The lease has been signed and Blue Point Brewing Co. will be taking control of the Briarcliffe College building in Patchogue Village on June 1.
From there, Blue Point is expecting to open the new brewery in early 2018.
The plan is to make Blue Point a destination brewery — not only for Long Islanders, but people visiting the island, New York City and beyond, explained Blue Point president Todd Ahsmann.
“It’ll be great not only for Patchogue but for all of Long island, and really the tri-state area and the East Coast,” he said. “My hope is that tourists come out to the island and sort of use the brewery as a home base, and from there branch out to other breweries as well.”
Internal demolition will begin right away. Ahsmann said he doesn’t expect the construction to take long, even though Blue Point is removing much of the 110,000-square-foot building’s second floor. (The existing first floor is about 50,000 square feet.)
A tasting room will be built in the northeast corner of the second floor, along with an area to serve food — those plans haven’t yet been finalized — with glass looking into the actual brewing area and windows looking out at Patchogue Lake to the immediate north.
Another tasting room will be on the first floor near the main entrance. There, visitors familiar the much smaller brewery on River Avenue will find the existing Blue Point bar, which was built using bricks from the old lace mill building that once stood on the Briarcliffe parcel before the existing structure was erected for a Swezey’s department store.
The current, mill-like building (pictured above) was built as an homage to the old mill, whose manufacturing history goes back to the 1700s and small cotton mill on Patchogue River with a paddle.
“I love that we’re continuing to keep that land in manufacturing,” said Ahsmann. “And a lot of people don’t know that our bar is made of brick from the old lace mill that was at the site. We’re dismantling it and taking it to the new space.
“We’re saying we’re bringing the bar back home.”
The property is owned by Swezey Real Estate Development. Blue Point Brewing Company, which was bought by Anheuser-Busch in 2014, has entered into a 15-year lease.
David Knapp of Swezey Real Estate said that for any commercial property owner, “the quality of their tenants is paramount.”
“We could not ask for a better quality tenant in terms of financial worthiness, commitment to community, then Blue Point/Anheuser-Busch,” Knapp said.
According to Blue Point Brewing Company’s application with the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency — the company is receiving $4 million in tax incentives — the move will allow Blue Point to increase its capacity from 10,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels annually.
Blue Point will be creating green space and a beer garden on its eastern end as well.
“We didn’t need as many parking spots that are available now — and that was probably required for the department store and then the college,” said Ahsmann. “So we will be turning much of that parking area into green space.”
The brewery itself will be available for tours so people can watch the brewers in action.
From a practical standpoint, aside from output, the larger space will allow Blue Point to be nimble as it navigates the craft beer world, and works to keep things fresh and interesting for beer consumers — as well as its brewers.
“In [the craft beer industry] things change so rapidly, and our brewers are very creative,”Ahsmann said. “You don’t want to wait a long time to make a new beer. This all allows us to scale up if something is [popular], and let us do our own thing for sure.
“And that’s just in the DNA of craft brewers,” he continued. “The business is always evolving and everybody wants to try new things, and so do the brewers, and palates change over the years.”
Briarcliffe announced in 2016 that it would be shutting down operations and teaching out its students by 2018. But the school was on the hook through 2019 with the lease, Knapp explained.
“Understanding [Briarcliffe] would be motivated to shorten that lease gave us all incentive to look toward the future immediately,” Knapp said. “We spoke to many developers, retailers, and potential end users, and did not in the first several months identify any serious candidates for the amount of space that would be coming available.”
But timing is everything, as Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri has often said in reference to Blue Point’s plans to reconsider its expansion plans for River Avenue in favor of West Main Street.
Pontieri said it was April 2016 that he encouraged Blue Point representatives to take a look at Briarcliffe.
“They were showing us their plans [for River Avenue] and I told them you’re trying to fit 16 ounces of beer in a 12-ounce can,” Pontieri has said.
Meanwhile, $1.6 million is coming to the village from Suffolk County to improve parking, traffic flow and lakefront access near the brewery.
But the Blue Point deal was never a sure in those early stages, even later into 2016.
“Our problem was that they needed the entire building to make it work for them, but we had two other tenants that really didn’t want to leave early,” Knapp said.
“[Blue Point} is making this commitment to our community and there is no doubt in my mind they will be a tremendous asset at all levels,” Knapp said.
As of November, Blue Point beer is now available in all 50 states, as well as Mexico and the United Kingdom.
“It’s not easy to find space on Long Island,” said Ahsmann. “We love that we’re in Patchogue and I consider us the luckiest brewery in the world that this space became available to us.”
Artist renderings come courtesy of Blue Point Brewery.