15 Long Island Beer Pros Share the Brews They’re Most Thankful For

On Long Island, there’s so much to be(er) thankful for. Photo by Yutacar

Unlike that uncouth uncle and his proclivity for politically combative conversations, beer will probably be a welcome guest at your Thanksgiving gathering. And for good reasons; you can pair brews with each stage of the meal, or use them simply to survive another year of tired stories and inflamed arguments courtesy of that contentious uncle. (You know he’ll be invited!) That’s why, if you listen close enough on the holiday, you may just hear the sound of cans and bottles being cracked open floating in the crisp air, not unlike the whooshing of giant balloons bobbling above throngs of excited onlookers at the Macy’s parade. Well, maybe.

Now whether your feast will feature fowl or a more foul meat like beef in the form of family infighting, I think we can all agree that Turkey Day should be a time for gratitude, to reflect and give thanks for all the good things in life. Things like the unconditional love of a parent or grandparent. Things like Facebook’s “unfollow” option (for uncle’s social media activity, obvi). Things like Melissa Villaseñor‘s impression of Steve Buscemi

No one is more thankful for beer than the people working in the industry. It’s their love, their livelihood, their language. With that in mind, ahead of the cranberry sauce and the helium-filled Felix the Cat, we gathered 15 of Long Island’s beer pros around our virtual Thanksgiving table and asked them to share (in words) the brew they are most thankful for. Participants were not allowed to choose their own creations, because gratitude! Here’s what they had to say.

Gerard Sims, co-owner of Small Craft Brewing Company, is most thankful for Blue Point’s Hoptical Illusion.

“After years of downing pint after pint of Guinness in my hometown’s plethora of pubs, Blue Point’s Hoptical Illusion was the beer that showed me the light. At that time, most taps in the area were filled with foreign and domestic lagers, pale ales, and (obviously) Guinness. When bottles of this IPA—amber in color, with malty sweetness balanced by a hop punch of pine and resin, with nice citrus notes—started to pop up on menus, it intrigued my then limited palate and sent me down a craft-beer wormhole I have yet to escape from.” — Gerard Sims, Co-Owner and Brewer, Small Craft Brewing Company

“When Thanksgiving rolls around, you have to be most thankful for the ones who have always been there for you. For me, that’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s an OG craft beer that has done a lot for the industry. It’s also been consistently delicious for as long as I’ve been drinking it, and you can find it everywhere you go. What more do you want?” — Rob Capitelli, Brewmaster, Blue Point Brewing Company

“When I first got in the beer business, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout was the beer. I remember people following the distributor truck to see which stores got their deliveries.  To this day, we still get an endless amount of phone calls about it each year as its Black Friday release approaches. The hype made me purchase a bottle back then and it was as advertised. It’s a delicious beer, tasting like dark chocolate, with hints of coffee and the booziness of bourbon. But its flavor profile isn’t why I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for Bourbon County because it created the weekly beer shares I hold in my house. Each Monday, a bunch of my friends come over, most of whom I met through the beer business and previous jobs, and we split beers and just hang out. We catch up with each other and what’s going on in our lives. It has created new friendships and strengthened our old ones, and for that I’m very thankful.” — Joe Cuison, Manager, Port Jeff Beverage

Squarehead Brewing Company co-owner and head brewer Brad Jordan is grateful for Historic Ales from Williams Bros.

“I got into drinking craft beer in 2009 and, being that my dad loved beer and had home-brewed in the past, I bought him a four-pack of Historic Ales from Williams Bros. for Christmas. We shared and critiqued all four beers as best we knew, and we agreed that the Ebulum elderberry black ale was our favorite. My father turned to me and said, ‘You know, we can make this beer.’ With a blank stare, I replied, ‘Yeah, ok.’ But on December 13, 2010, we did just that and eventually entered it into Brewers East End Revival’s annual home-brewing competition the next year. I’m thankful to have had that experience with my father. It resurfaced his hobby, which then turned me onto brewing and started us on this path, spending time together in something we love, beer.” — Brad Jordan, Co-Owner and Head Brewer, Squarehead Brewing Company

“90 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head, one of the first craft beers I had. With 90 Minute, Dogfish Head introduced a new process called continual hopping and as a result created one of the most important IPAs ever. By making additions continually during the boil, it allowed the brewery to use a crazy amount of hops without making the beer super bitter. It created a beer with massive, evolving hop flavors cascading over a firm malt backbone. Thank you, Dogfish.” — Mark Doublet, Owner, Hops Scotch Bottle Shop

“I’m most thankful for Wolters Pilsener. It’s a crisp, clean German bier with just a hint of bitterness. Plus, at $20 a case it’s a lot cheaper than a lot of craft today.” — Steve Haller, Owner, Fadeley’s Deli Pub

Erin O’Flaherty, Barrage Brewing Company’s Long Island Sales Director, is saving her thanks for Long Ireland’s ESB.

