A Work Place for Home Brewers is On Its Way

By Katarina Delgado and Ronny Reyes

A proposed $1 million in federal funding may contribute to construction costs of New York’s first microbrewery incubator, officials in charge of the project said.

The proposal by New York Senator Charles Schumer came in early March.

There are over 27 microbreweries on Long Island, breweries that are distinct from their larger counterparts in that they typically produce small batches and use local ingredients, Paul Leone, executive director of the NYS Brewers Association, said.

“We’d need a total of $12 million for acquiring the property, demolition, construction and fully equipping the building,” Matthew McDonough said. If the U.S. Economic Development Agency were to agree to give $1 million, it would go to the $6 million needed for construction alone.

Town of Babylon Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is looking to purchase a rundown building in Copiague and tear it down to construct the incubator, which could hold as many as 15 microbrewers at once, Matthew McDonough, chief executive of Babylon IDA, said.

“The incubator would provide a format for local brewers to learn their craft and rent a space that has the equipment and infrastructure to hopefully produce high quality beer,” Leone added.

Finding a place to open up a brewery can be challenging, Paul Dlugokencky, head of the Blind Bat Brewery in Smithtown, said.

“The building itself must be suitable, there needs to be an adequate wastewater solution (be it sewer or septic), zoning can be an issue, and of course one must be able to make a fair deal with a landlord,” Dlugokencky said.

Although costs may vary depending on location and equipment, brewers would need no less than $100,000 to start their own microbrewery business, said Larry Goldstein, co-founder of the Long Island microbrewery Spider Bite.

The Blind Bat Brewery was in talks with the Town of Babylon IDA to use the incubator, but Dlugokencky hopes to find his own space soon.

Although the incubator could increase the number of microbreweries throughout Long Island, there would be no worries over competition as local craft brewing remains a largely collaborative industry, Leone explained.

“We don’t look at each other as competition,” Steve Pominski, founder and head brewer of Barrage Brewing Company in Farmingdale, said. “We look at each other as allies. All of those very large corporate type breweries, those are our competition.”

Pominski has home brewed for 20 years and began his company brewing out of his garage, hence the name of his company. When he decided to go a step further, he took out loans, savings and started a Kickstarter to fund the facility, which didn’t see profits until after the first two years.

Pominski is now a supporter of the incubator and expects it to help bring jobs and create a buzz that will bring people from around the country.

Schumer states in a press release that the Babylon Brewery Incubator Project could help propel the micro-industry both on Long Island and in New York as a whole and provide brewers the opportunity to move their operation out of their garage and into a real brewery.

“We want Long Island to be a destination for people to come and drink beer,” Pominski said.