Tapping the Island: How microbreweries impact LI's economy

Microbreweries popping up across Nassau and Suffolk counties are having a big impact on the local economy.

Lying in the weeds, flying its flag in the middle of a gray industrial park in Bay Shore is a place called Destination Unknown Beer Company. Despite the name, one step inside reveals that the brewery, and the industry it represents, are hardly secret.

Brad Finn and Chris Candiano are a couple of guys who grew up in West Islip and still reside on Suffolk County's South Shore. By day, Finn works as a high school teacher and Candiano is a contractor. The duo becomes brewers by night, and their microbrewery is just one of many thriving on Long Island.

Bernie Kilkelly has had a front-row seat - or at least a corner stool at the bar - for Long Island's microbrew boom. He's been writing about craft beers in trade magazines and on his website for 20 years.

Two decades ago, Kilkelly says there were just two microbreweries on the Island: Blue Point, which has gone on to national fame, and Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue. He says there are now approximately 30 microbrewers calling Long Island home, with about 20 more in development. The emergence of microbreweries, Kilkelly says, is a national trend from which Long Island has only just begun to profit.

In the roughly 20 years since Brickhouse opened, the village surrounding it has changed. Restaurants continue to pop up, as do new developments. Even the mayor admits that part of the boom is due to beer.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri is no microbrew expert but says that it's clear his village has had a little hop in its step since craft beers became a big hit.

Downtown Patchogue is now lined with unique storefronts touting eclectic beer selections. The restaurants and brew pubs supplement the village's emerging entertainment venues. In an era in which many young people are leaving Long Island for greener pastures, Pontieri says that nearly half of Patchogue village's current residents are between the ages of 25 and 54.

Back at Destination Unknown, Finn and Candiano maintain that their small size allows them to continue experimenting and taking chances. The one return needed, they say, is satisfaction.

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