STATEN ISLAND N.Y. — Flagship Brewery, which opened its doors in mid-May, has enjoyed a warm reception by Island residents as well as some intrepid outerborough brew enthusiasts, and even tourists.
Matthew McGinley, head of sales, has the task of getting Flagship’s products on taps around the borough, and in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
McGinley, who spent eight years working for Guinness distributors, explains that it’s far more difficult to sell Flagship’s brews outside the borough.
“There are some strong distributors, some strong brands, not everyone has 20, 30 tap knobs. Sometimes you’re fighting for one of five or six tap knobs and the struggle is how do you differentiate yourself from some of these other brands,” McGinley said. “Right now people are drinking local, for us Staten Island is going to be our home base so that’s obviously our strongest selling point, and the feedback we’ve gotten on the beer so far is really unbelievable.”
CONSIDERING LOCAL TASTE
The three signature beers were created by head brewer Patrick Morse, who is a New England native. He worked closely with the three other partners to come up with a winning trio that have garnered a lot of attention.
“I met these guys and got a feel for what they wanted, and what Staten Island wanted, we made these beers specifically for Staten Island,” said Morse. “What most craft brewers will say is ‘you brew stuff you like, and if other people like it, you keep brewing it.’ The Dark Mild is one of my favorite styles of beer, I brewed one when I was at Harpoon, I brewed one when I was at Eagle Rock in Los Angeles … it’s approachable for all kinds of different people that might not like dark beer, it’s lower in alcohol, it’s lighter in body, but it’s dark.”
“The APA is for people who really like hoppy beers,” Morse continued. “I think the style American Pale Ale gives you a little more leeway of what you can do with a beer, which is great about craft beer in this country.”
“The American Wit … we try to use mostly American ingredients and mainly let the hops do the talking when it comes to the flavor of citrus,” said Morse. “You always need to have a beer that’s more golden, or straw in color, for people who drink the Budweisers of the world, they’re more willing to try something like that. The beer we’re making here, it’s for local people, there are a lot of blue collar people .. so we made stuff that’s approachable for everyone — men, women, craft beer enthusiasts, people who don’t like craft beer — I just try to have something for everyone.”
Mr. Morse is also responsible for the creation of a seasonal Summer ale that will debut at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark for the Staten Island Yankees.
On the morning of the first brew, Morse admitted he was a little hungover from the opening of another microbrewery in Queens the night before.
When asked if this is typical for a brewer to be hungover while making beer, Morse replied, “I’d rather be hungover doing this than sitting behind a chair in an office.”
LOOKING AHEAD WITH HOPE
John Gordon, President and CEO, said what sets the brewery apart from other New York City breweries is the dedication put into the product and being part of the coming revitalization of the North Shore.
“We’re really doing soup to nuts, we’re making our product here and selling our product here. And most people don’t do that,” said Gordon.
“The [New York] Wheel, and the outlets, and the homeport and everything that’s going on is going to be bringing people from other places and we think that will help us,” Gordon explained. “We’ve spoken to a lot of people that are involved in those projects and they think that [Flagship will] actually help them. They’ve noticed a lot of interest from local people … and they think this will actually help bring people into their establishments as well.”
Said Matthew McGinley, “It’s just encouraging to know that, with anything on Staten Island, I feel like the community gets behind anything local and that’s really what I feel like is happening with us.”