The Race For Beer With All Local Ingredients

Rich Vandenburgh of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company wants to spur a generation of truly local beer on Long Island. 


Rich Vandenburgh of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company doesn’t just want to bring Southold Town its first brew pub, the North Fork entrepreneur says he wants to spur a generation of truly local beer on Long Island. This autumn, Vandenburgh proved his dedication to the cause by planting four acres of malting barley in a fallow sod field across the street from the brewery’s second location-to-be, a site he hopes one day will also include its own malt house.

A number of East End breweries have been making beer with fresh, local hops for a year now, but the race is still on for who will be first on Long Island to make beer entirely from ingredients grown in New York—and if Vandenburgh is successful in his efforts to locally grow barley, it appears as if he’ll take it.

“This was kind of a test, you know, to see how well it goes and how difficult it is,” he says of this fall’s planting, which will only provide him with 2,500 pounds of malting barley, or enough for about 60 kegs of beer, provided weather conditions are favorable. “It’s not a tremendous amount of beer, but my attitude is, ‘you gotta start somewhere.’”

After buying 400 pounds of the grain, Vandenburgh says he initially planned to plant his barley in the Mattituck potato fields of Marty Sidor until vegetable and potato specialist Sandy Menasha of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County advised him to seek out a sod or vegetable farmer instead.

“The ideal pH for barley is about six and a half, and it was going to cost us about $3,000 to get Marty’s soil up to that from about five or five and a half,” says Vandenburgh. “Then it turned out Briarcliff Sod had a field directly across from us that they were planning to leave fallow for the winter, and Don very generously let us use it.”

Vandenburgh says he hopes to drink the results of his experimental acreage next fall around the time of the local hop harvest. Though barley is harvested in mid-July, the grain still needs to be shipped upstate for a lengthy malting process. “Someday I want to establish a malthouse—even in Peconic on our own property—to make grain on Long Island,” he says. “That would be the cool part, to do it from A to Z.”

For now, Vandenburgh is still working on going from A to B by opening his second brewery.

“We’re hoping to get the equipment in by January and hope to be brewing by April 1,” he says. “The pub part with a restaurant and food will be more into the summer season.”