When a newly licensed nanobrewery gathers its owners and brewers to construct tap handles, you picture a couple people sitting around a computer with renderings of a logo imposed on virtual paddles. The Brewers Collective, however, is not your average nanobrewery. All nine members have a stake and equal say in the company that is now producing beer at a Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale. So when they asked us to join them while creating their first professional tap handles, we were not surprised the day began outdoors with a stack of 2x4s and ended with each hand cut handle being shaped and eventually branded with their logo. And when we say branded we don’t mean stamped or printed on; a backyard fire and a poker were involved. Oh, and there may have been a bow and arrow broken out at some point for a little target practice. All in all a pretty typical day with “the Collective.”
You may have seen the crew and their unique beers at festivals across Long Island; the Collective began as a few friends who enjoyed brewing, transitioned to a tight-knit homebrew club and, as of December 2014, became a fully licensed and operational brewery. In 2006, members Tim Dougherty, Terry Gillen, Dan Russo, Mike DePietto and Joe Vella were working together at a tech company. Joe had been homebrewing since the ’90s and would “share” his creations with his curious co-workers. Craft beer was not as prevalent then; Dougherty recalls pumpkin beer as novel and new. Eventually the group figured if Joe could brew beer they could too. They slowly bought equipment, shared recipes and held joint brew days. A co-worker joked that they were approaching their new hobby like Communists and they retorted by calling themselves a collective. The name stuck, a few friends (Matt Bentivegna, Sarah Dougherty, Brad Kohles and Jason Weingarten), some of who belonged to other homebrew clubs, joined and the Brewers Collective was born.
Useful Idiot, the group’s flagship IPA, along with Intercontinental Ballistic Stout, are the first beers crafted at a Taste of Long Island. Though scaling up to a professional level is new for all nine brewers, they feel the communal approach is an advantage. “That’s what’s going to set us apart,” says Gillen. “It’s not one person’s idea.” Having a large cast of characters means consistency is key for and all have made sure their entire process is recorded so everyone can produce every beer.
The Brewers Collective will be officially launching their beer at the Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale on Saturday, January 17 at 7 p.m. Joining them will be fellow members of the alternating proprietorship a Taste of Long Island, Po Boy Brewery, 1940’s Brewery.