Dave Schultzer, the owner of Bellport Cold Beer & Soda, can vividly recall his first encounter with the founders of the then-fledgling Blue Point Brewing Company.

It was 1998, and Mark Burford and Pete Cotter pulled up to Schultzer’s Station Road beer distributor in a white van. A golden retriever named Sally was seated between them.

In the back were growlers full of Blue Point beer.

Schultzer agreed to take a case of growlers to sell; he figured to help these guys out.

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“They had a little beat up van; I had a beat up store,” Schultzer laughed. “I was like, ‘You guys are little guys; I’m a little guy. Let’s work together.’ And I’m still a little guy.

“And they’re Blue Point Brewery.”

A NEW ERA

Schultzer was interviewed by GreaterPatchogue Wednesday outside Blue Point’s future home in Patchogue.

He was among the dozens of elected officials, business leaders and beer enthusiasts to attend a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the recent start of construction on the $35 million project — expected to open in the spring of 2018.

It’s been more than three years since since Burford and Cotter — who started as home brewers — sold the company to Anheuser-Busch for a reported $24 million. Blue Point’s flagship beer, Toasted Lager, is now available in all 50 states and four continents.

Burford was on hand Wednesday to address the crowd.

He recalled watching a wrecking ball take down the iconic lace mill some 20 years ago in Patchogue, where the planned brewery now stands on West Main Street.

“We didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the end of the old era in Patchogue and the beginning of the new era,” he said.

Recognizing the building’s significance, he and Cotter used bricks they took from the mill’s rubble to build the Blue Point bar that’s still used today at the original River Avenue tasting room.

The bar will also be making the move to West Main Street.

“Those bricks have held up many a Patchogue resident, and politician” Burford joked. “Those bricks will be returning here as part of the new construction; a real full circle for the next step for Blue Point Brewing Company and the next step in the revitalization of Patchogue.”

ABOUT THE BREWERY

The new brewery will have a footprint of 54,000 square feet with a second floor restaurant, tasting room and outdoor beer garden, according to Blue Point. The projected capacity is 60,000 barrels — a 400% increase to current brewery capacity — with the capability to scale to 120,000 barrels.

There will be catwalks for brewery tours, and a retail component as well. Blue Point plans to market the brewery across the island and to New York City residents and tourists.

To help the project along, the Brookhaven Industrial Development agency last year approved $4 million in tax breaks. The project is also receiving a state and county sales tax exemption on equipment and construction materials, not to exceed $2 million.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine touted the IDA’s involved in the project, as well as the initial vision of the Blue Point co-founders — and Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri.

“We’re here to celebrate vision made real,” Romaine told the crowd.

The county has also provided a $1.6 million grant to redevelop the infrastructure around the brewery, plans that are just now taking shape in Village Hall.

It was Pontieri who had urged Blue Point and Anheuser-Busch representatives in April of 2016 to consider moving their expansion plans from River Avenue to the building on West Main Street.

(The last tenant, Briarcliffe College had recently announced they would be closing.)

Pontieri also recalled on Wednesday working as a youth at Long Island’s Anheuser-Busch distributor, Clare Rose, which at the time was located just south of the brewery. Clare Rose was one of Patchogue’s largest employers. The company has since moved to East Yaphank.

“For me, personally, to see this [brewery being built] at the corner of Clare Rose Boulevard, it’s a monument to who we are as a community,” Pontieri said, noting the property had been in industrial use for over a century and will return to industrial use once again.

“This is all about community, what’s good for Patchogue, and what started in Patchogue,” he said. “It’s about Blue Point brewery staying in its own community and advertising to the world that Patchogue is the place to be.”

Drone images come courtesy of Benny Migliorino of Benny Migs Photo

All other photos by Alyssa Vera/GreaterPatchogue

Kristy Longman, 28, of Patchogue, who is a Blue Point brand ambassador.

The groundbreaking ceremony scene from above, before attendees start arriving.

Mark Burford takes a sip of Toasted Lager alongside renderings of the new tasting room.

County Executive Steve Bellong (R) and other elected officials join Burford in a toast to the new brewery.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri outside the new brewery.

Dave Schultzer and Mark Buford first met around 1998, when Blue Point was founded.

Brewery visitors will also have views of Patchogue Lake from the second floor.