Growing up in Farmingdale and surrounded by a big, Italian family, Ralph Mandarino’s life used to revolve around grains.
Pasta, pizzas — and in his 20s and 30s, a lot of beer — was involved in his lifestyle, he joked.
Until eight years ago, when he fell ill and found out he had a gluten intolerance that changed his life forever.
“I thought I had the flu because I couldn’t keep anything down,” he said. “I had to go to the hospital, they had to give me fluids, did tests, so for almost two weeks I was in and out of the hospital kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on?’”
After losing 20 pounds and getting no answers as to what was going on with his body, his friend recommended he see a nutritionist who told him to cut out GMOs and gluten from his diet.
Since then, Mandarino has avoided gluten “like the plague,” he said.
Going out for food and drinks is not easy to safely maneuver with a gluten intolerance, so Mandarino mostly does his own cooking at his home in Huntington with small gluten-free ingredients.
Cooking to his own special diet allowed him to figure out what tastes good, and his buddy and now business partner, Jessie Silano, encouraged him to start making his own beer.
The two friends began meeting at Mandarino’s house after work — and soon got to brewing.
“We’d turn on the projector, use a shower curtain for a screen and watch horror movies and brew,” he said. “We joined some local beer clubs and had some bartenders, beer-tenders, and other brewery owners taste our stuff, and we were getting some really good feedback about it.”
With that, Silano and Mandarino started thinking it was time to take things to the next level.
There are only 17 dedicated gluten-free breweries in the United States and among the 60 plus breweries on Long Island, none are fully gluten-free — until now.
Necromantic Brewing Company, coming soon to 253 Main St. in Farmingdale, is the first dedicated gluten-free brewery and tasting room in New York State, which means the facility doesn’t handle or produce any gluten products — completely eliminating any risk of cross-contamination.
Instead of the usual grain, hops, and yeast, Mandarino and Silano primarily use millet, quinoa, and fresh fruits like pumpkin.
“We can basically piggyback or mimic any style that’s out there within reason, because some of those styles require a certain degree of wheat,” Mandarino said.
The name and theme of the brewery pays homage to the two friends’ love for horror films and their past late-night brewings at Mandarino’s house.
“Necromantic” fits the spooky-vibe Mandarino and Silano are going for and is inspired by the movie “The Conjuring.”
With the help of an online thesaurus, they landed on the synonym “necromancy,” which means witchcraft or black magic.
“We’re going to have memorabilia around, and really it’s just movie posters, that’s going to be the atmosphere,” Mandarino said. “We have two TVs and then a projector running in the back just like we used to — we’re going to be playing movies in there pretty much all the time.”
Some of the brew names include “C.H.U.D. Weiser,” which references the 1980s science fiction horror film C.H.U.D.” and the popular Budweiser.
“The Island I.P.A.” is a tribute to the 1980 action adventure-thriller starring Michael Caine, The Island.
All the work going into the brewing process — to make the beer and the entire facility gluten-free — is to achieve one thing in the beer community: inclusivity for those with allergies or intolerances.
He said in 2020, when the Farmingdale community first found out about Necromantic Brewing Co., he and Silano received an outpouring of messages expressing excitement for what’s on the horizon.
It’s been a long time coming, and Mandarino said he is looking forward to being a safe space for the gluten-intolerance and Celiac disease community.
“I think the community as a whole, I don’t speak for them, but we’re tired of just seltzers and ciders,” Mandarino said. “I get messages on our Instagram and our Facebook and it’s heartwarming, it’s sad, it’s joyful, I’ve had people say I’m in tears right now knowing there’s a place I can go and it’s safe; those types of messages, even now I get goosebumps because we have suffered through the process, but giving some sort of hope for somebody else, it’s worth all of it.”
Top: The Necromantic Brewing Co. logo. All photos courtesy of Ralph Mandarino.