By GREGORY ZELLER //
There’s nothing so sweet as the sours at Garvies Point Craft Brewery, where childhood chums are turning an old-school Belgium brewing technique into an innovative success story.
Launched in March 2015 and officially on tap as of April 2016, the Glen Cove microbrewery’s homegrowns – already gracing tasting rooms and distributorships across Long Island and Brooklyn – leverage two personal backstories and one ancient fermentation technique largely lost on American beermakers, with a modern microbiological twist.
Co-owners Ben Kossoff and Mark Scoroposki first buddied up in fifth grade and remained close through college, even as Kossoff earned a bachelor’s degree in business at Stony Brook University and Scoroposki collected an MBA from the University of Redlands in Southern California.
While studying for his master’s degree, Scoroposki frequented Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, a retrofitted Redlands airplane hangar that profoundly affected his professional aspirations.
“That was a special place,” he told Innovate LI. “They used local produce to make their Orange Wheat and had eight to 12 on tap at a time.
“That’s where I found my passion, early on.”
Kossoff’s kinship with barley and hops also surfaced early – he’s a longtime homebrewer – and after SBU, professional brewology was definitely on his mind. He accepted an apprenticeship at the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. and “tried to find a paying job in the brewing industry,” but they proved few and far between.
“With all the companies being so small, it was kind of hard working up that ladder,” Kossoff noted.
The old friends reunited as sales reps at a Brooklyn-based distributor that specialized in domestic craft brews and specialty imports. Scoroposki, still under the influence of his Hangar 24 days, asked Kossoff for some homebrewing tips, and soon the buddies were cranking out varieties that were more than just good.
“Ben’s homebrews are pretty exceptional,” Scoroposki noted. “Our brews were coming out better than some of the stuff we could buy off the shelf.”
Good enough, in fact, to enter the 2015 Pride of Brooklyn Homebrew Competition, an annual brew-off between Kings County’s top amateur beermakers. Kossoff and Scoroposki, who was living in Brooklyn at the time, won the day – and the $1,000 top prize – with their Gold Coast Double IPA, and that was “kind of a stamp of approval,” according to Scoroposki.
“We got the gears in motion and started planning,” he said. “Naturally, we liked our chances.”
The duo officially incorporated Garvies Point Craft Brewery in March 2015 and found the right space: 2,250 square feet in Glen Cove, which would ultimately be split equally between the brewing operation – including dry storage, cold storage and a mill room – and a tasting room, which finally opened to the public in September 2016.
Within months of launching, their wares were filling glasses at several regional microbreweries, thanks largely to their existing distributor connections. The entrepreneurs acknowledged they could have been pulling taps in their Garvies Point Road tasting room sooner with the help of professional contractors, but another common path for bootstrapping startups – rolling up their sleeves and doing it themselves – better suited their homebrewed motif.
“I literally spent three months in a warehouse, jackhammering concrete and sandblasting,” Scoroposki noted. “I spent thousands of hours with Ben renovating that space.”
Instead of farming out the infrastructure work, the entrepreneurs put their money where it mattered most: into their brewing equipment. Focusing exclusively on “high-quality American products,” according to Kossoff, they acquired a top-quality brewing system and a half-dozen temperature-controlled, 200-gallon fermentation tanks from Oregon-based Portland Kettle Works, a microbrew mecca known for hiring U.S. Armed Forces veterans.
“We did what we could to save money,” Kossoff noted. “But at the end of the day, buying American and spending the money on quality materials is what makes the difference.”
Ironically, the No. 1 thing that sets Garvies Point Brewery’s private-label suds apart is hardly American. Scoroposki is quick to define the startup’s wares as “very innovative American craft beers,” but Garvies Point is building a reputation for its “sour beers,” referencing a traditional Belgian brewing technique in which brews are fermented with wild yeast in open-air barrels – for as long as seven years.
Naturally, the Garvies Point guys can’t sit around for a half-decade or longer while their product properly ferments. Neither can other commercial American microbrewers, many of whom, according to Scoroposki, are “trying different techniques” to engender that Belgian sour-brew effect without the lengthy wait.
On Garvies Point Road, the secret recipe involves various bacteria that increase the beer’s acidity, followed by the introduction of anti-microbial hops. The partners won’t say much more – Kossoff noted “an innovative way to infuse the hops after the fact, so you get the pungent aroma in addition to the ‘sour’ taste” – but there’s no arguing with the results.
Garvies Point Brewery pumps out about 1,000 gallons per month, rotating through seasonal flavors with six always on tap in Glen Cove and five always available for distribution. They can be found at “select” breweries in Patchogue, Long Beach and Brooklyn, Scoroposki noted, including Cardiff Giant, a Myrtle Avenue landmark dedicated to New York-produced spirits.
In April, that award-winning Gold Coast Double IPA will be canned for the first time – as will Garvies Point Brewery’s Sour Batch Citra, featuring a Pacific Northwest hop famous for its tropical aromas – with online orders available now.
Their marketing plan is simple: word of mouth, standard social media followings and a strong showing on Untappd, a social network marinated in microbrews. But it’s working, with the partners planning those first cans, extended springtime tasting-rooms hours and, eventually, a critical move into barrel-aging brewing techniques.
That should start with an Imperial Vanilla Porter that will be aged in old bourbon barrels, to debut later this year as Garvies Point Brewery’s first bottled brew.
For now, the partners are still toasting the facts that they were able to stake a claim in a competitive industry so close to their hearts, and their “American-style dry-hop sour beers,” as Kossoff described them, are finding a loyal audience.
“It’s a ton of work and it’s seven days a week,” Scoroposki said. “But we really do get up every day and go to fun, not work. We love what we do.”
Garvies Point Craft Brewery
What’s It? Microbrews with a heart (and a Belgian twist)
Brought To You By: Fifth-grade-chums Ben Kossoff and Mark Scoroposki (they’re older now)
Status: Success has never tasted so sour