Long Island locals help spread Craft Beer trend

“It’s the trickledown effect like with anything great.  It’s like a virus it’s just going to get out there “said Marc Raguso Specialty Division Supervisor for Manhattan Beer Distributors.

Long Island is seeing its newest trend since the introduction of the Ugg boot.  Not to worry, you won’t have to race to the mall to get a jump on this trend but just stop in your local bar and pub.  The surge of craft beers has taken Long Island by storm and now you will notice some interesting tap handles catching your eye at your favorite bar.

Craft Beer Taps

All over Long Island new restaurants and bars are popping up that have adapted craft beers into their concept to set them aside from the traditional pub and grub.  Restaurants and bars such as The Good Life in Massapequa, The Republic in Farmingdale, The Lark in Northport, Effin Gruven in Bellmore and the Croxley Ale House chains in Rockville Centre, Franklin Square and Farmingdale are just a few of the local spots that pride themselves on carrying craft and imported beers.

According to Lynda Calimano, Vice President of Marketing and Media for Starfish Junction Productions (Craft and International Beer Event Production Company) the spark of the trend comes from the loyalty of the local consumers right here on Long Island.

“I think that the movement started with the launch of Blue Point and I think that people got behind them because they were two local guys giving back to the community.  That has helped feed an interest so now people are ready to do some exploring and try other brewers,” said Calimano of Starfish Junction Productions.

Nassau Coliseum Spring Craft Beer Festival 2010

Nassau Coliseum Spring Craft Beer Festival 2010

Listen to WRHU’s Jeff Herman’s report on the International Great Beer Expo at Nassau Coliseum here:
WRHU’s Jeff Herman – Beer Expo Report by jtsantucci

The spark of curiosity has spread like wild fire on Long Island and it’s catching on at local bars, restaurants and beer distributors.  Although not everyone is guaranteed to walk into bar and choose a mysterious tap handle over their favorite Bud Light or Miller, but the craft beer business is offering many promotions in an attempt to make that happen.

Restaurants and Bars like The Lark in Northport have started using Beer Dinners to help spread the knowledge and popularity of craft beers.  Attending a beer dinner not only gives a customer a chance to try several different beers but it also gives them a one on one with the brewers.  Greg Martin, co-owner of the Long Ireland Beer Company recently held a Beer Dinner at The Lark that served for a great turn out and great food.

“The beer dinners are a great event, I’m the type of person where I order the same dinners everywhere I go but for whatever reason if you give me a five or six course dinner with food I’ve never eaten before paired with five or six beers I’ve never had I’ll try anything.  And they did a really great job with the pairing of the beers; the food at The Lark is phenomenal” said Martin.

The Lark Beer Dinner Menu

The Lark Beer Dinner Menu

For those who aren’t daring enough to order a new pint or eat a whole beer paired dinner not to worry, the craft beer industry has opened its doors to hosting local festivals on Long Island in order to promote local brewers and offer tastings.

Craft Beer Festivals are another promotional spark in the craft beer trend.  Nassau Coliseum is hosting its fifth annual Spring Craft Beer Festival on Saturday March 26th.  Starfish Junction Productions has been sponsoring the event for five years and Lynda Calimano thinks it’s a great tool for exposure.

“By consumers coming to these festivals and tasting these beers they feed into the delis, the restaurants and beer stores, they’ll go into a store and request it or buy it.  At the end 90% of people who come plan on making a purchase of a beer they tried at a festival, festivals are really helping the community economy,” said Calimano.

The craft beer festivals invite between 50 and 75­­ local and neighboring state brewers.  Customers are given a six ounce beer cup with their ticket and welcome to browse and sample as many beers as possible.  The festivals are divided into afternoon and evening sessions allowing for ample education and promotion.

“They afternoon session is mostly restaurant tours and bar owners and beer connoisseur,
and night time is the young crowd and twice the attendance in the evening.  If you really want to go and take your time and talk to the brewers you should go to the afternoon session,” said Martin of Long Ireland Beer Company.

Long Island businesses are feeding the consumer demand trend without draining the pockets of their loyal locals.  The trend not only has a local backing but it has a connection to the poor economic state.

“It’s an affordable luxury to drink a better beer while you’re out is something that people feel good about,” said Martin on the surge of craft beer trends.

In times of economic hardships, restaurants and bars have found a simple key to keep business thriving.  With a combination of carrying craft beers and hosting beer dinners, restaurants and bars are generating revenue by bringing in a new crowd.

“[Beer Dinners] They’re great for the bars because it brings in 40 people on a night that normally isn’t that busy and it’s great because people came to that bar for that dinner who may have never been there before and it is promotional for business–so there’s many positives from an economy stand point for everyone; the customers, the owners and the brewers,” said Martin.

The bars and restaurants are not the only ones enjoying the benefits of tapping craft beers.  Consumers as well are happily altering their pallet to enjoy the world of craft beers.

“People would rather spend a little more and get less quantity but a better product.  They might spend as much on a six pack as they would on a 12 pack and they feel they’re getting a better quality beer,” said Mike Lisi, Owner of Monarch Beverage and West Hempstead Beer & Beverage.

Croxley Ale House Craft Taps & Imported Bottles

Croxley Ale House Craft Taps & Imported Bottles

Although the restaurants and bars are taking a risk by investing in some of these mysterious craft beers, consumers are flocking to them making it worth every penny.  Aside from the excitement of a tempting new tap handle or the fun of a beer paired dinner, the craft beers are genuinely delicious.

“It is defined by barrel production, because the production output is so much smaller than let’s a say a Budweiser, the brewers are actually able to experiment, they can use local honey or coffee from a local roaster or farmer because the beer is made in such smaller batches they can really experiment more,” said Calimano.

As more restaurants and bars incorporate a variety craft taps into their menus the consumers will continue to flock to their establishments and branch out to their local beer distributor.

“They are offering some amazing beers so we’re seeing places doubling their tap lines from last year to this year and able to offer a variety,” said Calimano.

Beer distributors across Long Island are also specializing in carrying craft beers.  As the trend spreads, consumers are venturing out on their own to invest in their local brewers and even out of state brewers.    Mike Lisi, Owner of West Hempstead Beer & Beverage and Monarch Beverage in Long Beach has been supplying Long Island with craft beers for over 15 years.

“If it’s available I will always bring it in chances are they already have it on the shelf.  If you come in and read some of the labels and see what’s put into it, the time, the effort and the alcohol content, it just blows your mind,” said Lisi.

As Spring approaches local breweries open there doors and tasting rooms to the public in hopes to enhance the craft beer trend.  With the combination of beer dinners, craft festivals, local roots and plain old curiosity, the craft beer trend is not one that will quickly fade away.

“When the trend is over it’s still going to be rolling it’s not going to die, it’s always going to be there people are going to be doing it without even realizing they’re doing it—there’s a beer out there for everyone” said Raguso.