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Long Island’s Golden Tap Awards recognize a gentle giant beer geek

Golden Tap Humanitarian Award for 2013 goes to collaborators behind Surge Protector IPA

Golden Tap Humanitarian Award for 2013 goes to collaborators behind Surge Protector IPA

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.goldentaplogo

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.

Rich Thatcher awaits his Golden Tap Recognition Award

Rich Thatcher awaits his Golden Tap Recognition Award

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.

Blind Bat Brewery owner Paul Dlugokencky accepts Golden TapBeer of the Year Award

Blind Bat Brewery owner Paul Dlugokencky accepts Golden Tap Beer of the Year Award

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.

Best Long Island Beer Bar Awards, also the result of online voting, were presented to The Good Life, Massapequa, for Nassau County, and to T.J. Finley’s, Bay Shore, for Suffolk County.

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.

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Belhaven Black Stout will make you forget Guinness on St. Paddy’s Day

Bellhaven’s first new brew in 45 years is replacing Guinness on taps lines throughout the New York region. Here’s why.

The new Belhaven Black Stout, which made its Long Island debut March 6 at The Good Life pub in Massapequa, demands attention.

After first sampling this brew in a shot glass at a Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts gathering, where Billy Morrissey, the sales rep for importer Belukus Marketing, introduced the beer, I promptly ordered a pint at the bar.


There’s good reason. It’s a light, malt forward sessionable brew with just 4.2 percent abv and 52 IBUs (for the unitiated, IBU is a bitterness gauge).  So easy going down. Tasty too.

Roasty notes predominate on the nose and again on the palate, but there’s also a delightful undertone of milk chocolate with a dry, coffee-like finish. Think of it as a kind of a beer latte.

It also made a fine accompaniment to some chocolate layer cake, too.

Belhaven, of Dunbar Scotland, launched the beer a year ago in the UK. It’s the first new beer launched by Belhaven in 45 years, Morrissey said. Belhaven, founded in 1719 on the site of an ancient abbey brewery, is believed to be Scotland’s oldest brewery. Belhaven is part of the UK brewer and pub owner Greene King.

Belhaven attributes the taste of the new brew to the 100 percent Scottish water used in its brewing along with a unique blend of Scottish triple malts sourced from locally grown barley.

It seems almost sacrilegious to tout a stout that’s not Guinness before St. Patrick’s Day, but what the heck. Belhaven’s Black Stout is a winner.

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The Good Life pub raises $22,000-plus for Hurricane Sandy relief


The Good Life owner Pete Mangouranes during Hurricane Sandy relief benefit.

The Good Life has a good heart.

The Massapequa Park, Long Island, gastro pub, was packed to overflowing Tuesday evening due to the promotional efforts of owner Pete Mangouranes, who promised to donate every penny spent at the pub that evening to Hurricane Sandy Relief. Indeed, by the time The Good Life closed its doors Mangouranes had collected $22,090.

The monies, including purchases by The Good Life’s patrons, servers tips and more will be split among local churches and the Tunnel to Towers Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, said Mangouranes, who put every penny of his night’s sales into the pot.

The Good Life owner Pete Mangouranes, left, looks at the scene at his bar.

The scene was a testament to Mangouranes’ social media outreach campaign.

The crowd was five deep at the bar, where the servers included Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna Jr., the wait for a table in the dining room ranged up to three hour. Meanwhile, dozens more imbibed drafts from a trailer on loan from Manhattan Beer Distributors on the sidewalk in a heated tent donated by Top Notch Tent Rental.

Captain Lawrence, Saranac, Great South Bay Brewery, and Ithaca Beer Co.  donated kegs of beer and Roberto Bobby Rodriquez, an award-winning homebrewer, contributed a keg of his Zombification, a hard cider made with molasses and Belgian ale yeast. A local bakery, Sugar Rush, sold cupcakes and cookies and donated rolls for sausage and pepper sandwiches sold on the sidewalk. The publishers of “Question of the Day” books pitched in too, selling their books for the charity event.  Mangouranes also raffled off a surfboard and took in donations of gift cards, clothing and other items.

Other beer-related charity events are on the calendar. On Nov. 14 The Loyal Dog Ale House in Lindenhurst, is holding an open bar from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. for those who contribute $20 to the Red Cross. And Tap & Barrel in Smithtown on Nov. 25 holds a $50 per person benefit to aid Oceanside-based Barrier Brewing, which was effectively wiped out by the storm.

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A Widmer beer dinner: 4 beers, 4 courses, $40

Four courses, four Widmer Brothers beers, $40.

