Capping off 30 great years

A touch of glass: EGC founder Ernie Canadeo and managing partner Nicole Larrauri.

By GREGORY ZELLER // There’s a few things you should know about EGC 1985 IPA, the newest concoction of Riverhead’s Crooked Ladder Brewing Co.

Leaning towards orange in color, the India Pale Ale is made with four varieties of West Coast hops, giving it a powerful aroma and taste. It has a stronger alcohol content than 70 West, the microbrewery’s flagship brew, and significantly more hops.

Only about 20 cases of the IPA have been brewed.

Oh, and you can’t have any.

That is, unless you wrangle an invitation to The EGC Group’s 30th anniversary soiree, scheduled for Oct. 15 at Oheka Castle in Huntington. To celebrate three decades since founder and president Ernie Canadeo launched his full-service marketing agency – and with a definite nod to the group’s Craft Beverage Division, which popped its cork in 2013 – EGC Group asked Crooked Ladder to create a unique beer that will only be available at the bash.

Those 20 cases, of 24 bottles each, are a departure for the circa-2013 microbrewery, which now features eight beers and distributes them exclusively by the keg, the occasional customer’s growler filled up in the brewery’s tasting room notwithstanding.

EGC Group founder Ernie Canadeo inspects a glass of the birthday brew.

EGC Group founder Ernie Canadeo inspects a glass of the birthday brew.

Brewer Steve Czelatka, who worked personally on the special birthday batch, is also an EGC client, and a happy one. Czelatka singled out the agency’s work on the brewery’s social media accounts and website, as well as the installation of a live video board inside the brewery’s tasting room that’s synched to those digital domains.

“We’re very happy with what they’ve done,” the brewer said, giving bonus points to Jimm McCune, who heads EGC’s beverage operation and recently plugged Crooked Ladder at a craft-brewers convention in Portland.

“He’s helping us meet new people and new vendors through his many connections,” Czelatka said.

That’s the whole point of the beverage division, according to McCune, who said his team has been “super busy” in recent months.

“Craft beer is obviously very hot right now,” he noted. “It’s really one of the fastest growing segments of the agency.”

Canadeo launched EGC Group in 1985 as a media buying agency, based on his experience as director of cooperative advertising for RCA Records. The agency grew to offer an array of creative and strategic marketing, branding and advertising services, and by the late 1990s began incorporating emerging digital services.

Since launching two years ago, the beverage arm has embodied this anything-goes, everyone-welcome mindset. The division has inked several up-and-comers, including Crooked Ladder, the Blue Point Brewing Co. in Patchogue and Garvey’s Point Brewery in Glen Cove, and also has worked with hops kingpin Hopsteiner, which counts a New York City office among its global operations.

Offering these companies a full spectrum of marketing services – everything from strategic planning and logo development to search-engine optimization and website creation – keeps McCune and his craft beverage team busy, often seven days a week when you count field trips.

He’s not complaining, merely noting a schedule that reflects craft beer’s evolving role in the regional and New York State economies. McCune cited a recent NYS economic impact report estimating craft beer as a $3.5 billion annual industry in New York, with 207 breweries now operating in the Empire State – including 41 on Long Island, with more on the way.

“A good portion of that $3.5 billion is coming directly from [Long Island],” he noted.

And with it, growing competition in what has been a “we’re all in this together” market segment.

“I’ve worked in a lot of industries and I’ve never seen such camaraderie among competitors,” McCune said. “But these guys have a lot of money invested in these breweries, and at the end of the day, this is a business.

“There’s a finite amount of shelf space out there,” McCune added. “Everybody is fighting for it now, and for me, that’s great. Everybody needs our help.”

So asking a successful brewery client to come up with a special beer to mark EGC Group’s big three-oh was a no-brainer. And answering the call was a pleasure for Crooked Ladder, even if it meant a first-ever foray into bottling. And even if 20 cases for one anniversary party seemed a tall order.

“They’ve got some big drinkers over there,” Czelatka suggested. “A lot of thirsty people.”