In early May, Ken and Katie Srubinski opened, and found immediate success with, the first brewery in their hometown of West Islip. Soon after, and also on the South Shore, another local couple returned beer making to their birthplace after nearly 70 years, and it has quickly become a hit.
Ryan Cooke and Melissa Bates are high school sweethearts, together for 11 years and soon to be married. Before they say “I do,” they said “I brew,” converting a long-vacant storefront on North Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst, where they have both lived their entire lives, into 27A Brewing Company. The three-barrel operation opened in late August, becoming the village’s first beer maker since the Linden Brewery closed in 1949.
You’ll find some vintage Linden bottles, as well as old photographs, receipts, and signs that had belonged to the building’s previous tenants, as decor in 27A’s homey taproom, where I have found myself several times since tasting my introduction to the fledgling brewery: Talk of the Town, a hazy IPA made in collaboration with Northport’s Sand City, one of the Northeast’s best producers of the wildly popular style, and which plans to open a second location in Lindenhurst next year. The taproom is a cozy spot to enjoy a beer, and with episodes of the iconic (and my personal favorite) show, “The Twilight Zone,” projected against a wall during business hours, a visit is, as Pedott would say, what you need.
Perhaps the most impressive old item that was kept is a marble butcher block from Benkert’s Meat Market, which operated in the space from the 1920s to the late 1980s, repurposed as the bar’s countertop. “You can see still see some of the cigar stains from the butchers on it,” said Cooke, who handles the brewing duties and whose resume includes Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. in Brooklyn, on a recent sunny afternoon while pouring me samples of a couple of the eight beers on tap: Favorite Søn, a since sold-out hazy double IPA sweetened with milk sugar, and Pumpkin Spice Latte, a nicely balanced blonde ale made with spices, vanilla beans, and cold-brew coffee from Muni’s Coffee Joint across the street.
Edible Long Island: How did you get started in beer?
Ryan Cooke: My first homebrew kit was a pumpkin spice amber ale. I made it with some friends, we liked it, and then pretty quickly I was constantly brewing a bunch. I focused on clone recipes at first, of beers I couldn’t get my hands on here on Long Island: Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, etc. I would bring kegs to DIY backyard shows and friend’s parties, and from there I joined the Long Island Beer Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME). Being with the club led me to becoming a certified beer judge with the BJCP, and I also starting my first job in the industry, working with mobile canner Iron Heart. That was a great experience, hitting all these different breweries in the Northeast and seeing how they ran things. After Iron Heart, I got my first brewing job at Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. in Brooklyn. I was part of a three-man crew, and we had a ton of freedom with styles and experiment with different malts, hops, and yeast.
ELI: What are the beers that influenced you early on?
RC: American IPAs that I could easily access; Blue Point’s Hoptical Illusion, Stone IPA, and anything hop forward from Sierra Nevada. But then I ventured to Tired Hands and had Hop Hands. That beer blew my mind and knowing that I couldn’t regularly get it, I had to try to homebrew it. On the homebrew forums I found Ed Coffy’s clone and it changed the way I looked and approached IPAs ever since.
ELI: What was the moment you decided to start your own brewery?
RC: At LIBME’s annual beer competition in 2017, I entered three IPAs and all of them placed. That moment, and seeing the positive reactions when our friends in and out of the brewing community drink the beers I’ve brewed over the years, it gave me confidence to open my own spot. My fiance and I poured everything we had, financially and otherwise, into building out this brewery. We decided to take the plunge while we’re still young, before we have kids and other major commitments.
ELI: As a lifelong Lindenhurst resident, how important to you is it to have your brewery here in the village, especially it being its first in 70 years?
