North Fork Brewing Company: Newbie Joins the Riverhead Clan February 17, 2019

North Fork Brewing Company:  Newbie Joins the Riverhead Clan

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This was formerly a fire house.

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The Mattitaco truck outside the brewery.

https://www.northforkbrewingco.com/

Just a couple of blocks off Main Street in Riverhead, in a former fire house, we found the newest member of the Riverhead craft beer scene, North Fork Brewing Company, joining Crooked Ladder, Moustache, and Long Ireland.  We went there with our daughter and son-in-law, who are both beer lovers, and our two granddaughters, who sampled the home-made root beer for us.  The junior members of our group rated the root beer as very good, with a nice licorice flavor, not too spicy, and “goes well with a grape lollypop.” IMG_6228

With four of us, we were able to sample all eleven brews currently on tap.  If we had not just had lunch at Perabell (I recommend the thin-crust pizza.), we could have gotten tacos from a Mattitaco truck parked just outside the firehouse doors.  They also sell North Fork potato chips.

The space is medium sized, and subscribes to the frequent brewery esthetic of industrial chic.  I’ve noticed that many wineries evoke the rural scene around them, being housed in former barns or buildings that suggest farm structures, while breweries tend to be more factory-like, using repurposed car dealerships or firehouses or other industrial spaces.  Not sure why that is, and of course it’s not true of them all.

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Note the taps made from re-purposed firehouse lockers.

The very helpful and accommodating server explained to us that a flight consists of any four of their brews for $8.  She handed out little cards on which we wrote down our choices.  The four little glasses were carefully placed in a carrying tray with numbers corresponding to the number on the card of each choice.  She noted that if we had trouble choosing, we could get a sip of the beers before deciding on our flight.  However, with a little coordination, we realized that we could easily try all eleven.  We gave up on a strict order of tastes, and there was no offer to suggest a succession, but we did generally try to go from lighter to heavier.  (We overheard a server note that they carry Bridge Lane red and white blend wines, for those who would prefer not to drink a beer.)

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Overall, we agreed that the beers were interesting and quite varied, though we didn’t like any one enough to take home a growler.  Our son-in-law summed it up by noting that this was a good place to come to try lots of experimental beers, but most were too “in your face” to want a full glass to sip with a meal or on its own.

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We have gotten take-out from Mattitaco several times, and liked every variety we’ve sampled so far.

  1. Sticky Bandit IPA 6.9% ABV (alcohol by volume)

The brewery prides itself on acknowledging its North Fork roots, including literally, in that they have a farm where they grow much of their hops.  This is a fresh, nicely hoppy IPA, with lots of grapefruit flavor.  I could definitely see having this with one of Mattitaco’s fish tacos, like the seared tuna one on offer from the truck.

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  1. Run the Juice IPA 6.1% ABV

This tastes like a joint, said one of us (anonymously).  It does have some vegetal notes, plus the grapefruit one expects in an IPA, in this case more like the pith than the fruit.

  1. Pierce the Ale IPA 6.8% ABV

My daughter likes this the best so far of the IPAs, and said it would be refreshing on a hot day.  I said it was like a better version of a Budweiser beer, easy to drink.  This would also go well with a fish taco.

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  1. South Bend Shovel Slayer IPA 6.8% ABV

Some day I’ll have to come back and stand at the bar for my tastes so I can ask how they came up with some of these names.  This is a piney rather than a grapefruity IPA, and my daughter liked this one as well.

  1. Basement Pipe Belgian Dubbel 8.2% ABV

When we were in Belgium, I became very fond of the dubbel style of beer, which tends to be rich, with caramel and raisin flavors.  I also like Raisin Bran cereal, which the taste of this reminded me of.  Very good and refreshing.  If I were to get a glass of a North Fork beer, this would be one contestant.

  1. Take for Ever Sour 6.2% ABV

On the other hand, if I were given a glass of this, I would say thanks but no thanks.  This is a dark, heavy sour beer, brewed with cherries, and tastes both sour and sweet. Last fall, I went to a brewery upstate that specialized in sour beers, and I never dumped so many tastes before.  I say bleh, but, in a perfect illustration of how subjective and individual taste is, this is my son-in-law’s favorite.

