Meet the Maritime Festival’s Grand Marshals

The 2019 Grand Marshals for Greenport’s East End Maritime Festival are Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey of Greenport Harbor Brewery. 

Greenport Harbor Brewery originally opened its doors in a repurposed firehouse on Carpenter Street in Greenport in 2009.

Founders Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey became best friends in college, where they dreamed of opening their own brewery one day. Both have always been beer enthusiasts, so when the opportunity arose in 2008 to purchase the abandoned firehouse, the two friends jumped at the opportunity. Both the parents of young children, they worked every available weekend and holiday vacation to renovate the building from their vision into reality. They credit, in large measure, their very understanding wives and families, who have supported them in their endeavor.

After purchasing the building, the two friends scraped together their savings and borrowed some money from family members in order to purchase the original 2-vessel, 15-barrel brewing system used at the Greenport location. They hired a commercial brewer and officially opened on July 12, 2009. 

After several years, they had brewed more than 30 different styles of craft beer, and continued to grow and distribute their beer to local restaurants and pubs in the Greenport and Southold area from the back of their personal cars.

Word got out and made its way to Brooklyn and New York, and not long thereafter, they were being courted by regional distributors who wanted to bring their beer to the city and beyond. Vandenburgh and Liegey settled on partnering with Union Beer out of Brooklyn and began shipments of beer to the city in March of 2010.

They continued to receive distinction for producing well-balanced and interesting styles in various publications from the Wall Street Journal to Forbes and Time Out New York Magazine. The Greenport tasting room at the brewery would be packed with fans and returning customers who filled their growlers and enjoyed a sampling of the various styles on tap. As the business continued to grow, the duo began hiring additional staff to handle brewing operations, sales and the tasting room operations.

With space in Greenport getting tight and the original brewery reaching maximum capacity at the end of 2011, the two friends negotiated the purchase of an additional at a former car dealership in Peconic.

The Peconic location of Greenport Harbor now serves as a larger production location with a bottling line in addition to expanded draft packaging capability. With more than 13,000 square feet of existing space, the two friends once again renovated the buildings themselves and oversaw all aspects of the development and construction of the larger brewery, tasting room, restaurant and outdoor beer garden at this location. They added a 4 vessel, 30 barrel additional brewhouse and now have eight 90 barrel fermenters and five 30 barrel fermenters to handle current demand. With the significant increase in fermenting vessel capacity, the duo designed the overall site to accommodate a maximum brewing capability of more than 80,000 kegs per year.

They now employ 21 full time employees and more than 14 part time employees, who are locally based and part of the community. In addition to ensuring the beer is brewed and packaged locally, they also continue to support the East End agricultural resources. The two owners have partnered with local farmers and utilize hop harvests and locally grown malting grains such as barley, wheat and rye, which are incorporated into their portfolio of craft beers.

Head Brewer Pat Alfred continues to expand the realm of interesting styles and combinations using locally sourced fruits and fauna with a barrel aging and special “OG” series that are limited offerings and specialty beers. Additional limited release canning runs have been added to the brewery Tasting Room’s exclusive offerings and more than 100 different styles have been brewed at both locations.

“Excitement, creativity and hard work, are the operative words in this industry,” says Mr. Vandenburgh. 

“The experience of discovering and enjoying well crafted, locally made beer is really important to us.” says Mr. Liegey. 

“We want the beer lover to enjoy the odyssey that comes with finding out what Greenport Brewery as an independent and authentic brewery is doing is all about being able to share a beer with that craft enthusiast and offering an enjoyable but educational experience is really fantastic.” says Mr. Vandenburgh.

Beth Young

Beth Young

Beth Young built her first boat out of driftwood tied together with phragmites behind her family’s apartment above the old Mill Creek Inn in Southold. Nowadays, she spends most of her time kayaking, learning about shellfish, writing newspaper stories, trying to sail a Sunfish, and watching the way the bay changes from day to day. You can send her a message at [email protected]

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