From Beer to There: A Journey From Craft Beer to Wine


derek first blog post

Hey!  What’s going on my fellow Liebsters?  This is Derek from the tasting room.  In the upcoming months, I will attempt to help bridge the gap between craft beer and wine on our team blog. “Why?” you ask.  Well, I was lucky enough to spend a few years working in the craft beer industry prior to coming to Lieb, and what immediately struck me upon moving from beer into wine is just how similar my experiences have been – as both a consumer and professional.

I first got into beer while working at Hoptron Brewtique, a craft beer bar in my home town of Patchogue, NY.  Over the span of two years, I had the opportunity to sample over 1200 different beers, participate in the brewing of two pilot batches (at Newburgh Brewing and Finback respectively) and meet a bunch of awesome brewers along the way.  I was drawn not only to the amazing variety in craft beer, but the many unique and inspiring stories that came along with it.  Every brewer had a journey.  Every brewery had a unique identity.  Every beer name had significance.

From Hoptron, I went on to manage a gastropub known as The Tap Room in Massapequa Park.  I was in charge of selecting the beers for 36 draft lines, with a focus on variety and locality.  We became known for pouring the best, most sought after beers.  I loved learning about them and sharing what I learned with our guests.

I came to Lieb last spring after receiving an unexpected call from an old friend, who was managing a wine tasting room and looking to hire staff for the summer.  I didn’t know too much about wine, but she assured me that my hospitality and beer experience was transferable, and that teaching people about wine followed the same principles.

I was a bit skeptical, but it turns out Alicia was right.  Like craft beer lovers, wine enthusiasts come to our tasting room looking to learn, to be adventurous, to try new things, and to hear the stories behind the wine.  And as with beer, I’ve discovered that wine is mostly about people and place.  It’s about the winemaker, or owner, or team behind it.  It’s about their skill, their style, and their goals with a particular wine.  But on a more basic level, it’s about place: where the ingredients come from, the land, the vines, the history and cultural practices of the region.  People and place give our local, hand-crafted wines the character and nuances that make them stand out from mass-produced jug wine.  The same way beers from Other Half or Stillwater Artisanal, for example, stand out from good ol’ Budweiser.

I thought that entering the wine world would be this great departure from the fun-loving craft beer culture.  And that drinking, serving and understanding wine would be stuffy, formal, and … different.  It turns out, the more I learn and the more I taste, the more parallels I seem to draw to craft beer.  So for all you beer lovers out there, I’m here to tell you that working with wine, visiting vineyards and wineries, and drinking adult grape juice from a stemmed glass, isn’t as foreign as you might think.

In future posts, I will be choosing a certain style of beer, discussing its characteristics, and likening it to one of our Lieb Cellars or Bridge Lane wines. I will also be providing you with specific examples of beers and other local wines that fit the same general taste profile – to hopefully inspire you to branch out (vine pun) and try new beers and wines.

The craft beer industry is exploding, especially locally.  There’s SO much to taste.  And on the North Fork alone there are over 50 wine producers.  It’s easy to fall into a beer or wine routine, to find a favorite and revisit it again and again.  But it was once said that “variety is the spice of life,” and I couldn’t agree more.  With a couple bucks and an open-mind, you never know who you might meet, what you might taste or what stories you may come home with.

If this blog series inspires you to do just that, well then, mission accomplished.

Up next month: Pale Ales & Lieb Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

Until then, cheers!

Derek Lustig

Lieb Cellars Tasting Room