Brian Baker’s dream of starting his own brewing company on Long Island started in 2013, and it has been quite the journey.
After seven years, he now finds himself about 60 days from opening Bellport Brewing Company in the heart of Bellport Village. The brewery will launch at 14 Station Road, in the former Rooster’s Cafe.
“We are super excited to be involved with the Village of Bellport,” said Baker, owner of Bellport Brewing Company. “These people are so passionate, with the businesses that are there, the food that is there, working with the village is just an easy treat to deal with, so we are blessed, there is no question about it.”
Baker said his journey with beer started with the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts, also known as LIBME, who are homebrewers.
They know how to brew, make a product, and have an overall appreciation for beer, and Baker admired that.
“I got involved with brewing then, and it was something that I loved and was really into,” Baker said. “It got to the point of, you know what, I’m going to stop buying beer and start making my own beer — it’s cheaper, and I think it comes out pretty good.”
The actual brewing company started when a local vendor in the beer industry in Bellport wanted to partner with Baker to create a brewery, but over time, the two went their own ways, but Baker kept the Bellport Brewing Company name going.
“I was serious about it, it got to the point where I spoke to my wife and said this is what I want to do for a living,” Baker said. “When I grow up, this is what I want to do, and she was very supportive about it, and I said let’s do it.”
Baker said it was “Bellport Brewing Company from the beginning,” and even though at the time he was working a regular 9-to-5 desk job, he was always thinking about the next step in making his dream of opening his own brewery into a reality.
His first attempt — seven years ago — was meeting with a local landlord and he said, unfortunately, the plans fell through.
So, he decided to take matters into his own hands seven years ago
“We tried to make it work then, and unfortunately with the price, and working with the village and the town and everything else, it was way more than I chewed out for,” he said. “I said this isn’t going to happen, let’s start making beer and doing our own distribution.”
He worked with a company called A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale, which is now Lithology Brewing Company.
Just like there are incubators for food, they also exist for breweries.
“[A Taste of Long Island] used to be an incubator, which was great because when I think back, it was me, it was 1940’s Brewing Company, the Brewers Collective, Lithology, and Po’ Boys Brewery, so we all kind of made our own thing out of it.”
Once A Taste of Long Island went out of business, the brewers went their separate ways.
Fast forward five years, a spot opens up for Bellport Brewing Company and the business is currently working with Bellport officials to change the bylaws of the village to allow them to open.
Baker said it’s been a long time coming, but he was inspired to keep pushing thanks to his peers in the brewing industry, like Paul Dlugokencky of Blindbat Brewery.
“We have had this exact same path to get to this point and when I saw him make it recently about a year ago, I said that’s it I got to make it happen,” Baker said.
What to expect
Baker said what sets Bellport Brewing Co. apart from other breweries on the island is the family-oriented atmosphere and various food and drink options for all ages.
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The interior space will include comfortable seating along the walls and plush open couches. Baker said they will even have some arcade games that everyone can enjoy.
“The whole point of this is not just for somebody to walk and get a beer and hang out, it’s more of a family-oriented location,” he said. “Yeah it’s beer, but we also have small little growlers for kids that come with their parents.”
Parents can get a craft beer while kids can enjoy Bellport Brewery’s homemade soda in their very own growler.
“We are completely open to the family atmosphere,” he said.
Outside of the brewery, Baker said they plan on including a cornhole spot and some horseshoes for outdoor fun on a nice day.
“This will more or less not be where you walk in and it’s a bar, which most breweries are — and don’t get me wrong, it’s a working platform there, ” he said. “But, we are more open for families to come together to sit down, to watch some TV, to eat, grab something to drink, have a flight, meet some friends, that is really what our point is here.”
As of right now, Baker and his team are focusing on the brewery’s tasting room.
Bellport Brewing Company has built up a large customer base, and in the past, Baker said they would conduct mass distribution.
“Currently, our distribution footprint is from Montauk to Saratoga in upstate New York and everything in between,” he said.
For a while, they stopped producing beer because the company’s license wasn’t in place, but now that it is, they are going to start locally with the beer through the tasting room.
“Once we get our feet on the ground there, then we are going to start with our distribution again and going our routes that we had before and more routes than we had,” Baker said.
They plan on distributing to hotels, restaurants, even return to Islandia casino Jake’s 58 — basically places where there are places interested in serving beers.
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Baker said he was fortunate that the pandemic didn’t impact the new brewery and its progress too hard, but unfortunately, he knows too many breweries that are struggling because of the virus.
“It is absolutely an unfortunate thing that happened here,” he said. “I hate to see local brewers who are not only my friends but are in the industry together, get hurt by this and there’s too many of us that are getting hurt by this.”
The lease for Bellport Brewery Co. started in March, so Baker said he lucked out with his landlord, former mayor of Bellport Village Frank Trotta.
He said Trotta really looked out for his business during this difficult time.
“We didn’t have to end up having to deal with full rent until just recently,” Baker said. “He understands we can’t make money if we’re not open due to the pandemic, so why should he charge us money when we can’t be on our own feet?”
Baker said they are now in the construction stage of the process and getting building permits from the village.
“We can’t really open our doors anyway, so as much as it is terrible to have this pandemic here for my peers, it’s not really affecting us yet,” Baker said. “When we open our doors in 60 days, we hope to have a different world at that point, but I’m not really sure.”
Once they open, as many restaurants have done under New York State regulations, they will open to 50 percent capacity, sanitize areas consistently, enforce masks, and social distancing.
“When one hurts, we all hurt,” he said. “There’s only so much we can bend until we break, and hopefully it doesn’t get to that point.”
For now, Baker said he is thrilled to finally get to the last chapter of his brewing story and open Bellport Brewing Company.
“Our location is directly in the heart of Bellport, and it’s gonna be a home run,” he said.
For updates on Bellport Brewing Company, visit their Facebook page.
All photos courtesy of Bellport Brewing Company.
Top: Brian Baker (left) and Frank Trotta Sr. (right, landlord)