Today, there is no shortage of good beers and many great ones. But some are simply unforgettable.
They might not necessarily be the best, rarest, or most complex you’ve ever tasted, but they stay with you because they have the power to evoke strong emotions. They remind you of special times in your life, or special people. They capture the spirit and feeling of a moment.
These beers are definitely delicious, but they also bring joy long after they’ve been consumed. They are remembered for reasons that go beyond flavor and aroma, past what’s in the glass.
We asked the Long Island beer community to share with us the most memorable beers they’ve ever had.
“Undoubtedly, Hill Farmstead’s Mimosa. This is the beer that triggered my obsession with the work of Hill Farmstead, my fascination for mixed-culture fermentation, and ultimately my drive to start brewing. Mimosa was a farmhouse ale that was brewed with tangelo juice and zest and Citra and Galaxy hops, fermented primarily with Brettanomyces claussenii yeast, and aged in sauvignon blanc barrels with the brewery’s house microflora. I can still vividly recall the aromatics of this beer: pungent citrus zest with subtle accents of tropical fruit and must. The palate was full of citric qualities that mingled with subtle acidity. The body was well-structured, almost creamy in a way. It was effervescent and dry. It was certainly one of the first, if not the first, ‘American wild ale’ that I had that showed nuance and restraint. It was the first beer that I had tried from the brewery. I made my first visit shortly thereafter.” — Anthony Sorice, co-founder and head brewer of Root + Branch Brewing
“In August of 2016 my mom’s side of the family rented a home in Greenport Village to have all the grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, children, and grandbabies from all over the East Coast all be together a year after the passing of my uncle, whom we lost to lung cancer. It was a special week for a lot of reasons. On one occasion there we visited Greenport Harbor Brewing’s original location and purchased a nipper of Fork and Beans, a stout with coffee. It was then my first experience with coffee beer and thought it a most delightful way to spend breakfast with so much family under one roof. I didn’t have any inkling I’d find my career helping make beer for Greenport Harbor two years later, but one of the first conversations I had with our head brewer was about Fork and Beans. To me this particular beer ties so many heartfelt memories of family, the North Fork lifestyle and my career—the somewhat essentials of what makes me.” — Catie Callaghan, cellerman at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company
“I hate to be a sentimental fool but the most memorable beer I’ve had was one that was the focal point of a totally spectacular evening. We threw a ‘Seinfeld’-themed beer dinner at Morrison’s with our friends at Barrage Brewing. Owner Steve Pominski offered to brew a special one-off for the occasion: a brown ale made with bite-size Snickers called Yada Yada Yada. It’s a decadent, nutty treat which we naturally paired with Mulligatawny soup. When it came time to serve the course we poured the beer and my manager, Michael, came out dressed as the ‘Soup Nazi,’ complete with a mustache he spent weeks perfecting, screaming ‘No soup for you!’ at every guest. Honestly you don’t need to pair anything with Yada to have a good time. To this day I have not tasted Mulligatawny soup.” — Shelby Poole, co-owner of Morrison’s and Jackson’s
“I had just finished my junior year at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and had slowly gotten into craft beer there. It was one night at a pub called The Great Lost Bear in nearby Portland that I discovered Allagash brewery and had my first Allagash White. Almost immediately I developed an affinity for Belgian and Belgian-style ales. From then on I was determined to further my knowledge. I went out and bought Michael Jackson’s ‘The Great Beers of Belgium’ and tried to consume as many featured in the book as I could get my greedy hands on. This is also the point when I started to focus on brewing Belgian styles as a home brewer. The rest is history.” — Jamie Adams, owner and brewer of Saint James Brewery
“One of the most memorable beers I’ve ever had was the first time I drank De La Senne’s Taras Boulba. My good friend Patrick Donagher had just tapped it at one of his bars years ago and told me it was a must-try. I’ve been a fan ever since. In a market filled with big, hefty beers, Taras Boulba was the one I wanted to drink every single day. The perfect session beer under 5 percent ABV. One of the best representations of a Belgian pale ale. Perfectly hopped with delicate yet complex yeast characteristic. Is it the beet beer I’ve ever drank? No. But it’s certainly the one I look forward to the most, no matter how many times I’ve had it. If I had to drink it every day, I would be perfectly ok with that.” — Mike Descarfino, sales director at Barrier Brewing Company
“The most memorable beer I’ve ever tasted was 100% Gueuze Lambic by Cantillon, straight from the barrel. I tasted this back in 1999 and the experience was wild; in the dungeonous, cob-web filled basement in Brussels I realized that Blue Point had no reason to try our hand at brewing in the ways of lambic; Cantillon had perfected it. For most people on the tour it was clearly their first experience with this style of beer, so I was able to drink a lot of full tasters that morning. Definitely the experience of a lifetime.” — Mark Burford, co-founder of Blue Point Brewing Company