Lobster hot dog

Buffalo chicken wing cakes

It was an irresistible deal: the latest monthly themed drinking and dining event at The Good Life gastro pub in Long Island’s Massapequa Park. The kitchen showed flair with the inventive fare served to an Aug. 14 sell-out crowd over 2 1/2 hours while Jeremy Kieffer, a brewery representative of the Portland, Ore.-based Craft Brew Alliance introduced each of the four unusual Widmer beers that were served on draft.

The Craft Brew Alliance is an amalgam of Widmer, Red Hook Ale Brewery, Kona Brewing and Goose Island that is publicly traded and almost a third owned by Anheuser-Busch Interbev. The beers are sold through Budweiser distributors.

Marionberry Hibiscus Gose

Shaddock IPA

Up next was the misnamed Widmer W’12 Dark Saison. More of an Abbey-style single with its amber hue, candy-sugar notes and fruity esters than a Belgian farmhouse ale, Kieffer suggested that marketers and brewers weren’t quite on the same page. Still, a nice beer. And a good foil for our next course, a meatloaf with added Gruyere cheese and wild mushrooms, a tomato-molasses glaze and crunchy deep-fried pearl onions.

W12 Dark Saison

Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout

For round two, we received Widmer Shaddock IPA, a limited release brew with a powerful grapefruit nose, the result of a blend of alchemy and citra hops as well as grapefruit peel. It’s named for the sea captain who introduce grapefruit to the West Indies. Big-time bitter and a sourish finish, it needed more malt for balance. Even so, it paired nicely with The Good Life’s reconstructed Buffalo chicken wings, in which wings were braised, the meat deboned and shredded, blended with hot sauce and served with blue cheese foam, watermelon, carrots and celery.  A delight.

Fried bread pudding


Alas, the grand finale was not so grand. Our beer, Widmer Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout 12 was alcoholic (9.3% abv) and as bitter as Turkish coffee so that whatever raspberry flavor might have been there was obscured. Alas, dessert, fried bread pudding, read better on the menu that it tasted. Crusted with crushed almonds and cornflake crumbs and served with thin slices of grilled peaches and a dash of chocolate ganache, it consisted of dry triangles resembling French toast. Not enough sweetness here, and certainly not enough to balance the bitterness of the beer.

Be that as it may, Good Life owners Peter Mangouranes and Paul and Anthony Oliva and their staff get an A for effort and their inventiveness.  I can’t wait till next month, when the Good Life dinner will feature the beers of Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, including some previously never available beers brewed by students at the nearby Weihenstephan Science Center at the Technical University of Munich. Hey Pete, please hold a seat for me!

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Inventive fare, Belgian brews at a beer dinner at Long Island’s The Good Life

I’ve been to many a beer dinner over the years, but never to one of the monthly soirees at Long Island’s The Good Life, which are well-regarded among beer aficionados on Long Island and typically sell out well in advance.

I was overjoyed at the opportunity to attend one recently. Though I’ve enjoyed many a fine beer and pimped up pub grub at The Good Life, a comfortable gastro pub in Massapequa Park with 24 taps and 65 bottled beers, but never before could I secure a seating at one of these monthly themed dinners.

The theme for this dinner was Belgian beer, specifically, four of the many imported by Middleton, MA-based Global Beer Network.

A near-sellout crowd filled the pub’s private dining room as The Good Life’s staff efficiently delivered trays of each beer and each of the four eclectic dinner courses.  The flat-panel TVs, ordinarily filled with sports, showed a video of our beers for the night and Dan Leeman, the importer’s Mid-Atlantic sales director, offered a commentary on each of the brews. Meanwhile, host Peter Mangouranes popped over to my table as each course was delivered to explain its makeup.

Moules pasta and Bavik Pilsner

The foods, complex and inventive, were mostly delicious and the beers quite good with one exception. The matches, however, didn’t always seem felicitous.

We started with what was called moules frites, but not the traditionally beer-stewed mollusks and fried taters. The mussels were incorporated into ribbons of pasta, sauced with a potato cream and garnished with corn kernels, chives and crispy potatoes. I found one whole mussel in the dish and the crispy spuds escaped me.  Though tasty, the potato cream turned the dish into a gloppy affair.  A resiny, unpasteurized Bavik Pilsner, better than most Euro-lagers, served as a fine palate cleanser.

