New hires at the BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant don’t just get a lesson in the nuances of craft beer after being handed their black uniform shirts. They get a lesson in local history.
They learn how the brewery at 67 West Main Street was built in Patchogue’s oldest commercial building, the former longtime location of Shands general store that many locals still remember fondly.
During the Civil War, the building was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The employees also learn of the not-so-distant past, like the first Alive After Five in 2002, when just a few dozen people were said to be milling around outside the BrickHouse.
By contrast, last year an estimated 21,000 people attended one Alive After Five alone.
“I’ve lived in Patchogue my entire life; I’m fifth generation,” said BrickHouse manager Lauren Rothe. “I’ve been here and I’ve seen the complete transformation from that very first Alive After Five with a couple hundred people probably on all of Main Street.
“It was just a couple people playing hockey sack in the middle of the street, because they could.”
“You couldn’t do that anymore,” added Paul Komsic, the BrickHouse brewmaster.
All that history will be recalled fondly this weekend by owners, staffers, newcomers and longtime regulars alike as Brickhouse Brewery celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Brickhouse officially opened for business on West Main Street June 6, 1996.
To celebrate, the staff has invited some of the musicians that helped put the Brickhouse on the map as the place to go out for a good time in Suffolk County.
Click here and scroll down for a full schedule, from Friday through Monday.
“Monday is our actual birthday celebration,” said Rothe.
It will be marked with a happy hour running from 5 to 7 p.m. with a 6 p.m. ribbon cutting ceremony followed by more music and a special Monday night mug club party that starts at 7 p.m.
“We never had a grand opening celebration,” Rothe said. “There wasn’t any ribbon-cutting. It was just like, can we open? OK, we’re open. And we really want to have a big event for the owners. We really felt like they’re in the background and they don’t really get a lot of recognition.”
One of those remaining owners from the original dozen or so who anted up is Tom Keegan.
Keegan, a Patchogue attorney, recalled hatching the idea for brew pub on Main Street with other friends from Patchogue while they were visiting the Crescent City Brewhouse in New Orleans.
“We started drinking about an hour before breakfast and by lunch we had this great idea to go back to Patchogue and open up one of the great breweries,” Keegan recalled.
Twenty years later, it’s one of only two true brewery-restaurants on Long Island.
And despite the explosion in the craft brew industry, the staffers at BrickHouse still say they work hard to sway people away from Coors Light and onto, say, a BrickHouse Street Light.
“Ninety-five percent of what we produce is sold in-house, by the pint directly to our customers,” Komsic said. “We have constant feedback and contact with our clientele. So as far as informing customers and switching palettes, that’s a big help. Then they’re in the inner-circle.
“But it’s amazing that it’s been 20 years of doing this,” he continued. “And just coming here, being able to be a part of everything going on, not just in this building but in this town, and to be able to say I’m the brewmaster at the oldest brewery on Long Island. That has some street cred now.”
BrickHouse Brewery photos by Michael Busch/Great South Bay Images