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  1. Hop Contagion Imperial 8.25% ABV

Contagion indeed.  This is very hoppy, and more bitter than I like, though balanced with some creaminess.

  1. Dark Side of Maple Porter 6% ABV

My daughter and I both like this one, which reminds me of the glasses of bitter I have had in many English pubs.  It is a bit on the light side for a porter.  My daughter says she could see enjoying this with a serving of Shepherd’s pie, and I agree.  Or maybe with the Mattitaco Ruben taco, made with corned beef.

  1. Bill’s Hyper Local Forecast 5.9% ABV

I didn’t ask about this name, but I assume it refers to News 12’s tag line (this cable-company-sponsored channel specializes in Long Island news, traffic, and weather).  The brewery characterizes this as a “winter warmer,” and it evokes a pumpkin ale, with tastes of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  A bit too much cinnamon, though not bad in a small dose.

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They kept the firehouse doors, though you enter through a small door on the side. I wonder if they open these in the summer.

  1. Dough’nt Stout Me Now  Imperial Milk Stout 9.3%

I knew right away that I had to try this one, as it is made “in collaboration with North Fork Doughnut Company,” one of my favorite new businesses in Mattituck.  I also tend to like stouts.  This has rich chocolate tastes, and though my son-in-law characterizes it as “too sweet for a pint,” I wouldn’t mind sipping it in a pub, perhaps with an order of chips (a.k.a. French fries).  We are so inspired by our discussion of the North Fork Doughnut Company that our guests stop there on the way home to pick up some doughnuts for breakfast the next day.  One granddaughter, a Girl Scout, is delighted to get a Samoa doughnut, and the other is pleased to have snagged “the last chocolate doughnut!” Alas, they were out of the maple-glazed bacon flavor.

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A Samoa doughnut from the North Fork Doughnut Company. Yum.

  1. Iron Pier Porter 5.4% ABV

My husband and I just recently drove over to Iron Pier beach, on the Sound, within the bounds of Riverhead (so our Southold parking stickers are not valid there), and thought it seemed very nice, with a good-sized parking lot and a little playground.  This porter is made with coconut milk, and though I often like porters, this was not a favorite.  It has a slight metallic taste, which I likened to licking metal, perhaps the source of the name.

Reasons to visit:  you’re making the rounds of the Riverhead breweries; you like to try a wide variety of styles and experimental tastes of beer; the Mattitaco truck; the Pierce the Ale, Basement Pipe, Dark Side of Maple, and Dough’nt Stout Me Now (though, for some people the choices might be quite different!); a pleasant place with generous pours.

Moustache Brewing Company: October and Fest October 20, 2018

http://www.moustachebrewing.com/home

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We liked the coasters.

Riverhead has become something of a mecca for craft beer, with at least five brewing companies as I write this:  Crooked Ladder, Long Beard, Long Ireland, North Fork, and the subject of today’s blog, Moustache Brewing Company.  I haven’t been to Long Beard and North Fork yet, and it’s been awhile since I’ve been to the others.  Part of the problem is that they tend to keep limited hours, opening late in the afternoon and not opening during the week.

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Many of the breweries have limited hours during the week.

However, in the spirit of Oktoberfest, we decided to brave the crowds of cars headed east on this partly sunny Saturday and check out Moustache, which we hadn’t visited since January 2016.  Then, the tasting room was an alcove between huge tanks of brewing beer, with a short bar and limited table space.  Now they have opened an actual tasting room, with a long bar and communal tables, located on the same hard-to-find industrial back street of Riverhead.  Thank goodness for Google maps, or we’d still be wandering around.

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That is the rather nondescript entrance to the tasting room on a nondescript back street in Riverhead.

We were quickly greeted by one of the two bearded men behind the bar (there’s also a woman, who does not have a beard), prompting me to ask if a moustache was a prerequisite for employment.  Nope.  He cheerily informed us that a tasting consisted of four five-ounce pours, took and held our credit card, and gave us two blue tickets for our second round of drinks.  What was this tasting going to cost us?  There was nary a sign.  What would a glass or growler cost?  No idea.  They should post a price list.  At the end our bill was $9.01 for our shared tasting.  Why the one cent?  With some embarrassment he confessed that they had tried to make the price something that would include tax and come out even, and had miscalculated.