“After much deliberation, I would have to say Long Ireland’s ESB. Once I tasted ESB, with its juxtaposition of malty and bitter, it kept me coming back to Long Ireland. Smooth and malty upfront, with a nice twinge of bitter on the backend, ESB sparked the regular visits to Long Ireland’s taproom, which eventually led to a position there, where I spent the next four years working and falling in love with the craft-beer community. So, I credit ESB with starting my journey into the industry, gifting me so many amazing friendships with truly creative and passionate people, and ultimately leading me to my current position at Barrage.” — Erin O’Flaherty, Long Island Sales Director, Barrage Brewing Company

“I’m most thankful for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Besides being my classic go-to beer, I gained even more of an appreciation for it after reading founder Ken Grossman’s ‘Beyond the Pale’ and learning of its important role in paving the way for the current craft-beer scene I love and work in.” — Ryan Cooke, Co-Owner and Brewer, 27A Brewing Company

“I’m thankful for a beer I had in 2004. At the time, I was trading for beers since Georgia, where I lived, had a cap on what could be sold, of 6.5% percent ABV. So I was trying every IPA, barleywine, and American strong ale I could get my hands on. A buddy in shipped a growler to our tasting group of Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co.’s Hop Whompus, an imperial red ale. It blew me away. I had never had anything that smelled or tasted like it before. There was a sweet malty undertone and the biggest and brightest aroma and flavor of fresh hops. It was like smelling a bag of hops. Each sip was crisp and clean, and finished with just enough bitterness. A true West Coast style. Even when the beer was gone, the glass still smelled like hops. But why am I thankful for it? While I was already drinking quite a bit of the West Coast beers this pulled me in deeper. I started homebrewing more in this style, and I became more serious about one day opening my own brewery. And the rest is history.” — Larry Goldstein, Owner and Brewmaster, Spider Bite Beer Co.

Mr. Beery’s owner Steve Beery is thankful for St. Bernardus Abt 12.

“I’m thankful for St. Bernardus Abt 12, a Belgian quad, fruity with hints of prune, great legs, and a nice, subtle hop finish. I’m proud to have it in my favorite bar on draft (you figure out where). It’s one that if you’re drinking has been downsized from 15 beers to two beers, you’re happy to spend the money for it.” — Steve Beery, Owner, Mr. Beery’s

“As I began to develop a taste (or obsession?) for the funk and sour side of beer years ago, my love inevitably led me to the great lambic beers of Belgium. While I was blown away by their quality, complexity, and history, I never thought anything even close could be produced outside of Brussels. Then, a few years back, I became aware of Texas’ Jester King and its spontaneously fermented beers. The beer was SPON – Méthode Traditionelle and it changed my world. Jester King had applied much of the same technique, the same love of time and place, as the great lambic makers, and by doing so crafted something truly special that I believe stands up to the Belgium masters. For that I’m inspired, and truly thankful. — Sarah Dougherty, Co-Founder and Co-Owner, The Brewers Collective

Blue Point’s Oatmeal Stout was the first craft beer I ever had. My sister was working at the old River Avenue location and brought home a growler one day. It was so fucking good. Dark beer had this weird reputation about being heavy and thick and filling. Oatmeal wasn’t that. There were layers of roast and chocolate, but so light and refreshing. It didn’t make sense at first. That got me hooked on beers that were new and different and led to me entering the industry, which now is owning two bars.” — Terence Daly, Co-Owner, Great South Bar and Sayville Athletic Club 

Bernie Kilkelly, publisher of LIBeerGuide.com, is also most thankful for Blue Point Brewing Company—especially their flagship brew, Toasted Lager.

“I’m thankful for Blue Point’s flagship, Toasted Lager. When the brewery introduced it over 20 years ago, Toasted Lager was Long Island’s answer to Sam Adams Lager and Brooklyn Lager, helping to put the area on the craft beer-map. Today, Toasted Lager continues to be a go-to beer with the crisp, refreshing hoppiness of a lager and subtle notes of roasted malts.” — Bernie Kilkelly, publisher of LIBeerGuide.com 

“This is the perfect time of year to be thankful for the beer that made me fall in love with the Long Island craft-beer scene, Black Friday from Long Ireland. I wrote my last paper in college on the craft-beer community and interviewed co-owner Dan Burke for it. So, when drinking that perfect dark, rich, barrel-aged imperial stout it warms me up and reminds me to be thankful that I’m apart of the greatest industry in the world.” — Alyssa Eriksen, Tasting Room and Events Manager, 1940s Brewing Company

“On certain summer evenings on Long Island, the day’s denim lingers before fading to a sky of firelight and haze, filled with the faint smells of cut lawns and barbecues. On one such night, in a post-Pete’s Wicked wasteland, my brother-in-law brought a short, dark bottle from Belgium to my home. On it, an artistic ‘12’ sat beneath a shield. He quietly said, ‘Chances are you may never have this again.’ An optimistic future date of consumption spoke to my sense of liquid time that was beyond my comprehension. The Westvleteren 12. Looking through purple caramel towards the setting sun, I could observe a high watermark of many other conquests. To quote Jack Donaghy quoting Hans Gruber, ‘And Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.’ I felt a wave of thanks—to the brewer, the transporter, my brother-in-law; beer is community liquified.” — William Kiernan, Co-Owner, Sand City Brewing Company