“I’ve had many memorable beers in my years of drinking craft beer but one I just had totally stands out: Other Half’s collaboration with The Veil, Berry Berry Compote Compote. This is a Berliner weisse conditioned on blackberries, raspberries, vanilla, maple, and waffles. How the hell do you put all that in one Berliner? I can still taste it in my mind. I love Berliners. I’ve had many of them in Germany. But nothing compares to this one. That first sip just exploded in my mouth. I wish I had more.” — Frank Filacchione, president of Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME)
“Guinness. At the then Half Penny Pub in Bay Shore—this was circa 2004—Matt [Spitz, co-owner and brewmaster] and I used to meet friends every Friday night for darts and pints of Guinness. One night we met a friend of a friend, Anthony Camilli, who was a brewer at Blue Point at the time. He’d always bring growlers of new beers for the bartenders. Matt and I being makers, we were fascinated with the idea of making our own beer. One night at the pub he told us he could teach us how to brew at home on our stove. So on a beverage napkin over Guinness’ the three of us came up with a recipe for an Oktoberfest. The following weekend he came over and showed us how to brew. A few weeks later the beer was finished. We had everyone over to try it. No one died or went blind. The rest is history.” — Lauri Spitz, co-owner of Moustache Brewing Company
“Since I was a kid, I’ve fully invested myself in whatever passions have come into my life. History, astronomy, music, James Bond movies. You name it. Beer has been no different. Since 21 I’ve been enthralled by the wide world of ales and lagers, with help from my dad who loved his share of ‘micro brews,’ as he still enjoys calling them. I started out with IPAs as this was the beginning of the West Coast wave. Hoppy beers from Stone, Green Flash, and Bear Republic would dance between my fridge and my glass at the then-new Tap & Barrel, where I also first tried sour beers. But it was on a trip to San Diego that I first had Russian River’s Consecration. The classic dark sour has a pucker with a delightful sweet finish from aging in cabernet sauvignon barrels with wild yeast and bacteria, and black currants. Whilst Consecration is an American wild ale, the beer critic Michael Jackson once said that Belgian lambics ‘can shock at first sip but seduce to the point of obsession.’ Consecration is where my love of sour beers began and a developing palate took another trip into uncharted abyss.” — Jordan Romano, sales representative at 1940’s Brewing Company and bartender at Craft Growler Bar & Bottle Shop
“While the shop is pretty much known for focusing on the New York City breweries and their hazy, juicy IPAs as well as what we call ‘wonky’ brews like sour beers, we didn’t have a sour on tap until midway through 2013, that being Barrier’s Gosilla, a gose-style brew. But man, I couldn’t drink it fast enough! To me at the time, never really having a gose beer before, it was so thirst quenching with that hint of salinity and nice low ABV. It was tartingly wonderful and different and amazing and so refreshingly weird. It was like an adult Gatorade with a pinch of salt. So chuggable! We’ve all been hooked at Hoptron on the gose style and the wonky brews since.” — Amanda Danielsen, co-owner of Hoptron Brewtique
“I’m sure I’ve had some unforgettable beers that turned into nights that have blurred into forgotten memories. With that said, Shepherd’s Crook by Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, comes to mind. It’s the quintessential refreshing beer, a hybrid wheat pale ale with Motueka, Green Bullet, and Nelson Sauvin Hops. As a head brewer and co-owner of a hop yard, hops are the key to my heart. The three Australian hops just play so well together: crisp, inviting, and stone fruity. I remember bringing two growlers home with me on July 4th, polishing one off that evening with my then-girlfriend Betsy. The next morning I asked her to marry me on the landing in our neighborhood overlooking the Long Island Sound. After she said yes, that afternoon we cracked into the second growler. Best beer I ever had man.” — Peter Barraud, co-owner and brewmaster of North Fork Brewing Company
“My most memorable beer would be my first Hoptical Illusion. It was probably around the spring of 2002. Before he was my business partner and before owning a brewery was ever a thought, Greg [Martin] had been telling me about Blue Point and how they give away free samples on Friday afternoons. I just figured it was an urban legend. Nobody gives away free beer. I was a Bud drinker at the time and he convinced me to try Toasted Lager. I liked it. So for the next few weeks that’s what I drank. The first time I tried a Hoptical I was like, ‘Holy shit! I didn’t know beer could taste like this!’” — Dan Burke, co-owner of Long Ireland Beer Company”One of the most memorable beers I’ve ever had was Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter. To me it’s memorable because it’s one of the first beers that got me into drinking craft. Back in my college days at SUNY Oswego, the only beers people would drink were beers like Labatt Blue, Genesee, and Bud Light. But I found a diamond in the rough with a little bar called The Raven. Back in the early 2000s they were serving what craft beer was at the time: English and German imports, Sierra Nevada and Saranac. One sip of Taddy Porter, with its bittersweet maltiness, medium roast, and notes of coffee and chocolate lava cake showed me what real beer was. “ — Chris Candiano, owner and head brewer of Destination Unknown Beer Company
