There are top-shelf spirits and then there’s Harbor Lights Stillhouse.
The craft distillery built above Six Harbors Brewing Company in Huntington opened Nov. 2, creating Long Island’s only under-one-roof brewery and distillery.
Mark Heuwetter, a longtime craft-beer enthusiast who founded the microbrewery with wife Karen in May 2018, has now added the Harbor Lights Stillhouse, tapping longtime friend Gus Menocal as master distiller at the upstairs spot.
“We had this second floor that was unusable — it didn’t have a staircase and it just became unmanageable to take stuff up there for long-term storage,” said Heuwetter, 61, who grew up in West Islip and has lived in Huntington for close to three decades. “So I said to myself that we’ve got to be doing something with this space because there’s so much room up there.”
The idea for a distillery began rounding into shape when Menocal, a veteran moonshine maker who co-owns Copper Kettle Spirits Distillery in Freehold, N.J., shared a vision for the attic with Heuwetter.
“I asked him, ‘Since you have experience in that, what do you think?’” Heuwetter recalled. “He looked around, sort of rubbed his chin and said, ‘Yeah, we can do this.’
“So I stuck out my hand, he stuck out his and I said, ‘You want to be business partners?’”
The debut of the distillery at 243 New York Ave. follows an extensive overhaul of the former attic space. The renovation was chronicled on the Harbor Lights Stillhouse Instagram page, where photos and videos showed the crafting of a new staircase and how the second floor had to be reinforced for stainless steel distilling equipment.
Heuwetter’s newest business has taken him well beyond a passion for brewing that dates back to his days as a student at SUNY Brockport in the early 1980s, when he and a suds bud experimented with making beer in their college dorm.
“My roommate and I bought a beer kit from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. calendar,” Heuwetter said, recalling how they used their closet to ferment their home brews.
The hobby turned into a business in 2018, when Heuwetter retired after three decades of working in asset management and turned his full-time focus to craft brewing.
Now, so-called “cocktail chefs” at Harbor Lights are creating drinks with small-batch vodka, Smugglers Cove rum, gin, bourbon and limoncello distilled in-house. Downstairs, brewers keep producing beers named for Huntington’s harbors and the Heuwetter family’s three golden retriever “brew dogs,” Buddy, Barley and Brandy.
Harbor Lights Stillhouse has a tasting room and 8 foot by 12 foot glass wall that allows patrons to see what’s stirring on the first and second floors.
It is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and on Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
He called the upstairs-downstairs setup with Menocal — who is married to a former Heuwetter colleague from Dreyfus Asset Management Co. — “ideal.”
“We both stay in our lanes,” Heuwetter said. “He doesn’t bug me about the beer business and I don’t bug him about the distillery.” But they do envision big things for the business.
“This is my retirement plan,” Heuwetter said.