By Donavan Hall, Long Island Beer Correspondent
With Alice's birthday coming up, I decided to take the twins over to Port Jeff for lunch and a little shopping. The day was warm, but not hot, clear skies, perfect for sitting out on a patio for lunch.
Portside Bar and Grill seemed like a good choice. I knew they usually keep a few local beers on tap for craft beer enthusiast (Long Ireland's Celtic, a couple from Blue Point, Brooklyn Summer, etc.) so I figured that would be the perfect place for lunch.
And hopefully, in a few weeks, they'll be pouring a few of the Port Jeff Brewing Company beers.
After lunch I took the girls over to the building that Mike Philbrick (owner and brewmaster) is transforming into the home of his Port Jeff brewery. Mike was there with the construction crew installing pipes and hoses.
"Hey, Donavan!" Mike said. He'd spotted me snapping a photo of the exterior of the brewery. "Come on in. I'll give you a tour."
After introducing him to the twins (both of them veteran brewery tourists) Mike showed us his set up. We stepped through the front door. The brewery ranged along the left side of the building. The mash tun and brew kettle being closest to the entrance and the fermenters lined up along the wall.
"We had to take out the back wall and turn all these vessels on their sides to get them in," explained Mike. "The four fermenters and the bright tank are all glycol-jacketed so I can control the temperature of each independently."
Then Mike showed us an unfinished room on the west side of the building. "This will be the tasting room," he said. "I'm getting some wood from an old hop barn that was upstate. It's going to look great when it's all finished."
"I can imagine," I said. "When are you aiming to open your doors?"
"I'll let you know," he said. "With any luck I'll be brewing in two or three weeks."
Beer gods willing.
I first met Mike Philbrick (pictured right) just about a year ago. When I learned about his intentions to open a brewery I sent him an email and invited him over the Rocky Point Brewery to get acquainted. Mike brought along a few bottles of his beer for us to sample.
His Porter was magnificent. I realized we weren't dealing with an amateur here. Then he told us he'd been brewing since 2000 and had trained at the Siebel Institute and World Brewing Academy in Chicago. Okay, those are some serious credentials in the beer world. It's like saying you have a degree from Harvard or MIT.
We invited Mike to come to our brewery when ever he wanted. "And bring some of that beer with you," I said.
In the last six months, things have really taken off for Mike and his Port Jeff Brewing Company. After securing his location and successfully navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of liquor licensing, he's on the verge of opening his doors. I predict that Mike's beers are going to put Port Jefferson back on the Long Island beer destination map.