Industrial gastropub docks at Port Jeff

By JIM McCUNE // Craft brewing is helping popularize a new wave of gastropubs, where small-batch craft beer and spirits are paired with high-level cuisine. Long Island is home to more than 30 of them, with the latest, Brewology295, recently joining the bustling Port Jefferson bar scene.

The concept of a restaurant within a bar reinvigorated London’s pub and dining culture in the early 1990s and then slowly made its way to the United States. “Gastropub” was added to the collegiate dictionary in 2012, and has been gaining momentum alongside craft beer ever since.

Speonk-based Brewology295’s Port Jeff expansion has a casual atmosphere with an eccentrically minimal industrial decor. They serve a diverse customer base of locals and tourists, a mix of eaters and drinkers.

“Brewology is the study of beer,” said Terence Daly, Brewology295’s beverage director. “What makes us a gastropub, and so different, is that we experiment with the liquids we bring in, avoid repeating styles, ensuring we only get the best stuff and always representing the local guy. Brewology295 brings familiar food and drink items to our customers in unique ways, so they can try new things.”

Daly made it clear that, contrary to popular belief, his job isn’t all fun and drinking.

“This isn’t my basement. I’m not choosing beers on a whim. It’s a business with a fast-growing matrix of complexities, and to be successful at it, you have to know what’s popular; more importantly what’s too popular, against what’s available and what sells. It takes experience.”

Brewology295 makes no bones about it – they don’t sell mass-produced, big beer and they also don’t sell “whales,” the craft beers that have become so popular that other bars sell them for $17 to $20 per can.

“It’s not our style,” Daly said. “It’s just not what we’re into.”

Beyond those strict rules, Brewology295’s edge stems from its custom, digital inventory system.

“The program allows me to manage and track our products in both locations, right from my phone,” Daly explained. “I make purchases, designate pricing and see what’s on draft, what’s in each fridge, and most importantly, what is selling. The real-time data allows me to maintain product freshness, and make strategically wise business decisions.”

It’s evident Brewology295 marches to the beat of its own drum. Craft beer is served in laboratory beakers, the menu comes on a clipboard, and the 22 taps of fresh, no-joke, craft beer make it a serious destination for new-brew aficionados. Above the bar, Brewology295’s brand mark mimics a periodic table element adorned in Broadway lights. Behind it is a large chalkboard with an impressive list of craft beer offerings, neatly done in multi-colored chalk in the same theme. Daly is a huge fan of Benjamin Franklin, and the large Andy Warhol-like painting of Ben that watches over the dining room is his doing.

“There’s a lot of good places to get a drink in town,” Brewology295 first-timer Tom St. John of Port Jefferson Station told me, “but finally a true gastropub has arrived; it’s really been missing.”

Chef Chris Zullo spearheads Brewology295’s culinary vision, and his mantra is attention to detail in the kitchen.

“When people visit Brewology, they’re investing their time and money in us, so we deliver what people want, in a tasty, esoteric way. We focus on making it the best and improving upon it constantly.”

The resulting menu is a well-executed twist on American pub cuisine, using as many fresh, local ingredients as possible. “The idea is to highlight the flavors of our craft beers to pair well, to complement the flavors in our dishes,” he said.

The pub also offers weekly beer tastings and beer flights, so patrons can try something new on each visit.

“I don’t pay much attention to what the other guy is doing,” Daly said. “There is plenty of time and energy that needs to be spent here. Proper glassware is outrageously important. We also have constant meetings about ‘how do we get better?’ and ‘what is the next step?’ We don’t want to grow too fast. Right now, we’re focusing on our two locations.”

Breaking news: “We’re in the process of installing a nano-sized brewery pilot system here at our Port Jefferson location. It will allow breweries to collaborate with Brewology295 on small-batch beers, brewed exclusively for our beer pairing dinners. We’re really excited because it will take pairing to a new level.”

Brewology295 is located at 201 Main Street in Port Jefferson, 631.509.1700. The original location is at 295 Montauk Highway in Speonk, 631.801.6221. Find out more at brewology295.com

McCune is director of the Craft Beverage Division of Melville-based EGC Group. Reach him via jimm@egcgroup.com or at 516-935-4944.