RC: Growing up, everyone always said—and they still say it to us—that Lindenhurst is known for being in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most bars per square mile. But as a kid and teen skateboarding up and down the sidewalks here, I saw nothing but empty storefronts and businesses close. When I turned 21, my friends and I would head into Babylon to hang out and drink. I wanted that here in Lindenhurst, to offer a welcoming space for the people to enjoy in their own town. We have so many different types of people that come in, from beer geeks into pastry stouts to curious old couples walking by. A sentiment that we’re constantly hearing is that people who live here want to hang out and spend money in their own town, at their own local businesses. The fact that Lindenhurst was at once a brewing town complimented our efforts.
ELI: Linden Brewery closed in 1949. Did you come across any interesting information about it during your buildout or after opening?
RC: When everything with planning and construction started to calm down we visited the village historian to dig up any information and pictures of Linden that we could. We found out that Fellers Pond was actually built for the brewery to supply their ice. We also found out that it was one of the only breweries that stayed open through Prohibition. One afternoon during construction, a local stopped by with a case of original Linden bottles, and it felt right to display them in the tasting room alongside all the other pieces of history from Benkert’s we found while renovating the space.
ELI: In just a few months, you’ve already made a variety of beers. Will that diversity continue to be offered, or is there a plan to focus on a particular style or styles as you settle in?
RC: I’m definitely going to keep the diversity going; the creativity of brewing and experimenting with new ingredients is what I enjoy most about making beer. Also, brewing styles that reflect on the different seasons. That’s why we’ve done several fall-themed beers so far. But I’ll also focus on having some iterations of some go-to modern styles like New England-style IPAs, adjunct stouts, session lagers, and so on.
ELI: What’s been your favorite of your beers so far?
RC: That’s a tough one. It might be my most recent New England-style IPA. We hopped it with Mosaic and Amarillo on the hot side, with a low-temperature whirlpool and a massive triple dry hop, and we also sacrificed a giant five-pound red gummy bear into the boil kettle that really gives an awesome sweet, fruity character. We did a similar thing at Greenpoint Beer & Ale, just something we thought was funny. I’ve been tasting it off the fermenter and it’s going to be a good one.
ELI: You previously worked at Iron Heart, a mobile-canning company. You offer Crowlers, but are there plans to can in the near future?
RC: We’re definitely thinking about contract brewing as far as cans go. We don’t have the space or the capacity to do a canning run in-house so until we brew at a larger space, we won’t be rolling out cans.
ELI: Will you be distributing your beer to retail locations, or will you focus on own-premise sales and deal directly with customers, a model that an increasing number of craft brewers are using with great success?
RC: Own-premise sales and dealing directly with the customer is something I value. We plan on distributing to a few local bars and restaurants, like to our good friends nearby at Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails. But we’ll mainly be focusing on own-premise sales, brewing more and supplying the taproom.
ELI: You already brewed a collab with one of the highest-regarded breweries on Long Island in Sand City. Do you have any more collabs planned?
RC: We want to do more collabs, for sure, but once pumpkin-beer season is done. [Laughs.] We’ve been focused on brewing fall-themed beers. Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice is our blonde base loaded up with vanilla and pumpkin-pie spices. It’s been extremely popular on its own and also as a blend beer, what you’re drinking now, called Pumpkin Spice Latte, which is that plus our Coffee Shake, the blonde base with vanilla and cold-brew coffee from our neighbors Muni’s Coffee Joint. But for sure, we want to do another collab. The Sand City one was fun.
ELI: Sand City plans to open a second location in Lindenhurst. Could you see the village becoming a top beer destination on Long Island?
RC: Absolutely. As someone who loves traveling to breweries it’s always awesome when there’s multiple within walking distance. I have huge respect for the Sand City guys for their hard work and carrying the torch for hazy IPA on Long Island and driving that to even greater heights with their new space in Lindenhurst. The village is also home to other newly opened businesses that synergize with our breweries: Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails, W A Meadwerks, Bakuto, and soon-coming Hermanas Kitchen & Cocktails.
ELI: I love that you play “The Twilight Zone” in the taproom. What’s your favorite episode?
RC: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Mainly because I feel like I can relate to the feeling of losing my mind in the past year and a half building and opening the brewery. [Laughs.]