As owner of Jackson's in Commack and Morrison's in Plainview, Shelby Poole has rightfully garnered a reputation for serving dope-ass beer on Long Island. This favorable repute wasn't earned only by pouring dope-ass beer, however, but also by developing strong relationships within the island's growing community of beerophiles—from hosting monthly meetings of the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts, the area's largest homebrewing club, to organizing regular meetups for customers to share bottles of obscure beers not sold in either of her restaurants.
According to Poole, her relationship with Long Island's breweries is the strongest. "I'm great friends with all of the brewers, and serving great beer made close is an integral component of the beer programs in both places," she says. "I love being able to call or text one of them with an idea for a new beer, or just seeing all of them grow bigger and bigger. It's a beautiful thing."
With the year now completed, I asked Poole to name her five favorite brewed-on-Long Island beers of 2014:
Port Jeff Brewing Company, Party Boat IPA
Party Boat was one of my favorite canned beers to sell this year. To me, 2014 has been overridden by a bunch of packaged "session" IPAs that at times tasted watered down. But my summer and subsequent seasons really got going once Port Jeff decided to can this. This beer has quickly become a mainstay on my bottles and cans menu. I also bring it with me to every party I go to and say something like “OK, it’s a REAL party now because I brought Party Boat!" It's resiny and hoppy, and packs a nice punch at 7.7 percent. Activity recommendations printed on the can are lighthearted, a reminder that in this age of geekery and snobbery, we are still seriously just drinking beer. The recommendations include fly fishing, scrapbooking, MILF hunting and concert going, although there’s no mention of stepping on a blowfish, which is what recently happened to me while enjoying this at the beach.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Cuvaison 2014
My focus on beer in my restaurants was the result of a personal experience with a wine snob, at which point I vowed to not participate in arrogant behavior based on drinks. But now we're in this time where we have winified beer, and I'm learning that there is absolutely nothing wrong with appreciating the quality of what's in your glass. Cuvaison from Greenport Harbor is such a fine example that wine and beer can coexist in a delightful, simple way. This year's batch (the brewery collaborates with a different winery annually) used Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and juice from nearby Jamesport Vineyards. The Belgian-style golden ale was easy drinking and totally appealing to a huge spectrum of both wine and beer drinkers. I think it's the perfect use of the incredible local resources we have available to us on Long Island.
Great South Bay Brewery, Basil in the Rye
Bay Shore's Great South Bay produced a large handful of new releases this year, but this IPA with rye, a collaboration with homebrewer Chris Kelley, was my favorite. I’ve tried a lot of beers that draw from mixology as inspiration, and this is a prime example of it being done correctly. I’m a huge fan of IPAs with rye—I love the added complexity—and I definitely have underrepresented them in my draft lineups. In fact, I worried that my customers weren't exposed to the style enough to warrant pouring it, especially with the addition of basil. But people were super into it, and I’d say that it got the most repeat customers of anything I tapped all year. The basil balances out with the citrus hop presence, making it an IPA that goes beyond the norm. The beer is so refined you’d think that it came from the kitchen of a dude who had been tinkering with the recipe over and over—which is likely how the beer came to exist.
Carton Brewing Company, Gilded Lily “Trufpel”
Carton is actually from New Jersey, but whatever, close enough. When owner Augie Carton informed me that I’d go bananas over this very special white truffle and honey Belgian-style tripel—dubbed a “trufpel"—I agreed with him wholeheartedly. But I was really skeptical. While I’m a huge fan of truffle grated over my noodles, the thought of drinking it made me nervous. Honey and white truffle are two seriously polarizing flavors, so how would they work packed into a big and yeasty tripel? But one taste and I was a believer. The presence of the truffle is dainty, and doesn’t punch you in the nose or on the palate. That's super hard to believe considering the small batch of beer contained over two kilos of the stuff, which Augie picked up himself at the airport and quickly added post fermentation. The beer was in fact so delicious that by the time I handed my glass to my husband, whose also chef of our restaurants, to try, it was already empty.
Barrage Brewing Company, Yada, Yada, Yada
This beer is as close to my heart as a beer can get. This brown ale was originally brewed to accompany the soup course for a Seinfeld-themed beer dinner we hosted with Barrage at Morrison’s. Barrage's owner Steve Pominski brewed this with multiple pounds of tiny Snickers bars and the result was stupendous. When it came time to serve the soup course—there wasn't any soup for anyone, obviously—I don’t believe people noticed that they didn’t get any food because they were so lost in the liquid. The caramel notes come from actual caramel, and the nuttiness comes from actual nuts. When my customers ask me to describe it and I say “It's a liquid Snickers bar,” I love to watch their reactions when they realize it’s actually the case. I’m trying to convince Steve to do a chocolate babka beer for a sequel dinner, but for now I’m stoked with the amazing response that Yada, and Barrage’s entire first year portfolio, has gotten.
Photo: Matt Furman