— Oyster Bay Brewing (@OysterBayBrewin) January 27, 2015
January 16, 2015 — The walls of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., seemed to rock and reverberate as the celebratory chant of “YES! YES! YES!” rose from the crowd which, along with this year’s group of Islanders, celebrated a 6-3 win over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. This is the last year the Isles will call the “Old Barn” home and the fans have turned out in droves, at first to say goodbye but now to watch their team take the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference by storm. With many players having come of age within the Islanders system, a bond has developed between these homegrown athletes and their loyal but long absent fan base. Everyone knows this is the end of things; they have been since the team won four straight Stanley Cup Championships in a row from 1980-1983, in that time going on a record run of 19 consecutive playoff series wins.
The ghost of these victorious memories seemed a stretch for teams to live up to through the ’90s and early 2000s, and the Islanders saw attendance and interest drop. Some loyal fans held onto their season tickets through thick and the extremely prolonged period of thin, but most just dismissed their beloved Isles and moved on. Things are different this year. The group on the ice coached by Jack Capuano and put together by the team’s former back-up goalie turned general manager Garth Snow has brought that old “Lovin’ Feelin” back to the Coliseum and energized Long Island. Fans faithfully show up for games and this team. This relationship has not gone unnoticed by the marketing staff, which connected with local Oyster Bay Brewing Company on the official beer of the New York Islanders, Barn Rocker.
Brewery owner Gabe Haim calls the beer a “session ale for lack of a better description” and at a low 4 percent ABV, this is a brew meant to be readily consumed while leaving the consumer on an even keel. Barn Rocker is built on a British malt profile using Fuggle hops and is ” a simple beer like a Bud or Bud Light but crafty,” says Haim. This moderate strength brew debuted at the Coliseum in two locations: Doolin’s Pub and a stand outside gate 20, while the Islanders hammered the Penguins.
Fan TJ Johnson called the beer “unique” and said it “had a lot of flavor to it” while his friend Patrick Cook added, “This you sip and drink it for a few periods and it will get you feeling nice.” The two were trying Barn Rocker for the first time in the crowded Doolin’s Pub before the puck drop. The brew’s connection to the team drew in the duo, clad in Islanders garb. Fellow fan Michael Rugen, also not a craft brew afficiando, said, “I am not going to lie, I was drinking Bud Light when I came in.” But friend Craig Schnaars pointed out the orange and blue Oyster Bay tap handle and, “I was like, eh, let me give it a shot.” Schnaars, a bar manager at Yankee Stadium, “loved” that the beer was from Oyster Bay and thought it was “actually very good.” Also among the Doolin’s crowd was Jen Davis, homebrewer and secretary of local homebrew club Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts, who said “It’s very light and it tastes like a wheat beer.” was. As a member of the craft beer community she added, “I wanted like a hop heavy IPA. It wasn’t what I was in the mood for before the game.”
But perhaps that is the point of Barn Rocker, a beer meant for the macro beer drinker and not a hop-fiend craft beer geek. Oyster Bay Brewing Company’s brewmaster Peter DeLuca has produced a brew that is light but has a presence; that is flavorful but will not overwhelm and most of all is drinkable. It reminded us of the British style of beer, ESB or Extra Special Bitter, which despite its name is not an overly bitter style of beer at all. The brew has sweet accents upon a malty and bread crust backbone. Barn Rocker, while not a “White Whale” or fetish brew, is one that fits the workman like feeling of the Old Barn for which it is named.
The lopsided win over a hated division rival had the crowd in a frenzy and has fans like Rugen and Schnaars hoping the Isles can deliver the cup to Long Island one more time before their move to Brooklyn next year. Hopefully the team’s winning ways can continue and fans can see Long Island’s team drive deep into the NHL playoffs. That would be something all of their fans could toast with the Isles’ official beer, Barn Rocker.