It’s the end of an era for Patchogue and its beer drinking community.
Blue Point Brewing Co. will be closing its original tasting room at the River Avenue brewery on Sunday night, Dec. 23.
(There’s also a big party planned for Dec. 21. Click here for tickets.)
Blue Point co-founder Mark Burford says he’s “come to grips” with the closing of his beloved tasting room, which holds two decades’ worth of fond memories for himself and many others. That’s because the future looks so bright.
“It’s about moving forward, right? The wheel turns, things happen and that’s the way life goes. It was a long run but I’m excited about what’s next,” said Burford, who was 37 when he and a fellow home-brewer Peter Cotter opened Blue Point on River Avenue in 1998.
“There’s no way to put into words the amount of fun, and all the good people and friends I’ve met there,” said Burford. “But we’ve grown into a bigger, better space.”
The 9,000-square-foot tasting room at the massive new brewery on West Main Street in Patchogue is already under construction and is expected to open in the spring.
Anheuser-Busch, the brewers of Budweiser and Bud Light, purchased Blue Point Brewing Company in 2014 and first proposed an expansion at its River Avenue location.
But those plans were later scrapped in favor of the former Briarcliffe College building, which was originally built as a Swezey’s department store in the ven of the village’s former lace mill.
Burford, who still works for Blue Point, and Cotter actually used bricks from the old lace mill — as well as some of the grates in the existing tasting room’s floor — to honor Patchogue’s mill town legacy.
Those bricks will also be incorporated in the new tasting room.
“And the bar top,” Burford explained. “We’re trying to incorporate a lot of the old elements.”
The idea is to recapture the feel and vibe of the old place, even in a much larger space.
That really starts with the people.
The current tasting room’s longtime “Baroness of Brews,” the recognizable Michelle Wilkins and her team will be headed to the new tasting room.
“Michelle and her group are as integral a part of the experience as anyone who will be coming over” to the new brewery, Burford said.
“But the customers that come to the tasting room are the ones that have transformed a rustic building and parking lot into a magical place,” he continued. “Hopefully they will give us a shot at the new space. Blue Point has always manifested itself in the tasting room through beer, music and art. It always was a bit of a social experiment and it always will be.”
The brewery on West Main Street has been in operation since May. The new tasting room, once open, will be located in the northeast corner of the building, with windows overlooking Patchogue Lake.
But back to the late 1990s:
Burford said it wasn’t easy for he and Cotter to find a suitable location for their fledgling company.
The local craft beer landscape was much different back then. Most building and property owners were highly dubious about the financial feasibility of a small brewery operation.
“But the Volkmans [the landlords on River Avenue] accepted us and they have treated us extraordinarily well from the beginning,” Burford said. “What we were doing was completely brand new but they believed we would be successful and manage to pay the rent.
“And the Village of Patchogue has always been supporting and that matters. It matters that businesses be allowed to do what do.
“But you never think, 20 years later … ,” Burford added. “We were just trying to make it at the time.”
Top: Mark Burford in the tasting room on River Avenue. (Credit: Jessica Labriola)