Two years ago, enterprising hops farmers in and around Riverhead capitalized on the farm brewery trend to create Jamesport Farm Brewery, one of the dozens of vineyards on the North Fork that have replaced old potato farms.
With its Farm to Pint approach, the brewery is a pioneer in the use of local ingredients. The 45-acre farm is also home to their wholesale nursery, Plant Connection, and their hop farm, Long Island Hops. Melissa and Anthony Caggiano operate the farm alongside their wholesale nursery.
“Our Jamesport Farm Brewery was formerly a potato farm, and the climate and soil are perfect for growing amazing hops,” says Melissa.
Jamesport is one of more than 40 breweries in Riverhead on Long Island. Another ten are set to open soon. In New York State, the farm brewery law passed in 2012 mandates that farm breweries use at least 60 percent of hops and other ingredients grown in the state by this year, with that number rising to 90 percent by 2024.
At present, L.I. Hops grow five kinds of hops for their own use and for sale to other brewers: Willamette, Columbus, Nugget, Centennial and Magnum EU, which are all harvested in late July and August. Melissa and Anthony also planted barley and wheat in 2015, with a goal of 100% of the ingredients for their beer coming from their farm.
In August 2017, they opened a tasting room and 10-barrel brewhouse in a renovated potato barn on the farm. Melissa and Anthony handle recipe development with input from their staff, while Anthony is the head brewer and Christine McCormack is the assistant brewer. Hay Baler pale ale and Ex-Wife, an English-style Extra Special Bitter, are the company’s flagship beers. There is also Prancing Pony, a blackberry wheat beer, and Sound Ave. Summer, a light Blonde Ale. In addition to hard ciders, the brewery makes its own apple juice, known as Wild Thang, which is produced on Halsey Farm in Watermill.
The Jamesport Farm Brewery expects to produce around 1,000 barrels of beer and cider this year. The brewery sells most of its products in its tasting room, with kegs being distributed to a few select local restaurants. Flights and pints of beer are available, or 64-ounce growlers and 32-ounce crowlers can be taken away. In addition to picnic tables and a food truck, the brewery has outdoor event spaces which are perfect for parties with families and dogs.
On Sept. 21, the brewery will host the 4th annual Long Island Hop Fest that will feature wet hop beers made with freshly picked hops added to the brew kettle rather than the typically dried hops or hop pellets.
“We had about 500 attendees at our first Hop Fest,” says Melissa, “and we expect over 1,000 this year.”
There will be wet hop beers from a number of Long Island craft breweries at the Hop Fest, including Long Ireland Beer Company, Port Jeff Brewing, Blue Point Brewing, and Harbor Head Brewing. Additionally, the Hop Fest will feature Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers, including Jamesport’s Sugar Skull Pumpkin Ale and a limited edition pumpkin ale aged for nine months in oak barrels used to age Rough Rider Whisky from Long Island Spirits.
A Haunted Hopyard with spooky hayrides and a train ride will keep the kids entertained through the fall at the farm brewery. Hop-loving beer lovers will also enjoy plenty of tasty brews.
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