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Long Island’s?! Craft Beer Explosion

on 10/08/12 at 5:31 pm


Towing a 170-lb. beer keg on the back of his company bicycle to a pub in tourist-clogged downtown Montauk on a recent sweaty summer afternoon, Vaughan Cutillo stops traffic as passersby marvel aloud at the spectacle.

It’s not the handsome 27-year-old’s public show of strength that turns heads and prompts shouts of encouragement, however. Many are just learning that the Montauk Brewing Company opened its headquarters near the traffic circle six weeks ago—and that bike is among their most visible advertising.


“It’s our Clydesdales,” jokes Cutillo, referring to the team of horses Budweiser uses in their promotions. His trailer-hitched beach cruiser is also symbolic of the rustic, do-it-yourself ethos spilling from the Island’s easternmost tip into its fledgling namesake craft brewery.

The entrepreneur and two of his fellow ex-lifeguard buddies, Joseph Sullivan and Eric Moss, are not yet ready to quit their day jobs at a renewable energy design firm, but after experimenting with a home-brewing kit in a basement three years ago, they aim to match other local microbreweries’ output by the end of next year. They just built their “gallery tap room”—adorned with Hamptons artists’ abstract paintings and scenic photos—out of an old wood-working company showroom.

“We can’t wait to give tours,” he says between offering free 4-oz. samples to locals and day-trippers who wander in to taste the new brew in town. “We’ve been packed…even people who don’t like beer are excited.”

There’s plenty to raise a glass to, between collegiality with other local brewers willing to lend a hand and the enthusiastic response from the community.

“We got pretty lucky to be able to do this here,” says Cutillo.

In the meantime, production of their flagship foam—Driftwood Ale, an extra special bitter with “the same bold character as Montauk”—is outsourced to a Cooperstown brewery, as is widespread practice.

Cutillo and his partners are just the latest to make lemonade from economic lemons and ride the beer boom wave on Long Island, which has been undergoing a literal craft-beer Renaissance and where craft breweries have doubled in the past year. As the subculture of hopheads behind this cottage industry goes mainstream, LI’s dozen breweries will soon have even more company. Fueling the phenomenon are recently passed New York State tax breaks, an influx of craft-beer focused bars, local beer festivals and LI brewery tours—plus countless craft beer drinkers with an unquenchable thirst for variety.