Meanwhile, we studied the menu, trying to decide what to get, and looked around the fairly full room.  It was quite noisy.  As we left we noted a limo and a multi-cycle waiting outside, so maybe part of the noise was because we had happened on two parties.  By the way, they allow dogs, children, and outside food.  According to the website they sell North Fork potato chips, but I saw nothing about that at the bar.

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Beards are not required, but it seemed as though they were.

Our server told us that their signature beers were the porter and the brown ale, so we decided to start with those.  There was no indication, either in print or from our server, in what order to drink the beers, even when we asked.

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The Everyman’s Porter and the Milk & Honey brown ale.

  1. Everyman’s Porter         4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume)

This dark brown quaff has a lovely aroma of grains.  It is light for a porter and easy to drink, with a pleasant bitterness but no depth.  I could see sipping this in a pub along with an order of steak and kidney pie, hold the kidneys.

  1. Milk & Honey 6%

A slightly lighter brown than the porter, this tastes quite different.  It has a faintly vegetal aroma and the taste has a touch of sweetness and what my husband describes as “cold metallic.”  Nice carbonation.  This would be fine to drink on its own, or with a hot dog with spicy mustard.

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  1. Sailor Mouth 6.5%

There are several IPAs on the menu, so we asked for descriptions of them.  I tend not to like extremely hoppy IPAs, thus we settled on this one.  As I recall, two years ago when we asked for the origin of the name, Lauri Spitz, the co-owner with her husband Matthew, told us that it was named for her and her, shall we say, command of the language.  In any case, this is a good summer beer.  It smells of Christmas trees and citrus, and the taste is also somewhat piney and not very fruity, though we also detect tastes of pineapple and grapefruit.  It’s not really a beer you’d want to sip on its own, but it would go great with barbequed pulled pork.

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Note the structure of the bar: There is a raised lip a few inches in from the edge, which, we speculated, might lead to spilled beer with some regularity.

  1. Slow Claps 4.3%

Again, there were a couple of pale ales on the menu, so we asked for help in choosing this one.  It is the closest to a regular American beer, the type you might drink while eating nachos and watching the Stupor Bowl (as I call it—I watch it for the commercials).  It is pleasant and light, but not memorable.  We had brought a growler with us in case we wanted to take anything home, but left it in the car.  No need to retrieve it.

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As we left we noted a limo and a multi-cycle, which probably accounted for the noisy groups inside. Groups need a reservation, by the way.

Reasons to visit:  you like craft beers and are not afraid to navigate the back streets of Riverhead; all the beers are definitely easy to drink and pleasant, but, at least based on what we tried, we prefer Greenport Harbor.

Crooked Ladder: A Straight Deal 8/16/14

http://crookedladderbrewing.com/

The Crooked Ladder Brewery is part of the scene on Main Street in Riverhead.

The Crooked Ladder Brewery is part of the scene on Main Street in Riverhead.

Eight tastes for $9.00—and by tastes they mean about a quarter of a glass—of freshly made craft beer (plus you get to keep the glass) qualifies as a good deal in my book.  We shared one tasting, and felt we’d had plenty to drink.  Downtown Riverhead is working hard at revitalization, with lots of interesting restaurant options, the New Suffolk Theater for live performances, and increasing numbers of formerly empty storefronts being filled, and part of that is the home of Crooked Ladder.   Located in a storefront on Main Street, the brewery has an attractively designed small tasting bar with stools in the front and a view of the beer making equipment in the back.  You may be able to find street parking, but if not, there are free lots behind the stores on both sides of the street.

When we entered we were given a menu of tastes which had information about each beer, which was fortunate as the server’s spiel was limited to, “Here’s the Kolsch.” The information included the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and IBU (International Bittering Units) for each beer, which I’ve included in case this interests you.  Though the IBU measures the bitterness contributed by the hops, it doesn’t actually tell you how bitter the beer might taste, since the taste is a function of the balance among the various ingredients.  In addition to the tastes, you can also buy growlers, $20 for 64 ounces or $15 for 32 ounces, with a discount if you bring back the bottle for a refill.  At the bar with us were a large group of talkative guys who asked that the TV be tuned to ESPN and a pair of women quietly doing a tasting.