Pressed duck sandwich and Cherish Kriek

Next up was the evening’s best dish, a pressed duck sandwich, essentially a grilled cheese sandwich made with duck confit, brie, truffle aioli, arugula and a accompaniment of sliced roasted potatoes. To wash it down, we were served Cherish Kriek, a cherry-flavored Lambic from Browerij Van Steenberger NV whose taste suggested a cherry Tootsie Roll lollypop and reminded me more of cherry soda. This rich sandwich cried out for a more acidic brew, but the Cherish had just a hint of sour in its finish.

Colorado lamb chop, French lentils and Guulden Drak 9000

The meat course, a juicy, rare, well-trimmed Colorado lamb chop, was accompanied by a mélange of French lentils, preserved lemon and charred tomato gastrique. Alas, the brew accompanying this — Gulden Draak 9000 with 10.7 percent alcohol — tasted better alone and turned amazingly complex as it warmed up, long after my last bite of lamb. This richly flavored, fruity beer, a deep-gold quadruple from Steenberger, Leeman explained, gets a dose of caramelized candy sugar in the fermenter.

To finish, a plate filled with sweets and an equally sweet brew, Petrus Dubbel Bruin, from Browerij Bavik. The beer, made in part with Petrus Ale aged in Calvados casks, was reddish brown, rich and

Dessert: chocolate cupcake, blackberry semifreddo and Petrus Dubbel Bruin.

brimming with chocolate notes. No other dessert was necessary, but Mangouranes was in overkill mode with a Belgian chocolate, raspberry filled cupcake topped with buttermilk frosting. Also on the plate, blackberry semifreddo, a cross between a pudding and ice cream.

Despite a few missteps, you have to give The Good Life credit for putting on an adventurous evening and offering its patrons quite a deal for just $40. I’m hoping Mangouranes has room for me at future dinners.



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Brooklyn Brewery’s Hindy gets LI Beer Week lifetime achievement award

The Long Island Craft Beer Week Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Brooklyn Brewery co-founder and president Steve Hindy.

The award, presented as part of the second annual Golden Tap Awards held May 15 at The Boulton Center for Performing Arts in Bay Shore, NY, is given to an individual who has made exceptional contributions of outstanding significance to the field of brewing or beer.

Brooklyn Brewery celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and recently was ranked No. 13 on the Brewers Association 2012 list of Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.

Hindy was chosen for the award because of his commitment to craft brewing and his local community, the awards organizers said.

The Long Island Craft Beer Week awards honor Long Island’s beer innovators and pioneers. Some of the winners were selected through a People’s Choice-style online vote.

Blue Point Brewing Co., of Patchogue, was named Best New York State Brewery. The winner was selected by online public poll. Established in 1999 by Mark Burford and Peter Cotter, the Patchogue Brewery now is the 34th largest in the U.S. Other nominees were Fire Island Beer Co., Great South Bay Brewing, Long Ireland Beer and Greenport Harbor Brewing.

The Long Island Beer of the Year Award was presented to Blue Point for its Toasted Lager, the brewery’s flagship brew. Nominees for this category were selected by Long Island brewers and brewery owners and the winner was picked via online public voting.

The Best New Beer of the Year Award went to Blue Points White IPA, an unfiltered European-style white ale with a fresh American IPA finish. Brewed with malted and unmalted wheat and west coast hops, the 6 percent ABV beer is fermented with German yeast. Nominees for this category were submitted directly by Long Island brewers and brewery owners.  Only beers released in 2011 were eligible. The winner was selected by online public vote.

The award for Best Brewery Sales Rep went to Sean Nolan of Bay Shore’s Great South Bay Brewery. The award recognizes a local, hard-working sales rep who works directly for a Long Island brewery selling into the Long Island market.  The winner was selected by a vote of local business owners, including restaurants, bar owners and beer retailers.

The Best Long Island Bar Award went to TJ Finley’s in Bay Shore after an online public vote. The bar offers 26 tap, one on cask, 48 bottles and 4 cans. Other nominees were Bobbique in Patchogue, Tap & Barrel in Smithtown, The Good Life in Massapequa Park and Croxley’s Ale House in Farmingdale.

Best Long Island Brew Pub Award was won by Brickhouse Brewery, of Patchogue, which was established in 1995. The winner chosen through online voting.  Other nominees were Black Forest Brewhaus in Melville, John Harvard’s in Lake Grove and Southampton Publick House.

The Pioneer Award went to Michael Deinhardt, founder of the Brewer’s East End Revival (BEER) home brewing club, which he and others established in 1996 and now has more than 80 members. The award recognized Deinhardt’s commitment to beer education, which directly had an impact on the growth of the local beer community, the organizers said.

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