Something brewed: Craft beer at weddings

Austin and Madeleine Everhart wedding took place at

Austin and Madeleine Everhart wedding took place at Dune Beach in Southampton. Pictured is a bottle of Southampton Publick House beer, served at the party. (Sept. 22, 2012) (Credit: Pete Hammond)

As Austin and Madeleine Everhart planned their Hamptons wedding last year, Madeleine took the lead on most decisions. But when it came to beverages, Austin stepped in to select local craft beers.

The happy outcome: Bottled Southampton Publick House Keller Pils and Burton IPA served with seafood on the beach after the ceremony, and Southampton Secret Ale on tap for the reception at a nearby party space. Austin, who worked at the Publick House for five years and holds the beer in high regard, says the choice was a no-brainer. "The beer is delicious and brewed right around the corner. You can't get much fresher than that."

Austin Everhart is not alone. "I wouldn't call them groomzillas," says Dennis Mannarino, general manager at the Old Field Club in East Setauket, where craft beer has long been on tap. "But grooms are becoming active in planning weddings, and for many of them, one of the big questions is, 'What kind of beer are you serving?' " Local brewers are quick to add that their customers are just as often women as men. Both brides and grooms are asking for craft beer in growing numbers.

Demographics are dictating the trend. Younger people are more likely than their parents to have enjoyed it at brew pubs and tasting rooms. At the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., Rich Vandenburgh has watched as customers have made memories over glasses of Gobsmacked IPA. When it comes time to plan their weddings, they want to include the handcrafted beers they've gotten to know. "Beer is not just a low-end accessory anymore. It is a complement to the food, the flowers, everything else at the wedding," Vandenburgh says.

Craft beer is a particularly good fit at Long Island weddings. Great breweries dot the Island, and as interest grows in farm-to-table wedding food, local beer makes sense. And craft beer in general, whether brewed on Long Island or elsewhere, fits nicely at a beach, vineyard or farm wedding -- or any other type of celebration with a casual vibe. It's not a stretch to say that craft beer contributes to a wedding's aesthetic.

Pete Hammond, who photographed the Everhart wedding, saw it as a way for the Everharts to provide a joyful experience for their guests. He tried to capture their friends and family with the beer, and likes the way the beer bottles, labeling and glasses became "sensuous elements in the wedding story."

And it won't bust the budget. Craft beer is affordable, says Pete Cotter, president of Blue Point, and something young people increasingly won't do without. "This age group wants to drink good beer," he says. "Once you get used to it, you just can't go back."

A trip to a tasting room with the wedding party in tow is a fun way to get to know different styles and determine which ones will please you most. Don't forget seasonal beers that might become available as the big day approaches. Ask your caterer if you can get the beer you want.

Most wedding professionals will work hard to satisfy your request. Do-it-yourself couples can order through their local beverage store or go directly to the brewery to pick up cases or kegs.

If you can't imagine your black tie-clad guests waiting on line at the keg, there are other ways to incorporate beer into the festivities. Vandenburgh notes that his brewery is often the last stop of a bachelorette party that's been traveling the wine trail. "They have a blast. It's just like the girl posse, enjoying the beer as much as any guys do." The Southampton Publick House is a popular place for rehearsal dinners and bachelorette parties, which owner Donald Sullivan says outnumber bachelor parties three-to-one.

Beer can be paired with food in surprising ways at these events, including a recent vegan dinner and beer tasting for a bride-to-be and her attendants. At The Old Field Club, wedding after-parties in an adjacent party space on the same property often include craft beer and pizza, a great way for the young people to continue the celebration after the old fogies have gone home.

Beer has even taken its place as a gift item. At Blue Point, grooms have been buying up fancy Growlers (63.5-ounce bottles made of colored glass and hand-carved pewter) to give to groomsmen.

A note to anyone still looking for love: Head to a brewpub or tasting room ASAP. Asked if he knows of married couples who have met at the Publick House, Sullivan responded, "More than I can tell you. I call it the magic of fresh craft beer."

And Cotter, who met the woman who would become his wife, Jennifer, at Blue Point 10 years ago, agreed. "There's love all over this tasting room." Pete courted Jennifer with drafts of now-discontinued porter. When he asked her to marry him, she said yes, but with one condition: "If you really love me, you'll have porter for the wedding."

At their reception at a winery in Cutchogue, where Long Island wine also was poured, the porter was the first keg to go.

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