The recent opening of Bay Shore's Great South Bay Brewery, along with the ever-growing popularity of Patchogue's Blue Point Brewing Company and Farmingdale's Black Forest Brew Haus, has helped change Long Island's reputation from a premier wine-producing destination to one of the nation's fast-growing hubs for craft breweries.
"Just a few years ago, the hip thing for local college students to do was to tour eastern Long Island's wineries," said Hauppauge resident Crystal Motta, a self-proclaimed beer and wine aficionado. "The tides have turned. Now, Suffolk County is filled with German-style brewpubs, bars that feature dazzling beer gardens, and large craft breweries that offer tours and tasting rooms."
Suffolk County isn't the only Long Island region enjoying a resurgence in beer-tasting popularity, as Nassau County is home to Oceanside's Barrier Brewing Co. and Oyster Bay is slated to open a small craft brewery in May.
Eye-Catching Labels and Unique Flavors
As the craft beer industry enjoys a resurgence in sales nationwide, Long Island's breweries have been at the forefront of the movement. Consumers in modern times seek unique flavors and a hearty variety in their beers, and that is exactly what Long Island brewers are coming to be known for.
At Blue Point Brewery, it's hard to find any traditional flavors offered by the likes of the big three in the beer industry -- Anheuser-Busch, SABMiller, and Carlsberg Group.
Blue Point features eye-catching tie-dye labels to go along with wacky flavors such as RastafaRye Ale, Hoptical Illusion, and Toxic Sludge. Great South Bay Brewery followed suit with some unique creations of their own -- fan favorites like Snaggletooth Stout and Blood Orange Pale Ale leading the way.
It's not just the fancy labels and bizarre beer names that are causing customers to flock to Long Island for its craft beers. Small breweries are showing business savvy and learning how to better build a loyal fan base.
For many local breweries, that means holding beer festivals to draw in the local college crowd from nearby Stony Brook University, Hofstra University, and Adelphi.
Veteran beer aficionados enjoy such festivals much the same as folks in their mid-20s and early 30s. Great South Bay Brewery is set to host its first annual Bay Fest on May 11, where the community can come celebrate Long Island craft beer. Similar events are held throughout the year at Blue Point Brewery, and Nassau Coliseum hosts an annual beer fest that features many of the best breweries from across Long Island.
"Americans purchase billions of gallons of beer annually from generic brands like Budweiser and Coors," Motta added. "Consumers are demanding more variety these days, and that's what draws me to Long Island's craft beer scene."
TIME reports that 6.5 percent of beer bought in the U.S. last year was craft beer, a rise from 5.7 percent in 2011, thanks in part to Long Island's craft brewery scene.
Eric Holden, a lifelong New York resident, is an avid fan of Blue Point beers. Follow him on Twitter @EricHolden.
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