By Contributing Columnist Donavan Hall
When I moved to Long Island in 2002 I didn't know anything about the local beer culture. I didn't even know where I could find a decent beer store. Fortunately, the corner grocery in my new neighborhood had six packs of something called Toasted Lager from Blue Point Brewing Company. So after unloading my moving truck I was able to quench my thirst with that caramel colored, roasty brew. That was a little more than three years ago.
There was a time when in most restaurants on Long Island, if you said you wanted a Blue Point, you'd would get a pint of Toasted Lager. This flagship brew has been the foundation on which a solid house of beers has been built. However, as Blue Point has grown and expanded, they are starting to be known for more than just their Toasted Lager. In fact, their latest release Blueberry Ale is extremely popular with Long Islanders. Taps all over Long Island are now flowing with Blue Point Blueberry Ale.
Blue Point Brewing Company got started in 1998 as a partnership between Peter Cotter and Mark Burford. Prior to launching their microbrewery, both were homebrewers and lovers of craft brewed beer. Burford opened a homebrew shop in Franklin Square in the early 1990s. Later, he was brewmaster at Long Island Brewing Company in Jericho, but left that post long before that brewpub was closed by the IRS in 1999.
My introduction into the world of Blue Point brews came when I first visited the Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue. They had a couple of Blue Point taps. I remember ordering the Oatmeal Stout on my first visit. Prior to that I had only had Toasted Lager in the bottle. After tasting the Oatmeal Stout, I knew that Blue Point was a serious brewery because now I knew they had at least two superb beers. I was so impressed with the Oatmeal Stout that I bought two growlers of it to share with my house guests during our first Christmas on Long Island.
Blue Point's brewing facility in Patchogue is where they brew the beer that is put into kegs for distribution to restaurants and taprooms all over Long Island and in New York City. Their bottled beers are brewed and bottled at Clipper City Brewing Company in Baltimore, except for the Blueberry Ale which is contract brewed in Saratoga Springs, New York by the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company.
So Blue Point on tap is a little different from Blue Point in the bottle. I first noticed the difference when tasting the Winter Ale. I sampled several pints on tap at the Brickhouse and at Painters. Then I bought some bottles. I could tell immediately that the bottled product was a little different, but different in this case isn't a bad thing. I like Winter Ale in bottle as much as I like it on tap. On a recent trip to Baltimore, I had an opportunity to try some of Clipper City's own beers in their native habitat and I was impressed.
By last count I've spotted at least six Blue Point beers in beer shops: Toasted Lager, Winter Ale, Summer Ale, Hopical Illusion, Pale Ale, and now Blueberry Ale. These beers are distributed beyond Long Island and Manhattan to parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The variety of Blue Point beers on tap around Long Island and Manhattan is greater than five, if you know where to find those other special beers. Not far from where I live is a little taproom called Mobo Bar. When I was there last Thursday, three of their five taps where connected to Blue Point kegs. Mobo had Toasted Lager and Summer Ale. They also had something they called "Mobo Brew" which is in reality Blue Point's Double Blonde. According to the bartender, all the Blue Point beers sell well. "The people that come in here that drink Blue Point like all the beers," said the bartender.
If you are in Manhattan, two places you can find Blue Point are The Ginger Man (11 E. 36th St) and The Spotted Pig (314 W 11th St) where one of the two cask taps dispenses elixir from a Blue Point firkin.
The best place to find Blue Point beers is at the brewery's own tasting room in Patchogue (161 River Ave). In addition to their standard lineup of beers (the stuff found in bottles), there are taps devoted to more exotic brews. You'll find a total of twelve taps, all pouring Blue Point beers. Recently, I drank a cask conditioned Extra Special Bitter that had matured for some time in a bourbon barrel. That beer was smooth and malty and had a slightly lemony finish (a contribution from the barrel, no doubt). It was an excellent beer -- like no other ESB I had ever tasted in my life.
There are other interesting beers on tap at the Blue Point tasting room that you won't find anywhere else. So you have to just show up and see what you'll find. The tasting room is open Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 7 pm and on Saturday from noon until 7 pm. You'll find plenty of parking on the side street or in back of the brewery.