Drinking LI Part 4: The Islander Fan's Guide to Craft Beer

"Hmm, this is right on that blurry line between sessionable and strong." - Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In their infinite wisdom, the NHL schedulers have given our Islanders a Bye Week! Isn’t that something? Play Saturday on the road, don’t play again until Thursday. It’s enough to make a hockey fan start drinking.

As always, your resident quasi-alcoholic Head of Metal is here for you. Next time you go drinking on the Island, be on the lookout for these local favorites, vetted by yours truly…

St James Rachelle Blanche (Belgian White). An LHH user way back in the part 1 of this series gave a shout-out to these guys in the comments. Not actually located in the town of St. James, but in Holbrook not far from Spider Bite, this small brewery takes advantage of New York State’s Farm Brewery designation. Basically, that rule incentivizes using local ingredients from within the state. That would mean nothing if the beer wasn't that good, but it is. This Belgian style wheat ale is an approachable crowd pleaser that masters a pleasantly dry aftertaste. Start your flight with this one for a reason!

St James Fraise (Strawberry Ale). I was ready for a traditional fruit-forward, juice-like beer on seeing this name, but this is really a "strawberry spice" flavor over anything else. Something about the combo of St. James’ proprietary yeast and whatever method they used for the fruit makes for an addictive dry taste at the top of the mouth. The "fruit beer" for those of us who don’t drink fruit beers.

St James Tripel. This 9%-er does not have the buttery richness and mouthfeel from "true" Belgian yeast that you typically see from other tripels. Sometimes they can be on the sweet side, but St. James’ version more neutral between sweet and dry. Good for Thanksgiving dinner! Thus, you can drink this one more quickly and easily than you would normally! Again, St. James is all about its in-house yeast strain here, and it would be nice to see them experiment with different varieties of yeast to see the result.

Oyster Bay Sagamore Dark Lager. If you're a fan of the German bock or dunkel style, this will take your taste buds straight back to your favorite biergarten. Named after the nearby historic site, this dark, smooth and malty classic will disappear quickly no matter what the size of your glass. Not too strong on the abv front, and I wish more local breweries would try making something like this. There's another version aged in pinot noir barrels that I personally don't find nearly as charming to the taste buds. Make no mistake…The undefiled original deserves a "BULLY!"

Oyster Bay Alexa. According to Oyster Bays sole bartender on duty the day we tried this sharp and smooth double ipa, it was shipped in for Billy Joel's opening show at New Coliseum, where the fans sucked it all down like water in no time. I can picture the result: "Weeelllll, if yah sheeeeee maaaaahhhhh doowwwwneeeeeastuuuuhhhhh alexurrrrrr, bum bum buuuum....I love thish part....geeesh theesh are rully shtrong...shit, hold on..."

Montauk Wave Chaser. Though sometimes billed as a "Citrus IPA," I don't get a strong taste of orange or grapefruit from Montauk's latest. It’s still tasty though, and right on the sometimes-blurry line between sessionable and strong. Nothing to complain about at all if you like IPAs, but it probably won’t win any new converts to the Hop Kingdom.

Greenport Harbor Tidal Lager. At my high school's ten-year reunion (eek!), this brew came flowing from the kegs like elixir. I could have double fisted pitchers of this stuff all night long. Criminally smooth, flavorful, and easy drinking awaits. If you find it on tap somewhere, do yourself a favor and buy two. You'll want another, so don't even ask.

Flying Belgian Illegally Blonde. Flying Belgian doesn't even have a tap room yet, but you can find them at beverage places with growler filling stations around Bellmore and Merrick where they're headquartered, and elsewhere. Anyway, we recently threw a party featuring a number of fresh growlers of Long Island beer, and this one was the first to be 86’d. On the sweet, demure side and packing a seductive 7% wallop, Illegally Blonde is a good girl indeed. It doesn't have the rich heaviness you get from other Belgian style ales.

Great South Bay Field 5. One of my favorite Island IPAs could pass for a New England style IPA, which is growing popular lately: cloudy but sharp, and you can feel the hazy hop taste all the way up to your nostrils. On tap, it is even more divine. Great for summer and served in tallboy cans perfect for the beach...Jones, that is.

Brooklyn Defender. The New York craft powerhouse that deserves its own bar in Barclays Center created this mid-range IPA for Comic-Con. Until they muscle their way in between the Bud Light taps, fans should visit the brewery’s tasting room for flight after flight of this smooth and delightful credit to the hop-forward style. I was introduced to a good friend’s husband over quite a few of these, and four hours later we were still drinking them. Good times.

Read the rest of the series:

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