A gentle giant of a man who helped establish Long Island’s largest club of beer enthusiasts and a collection of brewers who banded together to help a small brewery decimated by Superstorm Sandy were recognized separately for their endeavors at the Golden Tap Awards, the Oscars of Long Island’s craft brewing industry.
Richard Thatcher Jr., who six years ago banded together with two other beer geeks to start the club called Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts, received the Golden Tap Recognition Award on May 14 before a crowd of brewers, beer marketers and beer aficionados at 89 North, a music venue in Patchogue.
Thatcher, a former banker who would go on to become president of the club better known as LIBME, helped build the group’s membership to almost 600 members. He also worked part-time at various beer retailers before pursing studies in hospitality management. His co-founders, Donavan Hall and Mike Voigt, went on to found Rocky Point Artisan Brewers.
Now, with his award in hand, Thatcher is moving to Jacksonville, Fla., where he has taken a management position at a hotel.
Meanwhile, Barrier Brewing Co., Blind Bat Brewery, Blue Point Brewing Co., Great South Bay Brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Long Ireland Beer Co., Port Jeff Brewing Co., Spider Bite Beer Co. and photographers Matt Furman and Niko Krommydas shared the Golden Tap Humanitarian Award for their collaborative brewing effort that provided financial assistance to Barrier, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, and to residents of Long Island’s South Shore.
The participants gathered at Blue Point on Dec. 4 and brewed Surge Protector IPA to raise proceeds for victims of the storm and the recovering brewery. Each brewery donated an ingredient for Surge Protector IPA, exhibiting the solidarity of Long Island’s beer community. Proceeds, which totaled $58,000, recently were presented to Barrier and Long Island Cares, a charity.
There were other awards.
The Golden Tap Pioneer Award was presented to Chris Werle and Jeff Piciullo, who more than 20 years ago founded the first Croxley’s Ale House in Franklin Square, one of the region’s first craft beer specialty bars. Today, the duo and their partners own five Croxley’s from Smithtown to Manhattan and a pair of restaurants in Garden City.
One of the most-coveted awards, Beer of the Year, went to Blind Bat for its Long Island Potato Stout. Great South Bay won honors for best new beer, its Blood Orange Pale Ale. The former award was based on a decision by a panel of judges, the latter was a people’s choice vote tallied online.
Karp’s Homebrew Shop in East Northport took the award for best homebrew shop, while Blue Point won for best tap handle for its Hoptical Illusion. Both awards were voted on online.
An award, selected by industry members, recognizing the top brewery sales rep, was presented to Liam Huddock of Riverhead-based Long Ireland.
The awards are an integral part of Long Island Craft Beer Week, which continues through May 19.