I trust local brewers a lot more than I trust Jeff Bezos. This was the refrain I returned to again and again as we assembled this issue, and as I watched our writers file stories about winemakers, bartenders and distillers whose creativity belies not only great care for their products but also for the people they expect to drink them.
Like the brewers I interviewed for my story on how craft beer is playing an important role in Riverhead’s ongoing revitalization—a story you can now read here—all of the people featured in this collection are interested in enriching so much more than themselves.
“People get pissy about pumpkin pickers on the East End, but Brussels sprouts aren’t paying for this farmland,” says Lauri Spitz, who owns and operates Moustache Brewing Co. with her husband, Matthew, in Riverhead. “Long Island has some of the most expensive farmland in the country. And just as we like to support new food trucks that pop up and invite them to use our brewery as an incubator, in a sense, we are so passionate about supporting local farmers. And it’s not just us. It’s important to so many of us brewers, distillers and winemakers to source products locally from the East End.”
Drinks have always lubricated the wheels of connection. There’s a reason would-be lovers meet for drinks to get to know each other, just as there’s a reason we pop open bottles of bubbly to celebrate one another’s triumphs or moments of success. But drinks foster more than just connections between people; when produced well, and with intention, their capacity to connect and champion is much more widespread.
“We hear it all the time,” says Spitz. “People stop into our tasting room and they ask, ‘What farms should we go to?’ and ‘What restaurants do you like?’ One of the best parts of owning a brewery is that it opens the door for us to bring people out here to experience and support all the things we love.”
This desire—to open doors and support others in the process—is present in every story in this issue. In Greenport, Matchbook Distilling Company founder Leslie Merinoff leads the march for new legislation that will democratize distilling for future generations. In Montauk, a Main Street mainstay remains a meeting place for locals and visitors alike, thirsty for drinks that won’t break the bank. In our region’s forests, foragers show deference to chaga—one of our planet’s most magically medicinal mushrooms, commonly consumed as a tea—and, wanting to leave some for others, take only what they need.
And finally, in Riverhead, a town once blighted by vacant buildings and economic sluggishness is emerging as one of Long Island’s most vibrant downtown areas, with five breweries (and counting), job opportunities, affordable housing and leaders and drink artisans who are working together and actually care.
This, finally, is a sort of change we can believe in—and it’s powered not by Amazon, but by ale.
Wishing you and yours countless reasons to “cheers” this season and always,