“The most memorable beer I’ve ever had Abscission from Jester King. I’ve been a big fan of Jester King and its beers for a while, but being that they’re so hard to come by in New York, my opportunities to enjoy their work is limited. Last spring on a trip to Austin, my wife and I knew we had to make the trek outside the city to their beautiful farm brewery, nestled in the rolling landscape of Texas hill country. We tasted a variety of incredible sour and wild ales, but the one that really stuck out was Abscission. It’s a 5.5 percent ABV spontaneously fermented ale that was created by steeping grapevines, fallen leaves, spicebush, juniper branches, laurel, and sassafras overnight in the brewery’s coolship. The level and depth of flavor they were able to achieve from this seemingly random selection of brush and farm clippings was something I had never expected, or tasted, in any beer before or since. Earthy and herbal, slightly tart with minimal funk, the juniper really comes out and the grapevines add a very slight sweetness. Six months later, at a friends housewarming party, we decided to open up one of the bottles of Abscission to share. As soon as the cork was pulled I was instantly transported back to that spring afternoon in Texas. This beer was a prime example of how deeply our senses can be linked to a memory and can be triggered to bring you back to an exact time and place. My only regret is not bringing home more bottles of this.” — Ken Srubinski, co-owner and brewer of Secatogue Brewing Company
“Back in the early days of the LIBME, when it was strictly a beer-appreciation club and not a homebrewing club, and there were only about a dozen active members, we used to meet at Deks restaurant in Rocky Point. We would share some beers, try new stuff from the bar, and talk about beer and brewing. One particular time, I had arrived late after getting out of work and joined a couple of the guys at a table. Mike Voigt, one of the three founding members, looked at me and asked, ‘What kind of flavor is your favorite?’ I replied, ‘I’m always up for a good stout, porter, or brown ale.’ He reiterated that he meant flavor, not style. After a little thought, I told him I had been getting interested in peaty, smoky, and barrel-aged beers, to which he quickly turned and disappeared to the bar. After a few minutes he came back, put a glass in front of me, and told me try it. It was Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, a dark German lager made with smoked malts (rauch means smoke). I put it up to my nose, took a long sniff, and thought to myself, Is this bacon?! This is going to be gross. Was I ever wrong! I savored that glass, enjoying every last drop while Mike explained the process of brewing it. It was the first time that I was learning about how the smoky flavor was produced. It really opened my mind about how a beer could smell one way and taste so different. Prior to that beer, if I didn’t like the smell I generally wouldn’t even bother trying it. Without the introduction to Schlenkerla Märzen, I’m not sure I would’ve been so open to trying the many, many different beers that I’ve tried over the years. This is the experience that led me to realize that I can read all I want, but nothing is better than speaking to somebody knowledgeable about these things while sipping on some new beers.” — David Schultzer, owner of Bellport Cold Beer & Soda
“Over the past seven years we’ve tested many different styles in our taproom. Probably the most memorable beer for me was the first time we got the recipe dialed in for Wave Chaser IPA. We’d never officially released an IPA to our fans and this liquid proved to be a milestone for the company and triggered some pretty phenomenal growth. We had brewed so many test versions and listened to over a year of fan feedback, so to take our time and finally get it right was an incredible feeling. It’s still my favorite beer we brew.” — Vaughan Cutillo, co-founder of Montauk Brewing Company
“Back in the late ‘70s, my dad took a part-time job driving a delivery truck for Schaefer Beer. At the time of his employment, for some reason, our basement refrigerator was always completely stocked with cases of that beer; how they appeared there was a mystery no one questioned. I recall on a hot summer’s day, I was about eight years old, working with my dad in our backyard victory garden. After toiling for what seemed like hours weeding among the tomatoes, tilling the soil, adding fertilizers, and removing pesky hornworms, we retreated to the shade for a long needed break where two aluminum frame patio chairs were set up. Between them, a plain, white Styrofoam cooler with about a half-dozen cans of Schaefer submerged in the iciest of water. Covered in sweat and dirt, dad took a seat, reached into the cooler, and pulled out a glistening, almost frozen can. He cracked it open, took a swig, and let out an audible sigh of relief. He saw me watching him from the other chair, thought for a brief moment, and then handed me the can. ‘Don’t tell your mother,’ he said. I lifted the can to my mouth and took a big swig, thinking I was probably going to hate it. It was bitter, oddly funky, cold, and wet. I handed the can back to him. In my career, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting some of the world’s greatest beers, but none will ever compare to my secret sip of ice cold Schaefer in the summer of ’79.” — Vincent Minutella, Owner, The Black Sheep Ale House
Read more from writer Niko Krommydas in our archives here.