By Kevin Rate & Lindsay Andarakis
Craft beer breweries are thriving on Long Island. Beer lovers are buying locally brewed beers more frequently than ever at popular restaurants, as a brewing culture develops.
“There’s been a major increase in beer culture, I would point it to things like the amount of craft beer festivals, locally, regionally and nationally,” Dr. Nathaniel G. Chapman, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Arkansas Tech University, said.
“I think [beer culture in the U.S.] has been growing since the late 60’s, early 70s, with homebrewing,” Chapman said. “Homebrewing offered a way for people to experiment and most importantly meet others who are interested in craft beer.”
Homebrewers showcase their products at beer festivals to enthusiasts and connoisseurs.
“Beer festivals have absolutely exploded in the last couple of years, and everyone is trying to make a dime off of them,” Max Ocean, salesperson at Ithaca Beer Company, said. “Until recently, there was an expectation that brewers would donate their beer.”
There were 1.2 million homebrewers in the U.S., with 17% of them brewing in the Northeastern U.S., according to the American Homebrewers Association in 2013.
“This is the renaissance of craft beer and Long Island is a thriving epicenter on the East Coast with new breweries opening every year,” Sophia Del Gigante, writer for nyfoodgasm.com and Edible Long Island, said. “In fact, one of the reasons Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased Bluepoint Brewery was because of the how passionate and loyal the local craft beer population is.”
Last year, Bud Light still sold the most of any beer in the country, according to statista.com. In 2014, the company that produces Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought one of the most popular craft beer breweries on Long Island, Blue Point Brewery.
“We have major restaurant chains like Applebee’s or Chili’s who have rebranded their bar menu to sort of feature craft beer,” Chapman said. “We can’t really ignore the impact that it’s having.”
“Instead of people going in and ordering a bud light, they’re now ordering a Founders, or they’re ordering Lagunitas, or something along those lines, which I guess it helps the little guy.” Jason Weingarten, owner and brewer at The Brewers Collective, said.
While craft beer has become more prominent on Long Island, it started out as homebrewing, where people would make beer in their homes in small batches. There are groups that still get together and discuss homebrew on Long Island and different products to make.
“Homebrewing is very popular on long island, there are at least four homebrew clubs, that I’m aware of,” Del Gigante said. “They’re all very active and all of them are filled with people that love beer more than anyone else you’ll meet. Some brewery owners got their start in these groups.”
People are making the move to supporting local businesses as opposed to large chains. With the amount of local craft breweries releasing products in neighborhoods across the Island, it has become much more accessible.
“I think it’s not just Long Island, I think it’s all across the Country. People are trying to get back to the small shops,” Weingarten said. “You’re proud to buy something on Main Street, you’re proud to buy it, it’s a mile from your house, you’re looking to help people out.”