The brewing equipment

The brewing equipment

  1. Kolsch  6% ABV, 32 IBU

This is described on the menu as a German Ale, and it is a mild, fairly light beer, which would be fine on a hot day after working in the garden.  We felt it was pretty tasteless, a good choice for someone who doesn’t really like beer.  “Better than Coors Light, I suppose,” I said.

Summeritis seems like something one would enjoy catching.

Summeritis seems like something one would enjoy catching.

  1. Summeritis 5% ABV, 21 IBU

Summeritis is a fitting name for another fairly light-tasting beer made with “Crystal hops.”  It has a somewhat citrus/orange aroma and pleasant bitterness.

  1. Peach Wheat 5% ABV, 22 IBU

Another self-explanatory name—a wheat beer brewed with the addition of 40 pounds of peaches to each batch.  I don’t usually care for wheat beers, but this one is a pleasant drink, and also good to serve people who think they don’t like beer.  Slightly cloudy in the glass, it has a bit of peach smell and taste.  I could imagine sipping it while resting in a hammock on a hot summer day.

Note the faint cloudiness of the Peach Wheat--and also the generous serving!

Note the faint cloudiness of the Peach Wheat–and also the generous serving!

  1. Gypsy Red 5% ABV, 28 IBU

So this name begged for an explanation, which was forthcoming from our server.  “It’s our flagship beer, “she told us, “the first one we made.  At the time we had no permanent home, and were roaming around, doing brewing in one place, bottling in another, tasting somewhere else.”  Hence Gypsy.  This is my favorite so far, a tasty ale with a reddish color, an aroma of spice and cocoa powder, and a good caramel flavor that would go well with burgers.

5.  Scottish Ale 6% ABV, 13 IBU                                                                                                           Scottish style ale (duh), this is a dark beer with an almost meaty smell and smoky taste that would complement barbeque really well.   It’s about this point that we notice that the server is rinsing our glass after every taste, using a neat device next to the taps that delivers a quick fountain of water to the inverted glass.

6.  Four Day Weekend APA 2% ABV  40 IBU

Why Four Day Weekend?  No idea, said the server.  This is described as an American Pale Ale, using Warrior, Simcoe, and Citra hops—and it is hoppy.  Now this one I really like.  I think it would be good with almost anything.  The aroma is somewhat flinty—wet iron I say—with an unusual and complex flavor.

  1. 70 West IPA 6% ABV  70 IBU

Since the brewery is located at 70 West Main Street, the genesis of this name is fairly evident.  The notes inform us that four different varieties of hops go into this beer, plus some dry hops for another element.  Good balance of bitterness and flavor, this is another beer I could see buying.  Certainly we like it better than any beers at Long Ireland Brewery.

I tend to prefer dark beers, like this porter.

I tend to prefer dark beers, like this porter.

  1. Ponquogue Porter 6% ABV  35 IBU

Named for a bridge that spans Shinnecock Bay, this porter transports us to an English pub.  If you like a dark beer, this is the one for you, with its tastes of somewhat sugary coffee balancing the bitterness of the hops.  Though I prefer Greenport Harbor’s Black Duck Porter, this one is also quite good.

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Reasons to visit you like craft beer; you’re interested in walking around Riverhead to see the progress that has been made in its revitalization; you have some time to kill before dinner or after lunch at one of Riverhead’s restaurants (We’re especially fond of the bison dishes at Tweed’s.) or after a visit to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday; the Gypsy Red, Four Day Weekend APA, 70 West IPA, and Ponquogue Porter.  Note that during the week they may be closed or may not open until 3 PM, so check the hours before you go.

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Long Ireland Beer Company November 2, 2013

http://www.longirelandbrewing.com/

beer sign

If you are heading to the North Fork hoping to make a stop at a brewery, I recommend you drive all the way to Greenport and go to the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company.  Bypass the Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead unless saving the cost of gas is your primary consideration.  Why?  Let me tell you about my experience at Long Ireland on a warm, sunny November Saturday afternoon.

We found the plain, industrial-style building on Pulaski Street fairly easily (you can just turn onto Pulaski from Main Road), and walked into the equally plain tasting room, packed with mostly twenty-somethings enjoying their beers.  If you just want a lot of beer for not much money, Long Ireland is a bargain.  For $8.00 you get a glass, which you may keep, which holds 3.5 ounces of beer, and you get to try six of their beers on tap.  A bowl of pretzels graces the bar.  They also offer pints for $5.00 and growlers for $15, for most of the offerings, as well as bottles for a few of the beers for $6.

