2019 GRAND MARSHALS - Rich Vandenburgh & John Liegey
We are pleased to announce the 2019 Grand Marshalls for the East End Maritime Festival are Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey of Greenportt Harbor Brewery. Here’s a little more about the two men and their brewery.
Greenport Harbor Brewery is a small craft brewery on the East End of Long Island that originally opened its doors in the harbor side village of Greenport, New York in 2009.
Founders, Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey became best friends in college and dreamed of opening their own brewery one day. Both have always been good beer enthusiasts, so when the opportunity arose in 2008 to secure a small abandoned fire house in the seaside village of Greenport, the two friends jumped at the opportunity. Despite having young children, the two worked every available weekend and holiday vacation to renovate the building from their vision into reality. They credit, in large measure, having very understanding wives and families, who have supported them in their endeavor.
After purchasing the building, the two friends scraped together their savings and borrowed some money from family members in order to purchase the original 2 vessel 15 barrel brewing system used at the Greenport location. They hired a commercial brewer and officially opened on July 12, 2009. After several years, they had brewed more than 30 different styles of craft beer, and continued to grow and distribute their beer to local restaurants and pubs in the Greenport and Southold area from the back of their personal cars.
Word got out and made its way to Brooklyn and NYC, and not long thereafter, they were being courted by regional distributors who wanted to bring their beer to NYC and beyond. Vandenburgh and Liegey settled on partnering with Union Beer out of Brooklyn and began shipments of beer to NYC in March of 2010.
They continued to receive distinction for producing well balanced and interesting styles in various publications from the Wall Street Journal to Forbes and Time Out New York Magazine. The Greenport tasting room at the brewery would be packed with fans and returning customers who filled their growlers and enjoyed a sampling of the various styles on tap. As the business continued to grow, the duo began hiring additional staff to handle brewing operations, sales and the tasting room operations.
With space in Greenport getting really tight and the original brewery reaching maximum capacity at the end of 2011, the two friends negotiated the purchase of an additional location in Peconic, New York. A former car dealership in the middle of the North Fork wineries, the second location (still in the Town of Southold) is only a few miles from the original brewery in the Village of Greenport.
The Peconic location of Greenport Harbor now serves as a larger production location with a bottling line in addition to expanded draft packaging capability. With more than 13,000 square feet of existing space, the two friends once again renovated the buildings themselves and oversaw all aspects of the development and construction of the larger brewery, tasting room, restaurant and outdoor beer garden at this location. They added a 4 vessel, 30 barrel additional brewhouse and now have eight 90 barrel fermenters and five 30 barrel fermenters to handle current demand. With the significant increase in fermenting vessel capacity, the duo designed the overall site to accommodate a maximum brewing capability of over 80,000 kegs per year.
With the expanded opportunity, the two founders remain committed to the opportunity to expand their full time and part time staff. They now employ 21 full time employees and over 14 part time employees who are locally based and part of the community. In addition, to insuring that every ounce of beer is brewed and packaged locally, they also continue to support the East End agricultural resources. The two owners have partnered with local farmers and utilize hop harvests and locally grown malting grains such as barley, wheat and rye which are incorporated into their portfolio of craft beers.
In addition, Head Brewer, Pat Alfred continues to expand the realm of interesting styles and combinations using locally sourced fruits and fauna with a barrel aging and special “OG” series that are limited offerings and specialty beers. Additional limited release canning runs have been added to the brewery Tasting Room’s exclusive offerings and more than 100 different styles have been brewed at both locations.
“Excitement, creativity and hard work, are the operative words in this industry”, notes Vandenburgh. “The experience of discovering and enjoying well crafted, locally made beer is really important to us.” says Liegey. “We want the beer lover to enjoy the odyssey that comes with finding out what Greenport Brewery as an independent and authentic brewery is doing is all about being able to share a beer with that craft enthusiast and offering an enjoyable but educational experience is really fantastic.” says Vandenburgh.
With the expanding growth in the craft beverage industry the opportunity to provide sustainable, living wage local jobs and delivering a premium beer selection while at the same time taking an equitable approach to supporting local causes and related businesses, is the major part of the company ethos. The two friends and founders are extremely proud of what they have built together and look forward to sharing a well-made, locally crafted beer with you the next time you visit.