S

BEHIND
the

Drink local is taking on a whole new meaning as
Hamptons-based breweries are tapping into the
East End’s expanding interest in craft beer and
long island-grown ingredients.
by Matthew Wexler

Hops grown on
Shelter Island
gives some local
brews their
distinctive terroir.

302  hamptons-magazine.com

photography by Joff Lee/Getty Images; opposite page: Helen Cathcart/Getty Images

BREWERIES

omething big is brewing
on the East End. The
craft beer movement
has arrived in full force,
and local brewers are
obliging with regional
ingredients that impart
as much terroir as you
might expect from the area’s wineries. While
overall national beer sales stayed virtually stagnant in 2015, craft beer rose nearly 13 percent to
stake its claim in an overall market that hit nearly
$106 billion in sales. New York alone is home to
208 craft breweries, each clamoring to find a
niche in an increasingly saturated market. “When
we opened, we couldn’t get the time of day from
regional wholesalers; now all they want to do is
sell craft beer,” says Don Sullivan, owner of
Southampton Publick House. At 20 years old, it’s
Long Island’s oldest brewery and has stood the
test of time while competitors like Blue Point
Brewing Company have sold to beer conglomerates such as Anheuser-Busch.
Sullivan offers a historical understanding of
the rise of these mega producers, citing President
Eisenhower’s 1956 Interstate Highway System
and the infrastructure that allowed wholesalers
and a robust distribution system to come into
power the following decades. Making beer is one
thing, but getting it to beer drinkers is quite
another. Jump ahead 50 years and Sullivan says
craft beers are in sync with the “buy local” movement. “From a cultural standpoint, there’s a
return to basics in the food and beverage industry,” he says. “Consumers want a better-quality
beer—one with real flavor.”

Ender is giving his own spin to craft beer. James Hull’s
Shelter Island Craft Brewery has set up shop in the
town’s epicenter and has quickly garnered attention
since opening last year. “Food and flavors are my
life,” says Hull, who is a self-described want-to-be
chef. “I see beer as a canvas for that, and at 65, I’m
frankly just too old to open a restaurant.”
Hull has lived the American dream several times
over, helping to erect the original World Trade
Center as a sheet metal apprentice, followed by a
25-year stint as a jeweler in the Diamond District.
Finally, he settled on Shelter Island as a charter boat
captain, where he would take guests out on the local
waters to go fly fishing, before turning his sights to
making craft beer.
The Farm Brewery License (part of legislation signed
in July 2012 to support and strengthen New York craft
breweries) enables brewers like Hull to produce beer
that’s made from at least 20 percent locally grown farm
products. That percentage will increase over time, and
by 2024, beer produced under these guidelines will be
made from no less than 90 percent of ingredients grown
or produced in New York State.

“There’s a lot of
momentum in the
industry, but you
don’t have a
business without
a quality product.”
—vaughan cutillo

From the onset, Southampton Publick House’s philosophy has
been one of staying true to style rather than reinventing the wheel.
Expect authentic flavor profiles as if you were drinking a beer from
its origin. “An [American] West Coast India Pale Ale (IPA) is highly
hopped, but if you’re in the north of England, you’d get a true
English IPA,” says Sullivan, a 35-year resident of Southampton who
goes so far as to add minerals to his water to replicate the beer’s inspiration from the English town of Burton-on-Trent.
Is all of that effort worth it? Yes, according to Sullivan, who says his
international clientele constantly comments that his brews taste “just
like home.” “I’m proud of being a Long Islander,” he says. “There
aren’t many businesses left that are solely owned and going for more
than 20 years. We’re proud of that and hold it dear.”
Across the Peconic on Shelter Island, another longtime East

304  hamptons-magazine.com

clockwise from top:
Greenport Harbor
Brewing Company
produces limitededition beers as well
as barrel-aged
products, sours, and
hops-forward ales;
inside the brewery;
cofounders John
Liegey and Richard
Vandenburgh.

photography by Liz Banfield (beer); Liz Barclay (liegey); Dylan Garside (equipment);
opposite page: Nic Alegre (moss); Vaughan Cutillo (brewery, beer)

I

t was the perfect fit for Hull, who figures
his operation is probably one of the
smallest in the country. He rotates
upwards of 25 different beers—handcrafted and gravity-fed—based on the
availability of ingredients and seasonality. “The
island has a lot of resources available,” says Hull. “If
I was larger and became automated, there’s no way
that I could source the things I do.”
Those resources include a range of local ingredients, such as honey from Kilb Apiary and five
varieties of hops grown on the island by Michael
Clark, as well as lemon thyme, hen-of-the-woods
mushrooms, beach plums—even lavender from
Hull’s own garden. And while it’s not a get-rich-quick
business model, Hull says it’s still possible to make a
profit using the very best ingredients.
Business savvy and a genuine passion for the product have helped other brewers stay afloat during
turbulent times. A lifelong friendship doesn’t hurt,
either. John Liegey and Rich Vandenburgh have
been best friends since college and had always dreamt
of opening their own brewery. They both settled
down on Long Island, and after spotting an abandoned firehouse in Greenport, the pair revisited a
pipe dream to brew beers.
Vandenburgh described the location as “a diamond in the rough,” but its 12-foot ceilings
beckoned a rebirth, and the town’s long history as a
working harbor seemed like the perfect fit. But of
course timing is everything. The day they closed on

clockwise from
above: At Montauk
Brewing Company,
founders (from left)
Eric Moss, Vaughan
Cutillo, and Joe
Sullivan make beers
that complement
Montauk’s seafooddriven cuisine and
“come as you are”
attitude.