When we finally got the attention of the server—to be fair, there were a fair number of people for two servers to keep up with—we told her we wanted to do a tasting.  “Okay,” she said, plunking two glasses down in front of us.  “How does it work?”  I asked.  “Is there any order to the tastes?”

“No order, “she said. “Just tell me what you want.”

“What can you tell me about the beers?”  I asked, in a vain attempt to figure out which to get.  For an answer, she pointed me to a list of available beers, eleven in all, with the only information on the sheet being the alcoholic content.  I overheard one customer saying to her friend, “Which has the most alcohol?”  Not really my concern.  So we decided in order to get to try all the types we would each get a full tasting, sharing tastes as we went.  Then two choices were deleted.  So we ended up with ten tastes in all, plus one repeat for both of us. At no time did either server tell us anything about the wide variety of beers on offer.

1)       Celtic Ale                           5.5% alcohol

This is a fairly classic ale, not very exciting, not particularly hoppy or interesting, but an okay basic beer.  By the way, in case you haven’t noticed already, there is a definite Irish theme, with Celtic symbols on the taps.

2)      Winter Ale                         7.2%

I don’t know why this is a “winter” ale, but it has a slightly darker color than the Celtic Ale and some citrus notes, though it is a thin-tasting beer.  Both of these are available in bottles.

3)      Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Not on the menu, this one is only available in bottles, and the server opened a bottle and then gave everyone in the room a small taste of it.  We thought it was a good summer beer, very fresh tasting.

beer bottle

4)      Kolsch                   5%

The taste of this one reminded me of the very ripe grilled pineapple we made for dessert a few weeks ago.  Not very hoppy, it is on the light side of a German-style beer.

5)      Pumpkin Ale                      5%

Inevitable at this season.  Did I want it with a cinnamon sugar rim?  Oh, yes.  Good choice.  The beer itself is just okay, but with the rim it is quite enjoyable.  Like drinking dessert.

The special glass for the pumpkin ale, with a cinnamon sugar rim, which is not the tasting glass.

The special glass for the pumpkin ale, with a cinnamon sugar rim, which is not the tasting glass.

6)      10 Nutty Years                  5%

Do you like Corona?  This has a bit more taste than Corona, but still could have benefitted from a lime.  I wanted to ask about the name, but gave up getting the server’s attention.

7)      E.S.B.                                     6.5%

Though the initials stand for Extra Special Bitter, this is not particularly bitter.  It is like an English bitter, which we came to enjoy on our first visit to England during a warm summer week, when we realized that the bitters tended to be cooler than the other beers on tap.  You can taste the hops in this one, and also a slight wheaty-pancakey flavor.

8)      I.P.A.                                     7.3%

We seem to have reached the initials part of the menu.  India Pale Ale is what these initials stand for, and it is my favorite so far.  On the blackboard it ways “West Coast Style,” but no one tells me what that means.  I’d be happy to drink this with a burger.  This one is also available in a bottle.

9)      Double IPA                         10.5%

Hmmm…sort of funky, a bit of dank cellar, but actually not bad.  It would be good with a sweetish barbecue sauce on ribs.  If you buy this one in a bottle or growler, it costs more than the others.

10)   Breakfast Stout                 3.5%

Back before coffee became the universal breakfast drink, people started the day with some form of alcoholic drink, usually beer or hard cider, both more reliably germ-free than water.  I would guess this is an homage to that custom.  I’m startled by the strong coffee taste, and when I go on Long Ireland’s web site I discover that it is actually made with coffee—and also flaked oats and milk sugar.  Breakfast, indeed.  You could have a pint of this in a cozy pub and enjoy drinking it on its own, though it is certainly no competition for Guinness.

If you’re counting, you realize we should have two more tastes here, but two choices have been taken off the board, so we both opt to end with the Pumpkin Ale, which is at least fun to drink.  Oh, and the servers do rinse your glass with the new taste as a transition between beers, a nice touch.

beer taps

Reasons to visit:

Really none, unless you are determined to go to a beer tasting and you don’t have to time to go to Greenport.  On the other hand, you do get a fair amount of beer for not much money.