Long Island Craft Beer Week, an annual 10-day series of events to promote Long Island's prospering craft-beer culture, returns between May 8-17 with its first official beer: Craft Cares, a collaboration between local breweries for charity, and an attempt to establish a native beer style.
1) The collaboration to create Craft Cares united six Long Island breweries: 1940s Brewing, Barrage Brewing, Blue Point Brewing, BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant, Great South Bay Brewery, and Port Jeff Brewing. "Mostly all the local breweries wanted to brew a beer together for the week but there were scheduling conflicts," explains Michael Philbrick, Port Jeff's owner and brewmaster. "Next year we're going to aim for everyone to make something."
2) During a meeting in April, the six breweries conceived not only a new beer but also a new beer style: the Long Island Common. Its name is a nod to the Kentucky Common, a once-omnipresent and undeniably resilient regional style that sprouted in the mid-1800s and became ubiquitous until Prohibition; a recent revival by several Louisville-area craft breweries has somewhat reintroduced it. While the pair of Commons have few similarities—Kentucky was generally a dark-colored and decidely malty ale brewed with barley malt and corn, highly carbonated and frequently distributed while still fermenting; modern interpretations also often mention a lactic sourness or sour mashing—Long Island's group was mainly drawn to the everyman popularity Kentucky garnered. "We wanted to create a beer that brewers would make for years to come and that everyone here could drink, from the novice palate to the expert palate," says Paul Komsic, BrickHouse's head brewer. "The goal of the Long Island Common is essentially the goal of Beer Week: introduce more people to beer they might not have known existed but that they'll hopefully love and start seeking out."
3) The ingredients for Craft Cares, also the Long Island Common's characteristic ingredients, include: a hefty amount of Vienna malt, joined by smaller portions of rye malt and wheat malt; several American hop varieties, mostly added toward the end of boiling to impart flavor and aroma, not bitterness; and orange blossom honey.
4) The use of local ingredients is, unsurprisingly, the Long Island Common's most essential characteristic. Craft Cares' recipe features rye grown and malted by Brian Zimmerman, who is attempting to open the area's first malthouse (Z's Barrel House) in Riverhead, and Cascade hops from Condzella Hops in Wading River. Both ingredients were donated for the project.
5) If pressed to compare, Philbrick likens the Long Island Common to a "fairly hoppy, low-alcohol, gold-in-color pale ale." As far as Craft Cares, he expects "the rye will give some spiciness, the Vienna malt is going to give a delicate mouthfeel and some sweetness, and that'll complement the honey's sweetness. And the hops—Cascade, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Columbus varieties—you can expect a lot of fruity and floral notes."
6) Craft Cares will only be available in 12-ounce cans. "It's the most popular and portable form of packaging right now. We think it'll reach more people this way," Komsic says.
7) A collaboration in the most literal sense, Craft Cares was brewed and fermented at BrickHouse, carbonated and packaged at Port Jeff, and labeled at Great South Bay. The can labels were donated by DWS Printing in Deer Park, furthermore, and the boxes to transport the cans were donated by Arma Container, also in Deer Park. "It took a lot of emails and organization to plan. BrickHouse doesn't have a canning line, so that's where Port Jeff stepped in. But Port Jeff doesn't have a high-speed labeler, so that's where we stepped in. Everyone really helped each other out," says Phil Ebel, Great South Bay's chief operations officer.
8) Craft Cares will not be sold. As part of Beer Week's "Can For A Can" campaign, the only way to get the beer is by donating two cans of non-perishable food to Long Island Cares, Inc. at participating locations during the 10-day period. The full list of locations is available at longislandcraftbeerweek.com.
9) Craft Cares is the largest local multibrewery beer-making project since eight breweries combined for Surge Protector IPA after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That beer raised nearly $60,000 for both Barrier Brewing and Long Island Cares, Inc. The six breweries involved with Craft Cares hope to achieve similar success. "The goal is to gather a ton of food for those less fortunate on Long Island while expanding the palettes of local beer drinkers. It's a win-win for everyone involved, and we're really hoping this becomes an annual project," Ebel says.
10) Do you really need another reason to drink Craft Cares? HAPPY BEER WEEK!
For a full list of Long Island Craft Beer Week events and where to find Craft Cares, visit longislandcraftbeerweek.com.