There are a few basic rules if you want to go into business: Pick something that people want or need, with a strong track record (7,000 years is good), and with an immediate following willing to serve as your guinea pig/test pilots.
The latter precludes the funeral business, which leaves only beer.
Vaughn Cutillo, a Montauk native, and his partners, Joseph Sullivan and Eric Moss, graduated from East Hampton High School together. They all served as town lifeguards and went on to graduate from Villanova University, the University of Colorado, and Hamilton College respectively.
During those formative years, they sampled and grew to appreciate beer — how, for instance, it could have been responsible, along with bread, for humankind’s plunge into technology. Without being fully aware of it, they may have channeled Ninkasi, patron saint of beer. Her 4,000-year-old recipe for barley beer was found written on a stone tablet in Mesopotamia. Back then, beer was consumed through straws from a communal bowl. Why not?
Last week, the Montauk Brewing Company opened the front door to a little red barn-like building off Edgemere Street across from the Montauk Movie Theater, and immediately began attracting beer lovers.
On Sunday in the barn’s gallery tap room, all three of the company’s founders stood behind the copper-topped bar taking turns drawing their Driftwood Summer Ale into glass-jug growlers, the late-afternoon sun igniting the brew’s rich amber tones.
The gallery is located on the north end of the building. Pilot brewing takes place in the back alongside Mr. Cutillo’s father’s woodworking shop. “We’re doing the test-batching in Montauk, then we use other facilities. We’re brewing in Cooperstown [N.Y.], where we rent a part of a brewery. Within a year we will turn the whole [barn] building into a brewery,” Mr. Cutillo said.
He said he’d always wanted to do something entrepreneurial in Montauk. Three years ago, Mr. Sullivan approached him with a dream of his own. “We thought the timing was right in Montauk. We ran with it. Eric went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Brewing is huge out there, and he had a roommate that did it for years. Eric is our brewmaster, designs the beer. He has a real creative streak. We are learning by doing.”
The business was incorporated in 2009, and the testing continued. The nascent brewery now has over 50 recipes that “we are tweaking constantly.”
The Driftwood Summer Ale, the company’s initial offering, has gotten a rave reception, and is flowing well in Montauk. Beer connoisseurs can find it on tap at the Harvest and Crow’s Nest restaurants, Ruschmeyer’s, West Lake Clam and Chowder House, the Sloppy Tuna, and the restaurant known as South Edison.
“We started doing tastings at my house,” Mr. Cutillo said, “small batches with a good input from friends who like to drink beer. Eric doesn’t get outwardly excited. He measures things on his own terms. Then, one day about a year ago, he said ‘I put this together. We got it.’ ” The Driftwood Ale was born.
Mr. Cutillo said he and his partners had thought hard to come up with the right name. “We wanted to call it something with deep meaning in Montauk. We thought Driftwood Ale, with a piece of driftwood from Navy Road for a tap handle.”
There are other brews in the pipe, so to speak. A porter is in the design phase, as well as a bitter, “an American bitter,” Mr. Cutillo was quick to add. “It won’t have an overpowering hoppiness, not a punch-in-the-face bitter, more of an Americanized use of hops.”
A wheat brew is also coming, perhaps by the middle of next month. All the brews will have a Montauk theme, with good salty names that cannot be mentioned until the branding paperwork is done. “We’re not trying to rush this,” Mr. Cutillo said. “It’s young. We want to figure it out.”
A visitor asked how the brewery founders rated their first creation’s reception, although the amber growlers, the way they were exiting the shop, spoke for themselves.
“We’re thrilled,” Mr. Cutillo said on Monday. “We thought it would be popular, but we didn’t expect this. We’ve had great support from the town, Montauk’s so supportive. Everyone’s trying to get a keg of Driftwood.”