By Christina Amoroso for New York Post
Photo: Zandy Mangold
At about 2 p.m. on a recent Saturday, in a sleepy, suburban nook of Riverhead, the hum of a tasting room gets louder as groups of eight to 10 people file in, congregate around wooden tables and swirl the liquid that fills their glasses, giving it a sniff before lifting it to their lips for a taste.
The scene could easily take place in one of the four dozen wineries dotting the 40-mile stretch of Long Island’s North Fork. But it’s at the year-old Moustache Brewing Co. — a small but growing craft brewery tucked in a nondescript building on a dead-end block.
For husband-and-wife duo Matt and Lauri Spitz, it’s a long way from when the founders started home-brewing while juggling workaday gigs, in retail and at a hospital, respectively.
“We had a friend . . . who taught us how to home-brew on a stove,” recalls Lauri, “and, from Day One, it was a dream.”
The rise of locally made small-batch beers on Long Island has hit the East End. In 2013, craft brewers saw an 18 percent spike in volume over the previous year for a total of 15.6 million barrels, according to the Brewers Association.
At least six LI breweries have launched since 2012, and in Riverhead, three are within walking distance of each other.
Moustache churns out suds that include the potent Milk & Honey Brown Ale and a monthly IPA, as well as seasonal specialties, such as the summery Mojito Pale Ale, made with fresh lime zest and a hint of mint.
The Spitzes can thank Dan Burke, an owner of Long Ireland Beer Co. — the oldest brewery in the nabe (established in 2011) — for being an early booster of the East End craft-brew movement.
He encouraged them to take a chance on Riverhead. “We hadn’t considered it,” Lauri says. “It seemed so far away.”
At Burke’s Long Ireland, the buzz is more publike, with its Celtic ephemera and boisterous groups cracking wise. You pay for pours, such as a rich Chocolate Porter, in green poker chips (six for $8).
The joint is one of the three stops on the Brew Crew Cycle tours launching April 18. For two hours, ale aficionados pedal a 14-person bike for half-hour stops at each of Riverhead’s three breweries. ($30 a person or $375 for a whole party bike.)
“Wineries are so popular, and the craft brew industry is growing,” says Brew Crew Cycle co-owner Victoria Clacherty. “This is different than just going on wine tours.”
The Crooked Ladder Brewery, co-founded by David Wirth (a contractor who built the West Main Street storefront with his own hands) and Duffy Griffiths (an ex-fire chief who owns a deli in town), has also seen a spike in demand for their local sips (eight tastings cost $9).
After brewing 224 kegs in 2014, Crooked Ladder is already at 630 kegs for this year.
Some of those suds will be on hand for Friday’s first East End Craft Beer Festival at the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead.
For Lauri of Moustache, the brew buzz is a great way to get people who eschew beer excited about it.
“To people who say, ‘I hate beer,’ it’s like, ‘You tried Miller Lite once,’ ” she says. “After talking to them for a bit, you break down the beer stereotypes that they have.”