“Food and
flavors
are my life.
I see beer as
a canvas
for that.”
—james hull

the purchase—September 15, 2008—also happened to
coincide with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Perhaps
not the best time to launch a business, but within a year,
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company opened its doors.
Entering the market with a couple of styles that were
solid, well balanced, and representative of the category,
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company continues to
experiment and is rolling out an additional line of limitededition beers, barrel-aged products, sours, and Project
Hoppines—an initiative to showcase hop-forward ales. It
also opened a second brewery in Peconic in 2014 to keep
up with the demand and improve functionality and efficiency. A new addition will include a brewpub, beer
garden, and outdoor fireplace.
But with growth comes responsibility. Vandenburgh
sits on the board of the New York State Brewers
Association and is keenly aware of how challenging it is to
stay relevant in a booming market, especially when the
definition of “craft beer” can mean the production of up to
6 million barrels per year. “As an industry, how many
options can we put into the marketplace without overwhelming the consumer?” he wonders, noting that it’s
increasingly important for independently owned craft
brewers to be precise and smart in their objectives.

Top Picks

The Summer’s Best Brews
Barton & Gray Mariners Club
Grog Lager: Made exclusively for
Barton & Gray by Cisco Brewers and
only available on charters, it is light
and refreshing with a touch of citrus
and “best served at sea.”
Sag Harbor Cove Yacht Club, 8 W.
Water St., Sag Harbor, 617-728-3555;
bartonandgray.com

Greenport Harbor Brewing
Company
Summer Ale: Straw-colored golden
ale with notes of orange blossom
and honey.
Tidal Lager: Lightly malted,
copper-colored lager with a touch of
sweetness and not overly hopped.
234 Carpenter St., Greenport, 477-1100;
greenportharborbrewing.com

T
right: Donald
Sullivan owns
Southampton
Publick House, Long
Island’s oldest
brewery. above:
James Hull rotates
upwards of 25 beers
at his Shelter Island
Craft Brewery,
sourcing
ingredients grown
on the island.

306  hamptons-magazine.com

.

Montauk Brewing Company
“From a cultural
standpoint, there’s
a return to basics
in the food and
beverage industry.”
—don sullivan
photography by Doug Young; opposite page: Doug Young

right: Donald
Sullivan owns
Southampton
Publick House, Long
Island’s oldest
brewery. below:
James Hull rotates
upwards of 25 beers
at his Shelter Island
Craft Brewery,
sourcing ingredients
grown on the island.

hree minds are better than one in the
case of Montauk Brewing Company.
Partners Eric Moss, Vaughan Cutillo,
and Joe Sullivan grew up together on the
East End and spent about a decade as
ocean lifeguards. They began experimenting with home
brews in Cutillo’s basement with Moss at the helm, and
after tapping the result with a home kegerator, discovered
they had a knack for it.
It took three years to secure building permits, and
although the town was supportive, there was local,
county, and state red tape to cut through. The trio eventually converted an old woodworking shop into a
full-scale brewery, and by the summer of 2012 they were
delivering around town out of a jerry-rigged trailer
attached to a beach cruiser bicycle.
“It’s all in the timing,” says Cutillo, who leads the company’s marketing efforts. “We all had regular day jobs and
took the plunge. There was no other way but to go all in.”
This meant investing in top-of-the-line, stainless-steel equipment to produce beers to complement Montauk’s
seafood-driven cuisine. It is also a celebration of what
makes the Hamptons so unique. Says Cutillo, “You won’t
find televisions in our tasting room. It’s a place to meet each
other, communicate, and celebrate—a casual beach vibe
where our motto is ‘Come as you are.’”
But don’t mistake those sun-kissed faces for beach
bums. Like the East End’s other craft breweries, Montauk
Brewing Company is dedicated to the “craft” part of brewing beers. “There’s a lot of momentum in the industry out
here,” says Cutillo, “but you don’t have a business without a quality product.” 

Driftwood Ale: Dark copper color
and easy to drink, an English-style
ale with a toasty, nutty finish.
Guardsman Stout: Creamy milk
stout with notes of chocolate and
a roasted finish.
62 S. Erie Ave., Montauk, 668-8471;
montaukbrewingco.com

Shelter Island Craft Brewery
Bootleggers Stout: Reminiscent of
the rum-runner days, a dark stout
made with Madagascar vanilla bean
and Maker’s Mark bourbon.
Nude Beach Plum Ale: Light,
pink-blushed beer made with local
beach plums, honey, lemon verbena,
and hops.
55 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island,
749-5977; shelterislandcraftbrewery.com

Southampton Publick House
Abbot 12: Dark, Trappist-style beer
not to be taken lightly, with notes of
raisins, figs, and caramel.
Flagship Double White: Unfiltered,
classic-style Belgian white ale with
notes of coriander and citrus.
62 Jobs Lane, Southampton,
283-800; publick.com