By JIM McCUNE //
Around these parts, Larry Goldstein is the real Spider-Man.
As legend has it, Goldstein got bit by a bug, and as he gazed at the fang marks atop a painful, swelling welt, he knew it was a spider.
Next month, Holbrook’s Spider Bite Beer Co. marks its sixth anniversary. While locals swear it’s the best-kept secret of Long Island’s burgeoning craft-beer scene, there’s really no secret to this startup’s identity: It’s one of Long Island’s most popular and decorated breweries.
So, a chiropractor and a funeral director walk into a bar … it’s no joke, but the actual conception of Spider Bite Beer Co., which was started in 2008 by longtime brewing buddies Anthony LiCausi and Goldstein, who took their passion for big flavor and big aroma to the next level.
Goldstein, the once-bitten brewmaster, was born and raised on Long Island. He graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in biology before moving to Georgia to become a doctor of chiropractic medicine.
During his early years in Atlanta, Goldstein discovered his love for beer. He started brewing his own, visiting different home-brew shops, researching ingredients, writing about it, hosting local beer-tasting events, even judging beer competitions. He was completely immersed in the beer-brewing lifestyle.
Goldstein was running a successful chiropractic practice, but with each spinal manipulation, he was daydreaming about brewing.
“I came to the realization that brewing beer was going to be an important part of my life,” he notes, “when half of my patients were bringing me beers from their travels.”
He decided to test out his dream with a little hustle on the side, as a brewer’s assistant at a local Georgia brewpub. It wasn’t long before he figured he could do it better – and decided brewing beer was going to be more than just a hobby.
So, Goldstein obtained a formal brewing education with the American Brewers Guild and apprenticed at Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey in San Diego, honing his craft while learning to brew West Coast IPAs, imperial stouts, sours and other exciting styles.
He would also intern at a brewery in Vermont, and while spending six weeks at a time away from his family “was very difficult, it was also very motivating,” Goldstein notes.
Motivational enough to convince the chiropractor to close his practice and return to Long Island to really chase his dream.
“It was a difficult decision to leave my practice after a decade, but coming back to Long Island with my wife and four daughters, knowing we were coming home to family, made it easier,” he says.
Along with LiCausi, the funeral director next door and Goldstein’s best friend, the relocated brewer began perfecting recipes. The duo incorporated Spider Bite Beer Co. and completed the proper Brewers Guild protocols, then found an ideal 1,500-square-foot industrial unit in Holbrook, where they custom-built a bar and opened their brewery/tasting room in November 2011.
They had a busy first year, serving five unique brews: First Bite Pale Ale, Boris the Spider Russian Imperial Stout, Robert’s Spider Scottish Ale, Crazy Eights IIPA and Eight-legged Rye IPA.
Goldstein’s inspiration and passion for top ingredients, fine-tuned recipes and full flavor is easily detected in Spider Bite’s roster of award-winning brews, and it didn’t take long for the brewery to rack up accolades. Spider Bite Beer Co. was awarded TAP New York’s prestigious “Best Craft Brewery in New York State” Memorial Cup 2012, putting them on the radar of craft beer lovers across the country.
That was followed directly by a New York Magazine spread about “micro microbrews” that listed Spider Bite among New York’s most outstanding small-batch beers.
Today, LiCausi notes a number of impressive metrics, including a fifth-anniversary party with more than 450 in attendance and “Mug Club” membership that has more than doubled.
“We’re canning now, and releasing new beers all the time, like OverBite Black IIPA,” LiCausi noted. “We have Boris the Spider available in cans this winter. We have the top food trucks here on the weekends, and we do game and movie nights, and host plenty of private parties.”
Two-thousand-seventeen has been another big year for the company, which reclaimed its “Best Craft Brewery in New York State” crown at TAP New York 2017 – the state’s longest-running craft food and drink festival – along with TAP medals for OpenWide IIPA and Boris the Spider Russian Imperial Stout, which also won the festival’s John Calen Memorial Award for Best English-Style Stout.
Boris the Spider also won a gold medal and other honors at this summer’s New York State Craft Beer Competition.
Meanwhile, Spider Bite Beer Co. has renovated its tasting room, more than doubling the size to a more comfortable space to sample and purchase featured beers like Fundur Session IPA, Second Bite IPA and Melba’s Toasted Brown Ale. There are usually eight beers on tap, with a wide variety of styles constantly rotating. To-go orders are available in growlers, six-packs (12-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans) and four-packs (16-ounce cans).
Give them a visit at 920 Lincoln Ave., Unit 5, in Holbrook – or find their beer across Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Westchester, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.
McCune is director of the Craft Beverage Division of Melville-based EGC Group. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (516) 935-4944.