Oktoberfest Cheered at Two Staten Island Celebrations of Beer

By Nicholas Rizzi on September 24, 2012 8:10am 

STATEN ISLAND — Forget Munich — Oktoberfest is coming to Staten Island.

The borough is hosting two beer festivals next month, highlighting the growing popularity among islanders for artisanal suds — also known as craft beer.

"It's amazing it went from not any brewfests to two really close together," said Doug Williams, 37, of St. George, president of the Richmond County Beer Club. "It just shows that on Staten Island people want this and it shows that people are asking for it."

The Richmond County Craft Beer Fest, which had its inaugural celebration last year at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George, will move across the borough to the smaller German bar and restaurant Killmeyer's Old Bavarian Inn, in Charleston, on October 7.

The festival will feature about 18 breweries from around the country, each serving one or two samplers of beer each, said Tim Sinatra, Staten Island representative for Union Beer Distribution, who is helping plan the fest.

Excited by the turnout last year, the Staten Island Yankees decided to keep the beer flowing at the stadium and started the Staten Island Yankees Brewfest on October 20.

"We realized how successful it was," said Karry Haley, manager of sponsored services for the team. "We think it's a great opportunity to promote Staten Island vendors, breweries and get people at our ballpark."

The Yankees Beer Fest will also host a contest for the best homebrewer, coordinated by the Richmond County Beer Club. While craft beer has been popular in other parts of the city for several years already, Staten Island is starting to catch up, Williams said.

"Slowly but surely like everything else on Staten Island," he said. "I think people are just starting to get into it more."

In the last year, the number of people interested in craft brews have grown greatly, said Sean Torres, 27, president of the Pour Standards, Richmond County Brew Society homebrewing club.

"The culture is definitely growing and it's growing quickly," Torres said. "The service is easily getting better, [and] more and more bars are picking up craft beers."

Both Pour Standards and the Richmond County Beer Club said they've had an increase in membership in the last year.

"There's definitely more people coming and getting memberships," said Williams, who started the club in 2010. "It definitely has spiked in the last year."

With more people interested in the beer, more bars have put craft beer on the menu, Williams said. Stores on the Island have also started to sell more growler fills.

Growlers, 64-ounce glass containers that resemble moonshine jugs, are filled up with draft beer at stores, often times with beer that is not bottled or canned.

"Tap beer at home — it doesn't get better than that!" Williams said. "Especially when you get some cool one offs that you're not going to ever get again."

Champs Beverages in Grant City recently started to offer growlers, and Holiday Beverage in Eltingville, which started offering the fills in 2008, has had an uptick in customers, said owner of Holiday Wayne P. Roccaro.

"Craft beer (sales are) clearly very strong," he said. "They're clearly here to stay."

Roccaro offers six beers on tap, usually beers not bottled and specific to the season.

"We try to keep an eclectic selection," he said.

Still, while craft beer has found homes in many Staten Islanders refrigerators and on bar tabs, plenty of stores and bars are still reluctant to stock them, Sinatra said.

He added that the borough still doesn't rival Manhattan or Brooklyn, where it can be found at most corner delis.

"Out here it's spots," he said. "There's kind of like pockets of craft beer on Staten Island."

Roccaro said drinkers stick to the bigger brands because they're more familiar with them.

"They're comfortable in purchasing beer they've recognized all their life," he said.

However, Sinatra said with the two festivals and a smaller beer appreciation day in November at Adobe Blues, the market on Staten Island still is strong.

"Obviously, people feel it can be supported out here," he said.

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