Tuesday, February 28, 2012
MICHAEL PHILBRICK and his PORT JEFF BREWING COMPANY!
Long Island is renowned for it's world class wines that have been produced here for many years. Now beer brewing is becoming more prevalent with the addition of some new breweries producing some amazing micro brews. PORT JEFF BREWERY is the latest to open and it is a very welcome addition to Port Jefferson with it's delicious hand crafted micro brews. Michael Philbrick is the founder and this is his dream come true. I had the great pleasure to speak with Michael recently...
MICK: The Port Jeff Brewing Company opened in October 2011. How is it going so far?
MICHAEL: Great! We opened the tasting room in October and since then we've got a pretty good following in the tasting room and opened 60-70 accounts throughout the Island. It's moving right along!
MICK: You began as a home brewer right?
MICHAEL: Yes I did. About twelve years ago I started home brewing and it became a passion of mine. I ended up turning it into a business and that takes me to where I am today!
MICK: I read that you graduated from World Brewing Academy at the Siebel Institute in Chicago. Is that a college?
MICHAEL: No it's not. In the United States, there are three places of higher education you can go to learn professional brewing. There's a new one called EC Davis. The other two are the Siebel Institute in Chicago or the Vermont Brewers Guild. It's more or less a certificate course. When I wanted to open a brewery, I thought I should get a formal education and start learning larger equipment before I just go out and buy some!
MICK: How long were you there?
MICHAEL: The course I took there was a four month course.
MICK: When you decided to open a brewery, how long did it take for you to get it going?
MICHAEL: From conception until today it took three years. There's an incredible planning stage that happens long before you start looking for real estate. We actually moved into our building about a year ago last January and started the construction. That entails putting a large scale brewery into an otherwise small commercial space.
MICK: Were you actually brewing while you were building the place?
MICHAEL: We started construction in January and the actual brewing equipment arrived in July. It wasn't until September that is was operable. In brewing, we have a lot of plumbing hookups and electrical hookups with various pipes and hoses that run throughout the brewery. That takes time to situate. Our building is so small that we had to get the brewing equipment in first and then build around it. We occupy under 1000 square feet. For the amount of beer that we put out, I can't imagine there are many other places that are that small and can produce that much beer!
MICK: How long does it take you to make a brew?
MICHAEL: The actual brewing of the beer would be about six hours. That's basically preparing the liquid to start fermenting. Depending on the type of beer you are making, the fermentation could be anywhere from as little as 8 or 9 days to a month. It varies from beer to beer. Higher alcohol content beers take longer and those that are less in alcohol take less time to ferment.
MICK: How many employees do you have?
MICHAEL: There is another guy that brews with us so he's the head brewer. His name is Jeff Nokes. He is currently attending Siebel Institute. We two other interns that help out during the week. These guys are considering or already enrolled in that secondary type of education. They come to work and learn the trade for free! That's what I did and that's what Jeff did.
Home brewing and commercial brewing are very much the same but also very different. There's a lot of work involved. People think we brew beer, hang out and drink beer all day but that's not the case!
MICK: Do you have a personal favorite beer?
MICHAEL: My personal favorite beer is the one that was just brewed! We make 8 different beers right now so between October and now, we just brought them out.
MICK: Do you brew soda also? Is that a brewed thing?
MICHAEL: We don't brew soda but we do make soda on the premises. We make a birch beer.
MICK: Is that a similar type process?
MICHAEL: Not really. Birch beer and soda are a little bit more with flavoring. We could brew a birch beer but we don't do it completely from scratch.
MICK: Are you planning to develop more types of beers?
MICHAEL: Yes we are! Right now, of the eight that we have, there are three that are seasonal. Once winter passes, we will start brewing in the spring and again in the summer. Around Halloween, we make Boo Brew which is our pumpkin beer.
MICK: Where is the beer distributed?
MICHAEL: We have two main outlets which are restaurants and bars. The second category would be a home distributor like a local beverage and beer store. Because we only package in kegs, the beer stores we serve all have growlers.
MICK: What events do you have coming up at the brewery?
MICHAEL: We are doing an event on St. Patrick's Day and having a band in front of the brewery. The tasting room is open 7 days a week so there's always something going on. We also do bar events, beer festivals and various fund raising events. We typically do two events a week.
MICK: Beside brewing beer, what else do you like to do?
MICHAEL: Going out on the boat! I'm married with 3 children and a dog. The boat is a great pastime for us. We live right in Port Jefferson so we are right on the water.
MICK: How long have you lived in Port Jefferson?
MICHAEL: We've lived here for about five years now. My wife is from the Stony Brook. I'm originally from Connecticut. We've been spending our summers here in Port Jefferson for the past ten years. So when I decided to open a brewery, I thought it didn't make sense for Port Jefferson to not have a brewery! We have a great location too, right in the heart of Chandler Square!
MICK: What are the plans up the road for the brewery?
MICHAEL: We just began an expansion and we are going to start doing some barrel aging. We will be using mainly oak barrels. Some are wine barrels, some are whiskey and rum. In the beer world, it's something that is definitely more attractive. The type of bottling we would do would be a cork and cage bottle, much like a champagne bottle. That seems to be catching on well on the market. I think the beers that we do the best would really work well with the oak.
MICK: How far west is your beer sold?
MICHAEL: We are not into New York City yet. The furthest place we are at from the brewery, other than Westchester NY, is Lynbrook in Nassau County. In the past few weeks we've started getting into Nassau County but we are predominantly in Suffolk County. We are still fairly new and we are steadily growing!
PORT JEFF BREWERY is located in beautiful downtown Port Jefferson at 22 Mill Creek Road - located within the Chandler Square walking mall.
For more information: http://portjeffbrewing.com/