CENTERPORT, New York, August 28
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Nearly 100 years ago, at the height of Prohibition, people found to be brewing beer in their homes were arrested and sent to prison. Four years ago, the brains behind the Oyster Bay Brewing Company (OBBC) started whipping up homemade batches of beer in their own homes. Ryan Schlotter, of Centerport, and Gabe Haim, of Bayville, brewed there until 2013 when they went to “jail.” Now they’re brewing there, too.
The OBBC’s newest home, formerly a jail, is located just off of East Main Street – a footstep outside of Huntington – in Oyster Bay.
“We originally got a couple home brew kits and got addicted… [Now] we’ve been in this building for about 15 months,” Schlotter, 32, said. “This building was empty for five years. It used to be a jail – a holding station – so the basement still has bars in it. If the steps weren’t so crummy it would be cool to have tours down there.”
While the steps are crummy, the rest of the building is far from it. In between hours at their day-jobs – Rallye BMW in Westbury – the guys work alongside their wives, Brenda Schlotter and Chrissie Anthony-Haim, to keep the brewery and its accompanying tasting room in tip-top shape and full of thirsty customers.
“When we found the building, we needed to redo the inside, but it was good because it was a blank slate for all the brewery equipment that we were going to jam in here,” Ryan Schlotter said. “Our goal when we opened, besides giving the North Shore somewhere to go since most breweries are out east… was to make stuff that everybody can drink.”
With that brewing equipment, Schlotter and Haim currently whip up about eight different beers, including: Honey Ale (5 percent ABV), Amber Ale (6 percent), Wheat Ale (6 percent), India Pale Ale (6 percent), Lawnmower Ale (5 percent) and now – a treat for the upcoming fall season – Pumpkin Ale. The beers, available for tasting on tap, each offer a distinct taste, meaning that favorites typically vary from customer to customer.
“I like them all. I’m partial to IPAs and ambers… [But] our Lawnmower Ale is a really light beer [and] one of the most popular we do in house,” Schlotter, a graduate of Harborfields High School, said. “Most of the stuff we make is very ‘sessionable’ [suitable for long drinking sessions]… Nothing is really overpowering.”
To finish out, the Honey Ale consists of honey drafted by “Bee Haven,” the Amber Ale holds a toffee flavor with just a hint of caramel, and the IPA offers a strong hops flavor that’s bitter, but well balanced. A tasting of four beers is $5, five beers are a dollar extra. Small ($3), medium ($5) and large ($7) growlers are available for purchase, with additional costs added when they’re filled with beer; and, as of mid-August, the brewery offers pint glasses ($5 empty, $6 with beer).
“People like to hang out and have a couple of beers,” Schlotter said of the tasting room, which is open on Tuesday (6-9 p.m.), Friday (4-9 p.m.), Saturday (6-9 p.m.) and Sunday (12-3 p.m.).
But the OBBC doesn’t just stop at beer. The tasting room, outfitted with a television, bar, music, dart board, and some snacks, also sells dog biscuits. Yes, dog biscuits.
“Chrissie made dog biscuits one day and we said we should try to sell these in the brewery – it’s a good product,” Schlotter said of the biscuits, which are being recruited by local pet stores and are selling for $5 per bag. “They sold quickly and then, before we knew it, people where coming in here asking for them.”
Getting back to the beer, though, OBBC brews are distributed via Manhattan Beer Distributors and are thus available on tap at local Oyster Bay bars and restaurants along with select Huntington locations, like Northport’s Rockin’ Fish. Similarly, local Whole Foods locations are outfitted with growler stations that feature OBBC on tap. Schlotter is hopeful that cans and bottles are in the company’s future.
What is absolutely in the company’s future, though, is a Groupon that will be available online for a limited time – until December, Schlotter said – offering customers a discounted trip to the tasting room. For $14, the tasting for two package includes a sampling for each of the five beers OBBC has on tap, a large growler and two souvenir pint glasses. A package for four is also available ($28) that doubles all of the aforementioned perks. The packages are available for purchase here: Groupon.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills (Thursday, August 28, 2014; A10)