“That’s myself and two buddies,” says Montauk Brewing Company’s Vaughan Cutillo, gesturing towards a framed black and white photograph leaning against the tasting room’s wall. “We started homebrewing in 2008 in my basement, about a mile from here. We just had a kegerator, had friends over, and eventually we kind of realized we were on to something.”
Cutillo, along with the aforementioned buddies Eric Moss and Joe Sullivan, was right to take the leap into professional brewing. Since its inception in 2012, Montauk Brewing Co. has grown from a passion project to a full-scale commercial brewery with a steadily growing distribution market and a devoted area clientele.
“We all grew up here,” says Cutillo of the sleepy Long Island beach town, known more as a favorite spot for summering Manhattanites than a place to build a year-round local business. “A lot of our other friends ended up moving out because, you know, other than trades, teaching, a lot of those kind of jobs, there’s not much here for people just out of college. We wanted to start something that allowed us to stay here. So we started this.”
Montauk Brewing Co. operates out of a former cabinet shop located just outside of the village’s quaint downtown strip, and with its deep red wood panel siding and green, grassy front yard, the building makes for a pretty picturesque brewery. In June of 2012, the guys obtained a liquor license and converted the front room, once the shop’s kitchen showroom, into a small, breezy taproom. The goal of the tasting room was to build their brand with both locals and tourists alike during Montauk’s busy summer months while they brewed, kegged and canned the majority of their beer on contract a few hours away in Massachusetts.
“I mean, we wanted to be brewing here, it just wasn’t in the cards at the time,” reflects Cutillo. “It was a way for us to get into the market and not lose three years to permits and build outs–it was a business decision, you know? So we brewed offsite and then had the tasting room as a way to at least let people sample the beers.
While contract brewing allowed Cutillo, Moss and Sullivan to grow their company at a speed that made the most business sense, keeping the tasting room open to the public solidified their position in the community.
“There’s a huge–I don’t know if it’s just about craft beer–but there’s a lot of local support for people who grew up here, trying to start a business and stay,” explains Cutillo. “So, any given Saturday, we’d be busy. People hang out with umbrellas outside, we have live music. There’s a nice little fish market next door that opens up in the summer, so people can sit out and eat and drink. It’s fun.”
Montauk’s about to get a whole lot more fun this summer, however. As of this month, the guys are putting the finishing touches on installing their very own commercial brewing facility at the brewery. Once up and running, the shiny new seven barrel brewing system will supply the company’s draft accounts with both experimental one-offs like seasonals, stouts and high-gravity brews, as well as their trusty core lineup of malty Driftwood Pale, a surprisingly full-bodied Session IPA and the ever-refreshing Summer Ale. The brewhouse will also be open for public tours and educational events during peak season.
Despite the avowed interest, Montauk Brewing Company’s road to hometown production wasn’t always an easy one to travel. The nearest small brewery–brewpub, really–is located a ways down the Island in Southampton, and the local government wasn’t very familiar with how to deal with such a development.
“It was a crash course in not just beer, but government and politics in general,” Cutillo laments. Though they wanted to support small business growth, the legislation worried that another alcohol-centric joint would attract some seedier elements to the town. A visit to Montauk Brewing Co.’s distinctly mellow tasting room, however, quickly quelled those fears.
“Now that we have the tasting room, the community has been pretty into it. I mean, we don’t open late–we’re closed by eight o’clock,” says Cutillo. “It’s really more of a community space. We don’t have a TV for a reason–we want people to actually talk to each other when they’re here. A lot of local photographers and artists and stuff show their work here, too. People aren’t here getting wasted. Most of the people coming through are young families with kids. It’s just a good environment.”
Can’t wait to get out to the Island see for yourself? As hordes of New Yorkers crawl their way down I-495’s congested lanes, a new and improved Montauk Brewing Co. is looking forward to a jam-packed summer, complete with expanded hours.
“I think we’ll be more of a destination this year because now people can see the brewery and take tours, really see how the beer is made back here. Before, when we were just the tasting room and that was great, but, I mean, that’s not all that exciting,” Cutillo says with a friendly smile. “And once we get everything finalized, we’ll be open seven days, 12PM- 8PM from summer through fall. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Montauk Brewing Company, 62 South Erie Road; Montauk