flagship Schooner Ale to their Low Tide Black IPA. Their Port Jeff Porter is a standout as well, a fairly standard interpretation of the style, perked up with a bit of locally made honey. They also do special barrel-aged versions of it from time to time, and those are very much worth seeking out.
Massive IPA, Great South Bay
In a beer world now very much occupied by 10% (and beyond) ABV Imperial IPAs, there's not anything terribly massive about Great South Bay's relatively standard 6.6% Massive IPA, but its perfect balance of sweet malts and piney, citrusy hops make it one of the best IPAs not only in Long Island but in the whole state. Ithaca's Flower Power has its devoted fans, but I'd take this one any day.
Other Side IPA, Greenport Harbor Brewing
Greenport Harbor's maintained a substantial presence over the past few years, with a pretty consistently rotating lineup of beers. Among their most recent releases is the outstanding Other Side IPA which just won a blind IPA taste test at Mug's Ale House a few weeks back. Lots of bright hop presence and a nice lingering bitterness.