James Sykes, Matthew McGinley and Patrick Morse have all been working in the beer industry for a while now. Sykes was a beer salesman for Phoenix Beverages, and McGinley was a brand manager for Guinness and before that a manager at Phoenix Beverages. Morse brewed at Harpoon, Eagle Rock Brewery and KelSo of Brooklyn. Now the three are starting their own brewery, Flagship Brewing Company, in Staten Island.
BeerUnion reached out to Sykes to chat about Flagship, and bringing brewing back to Staten Island after 50 years.
How did you get into brewing?
I started home brewing in college and immediately was obsessed. I utilized many of the homebrew shops in Brooklyn to get my ingredients and did quite well developing recipes on my stove top.
What was the first beer that you brewed?
The first beer I personally brewed was a stout, on my stove in my old apartment. Which was good because I’m sure the roasted taste and darkness of the beer hid my mistakes. All in all it came out good, but there are a lot of ways to mess up when brewing on your stove in your apartment.
We developed all our recipes for Flagship on the Sabco brewing system. Which was, I have to say, worth every penny we spent on it.
Where are you in the process of getting the brewery started? When do you expect to open?
We are very close to opening our doors! This Monday, February 3, we will take delivery of 540 kegs. The following Tuesday, February 11, we get the whole system. It’s a 15bbl high gravity brewing system with 4, 30bbl fermenters and a kegging machine. So as long as we can get our inspections done quick we can start brewing and be ready for March!
James Sykes, left, and brewer Patrick Morse
Does Flagship have a particular focus in certain styles or a philosophy you are looking to bring to your beers?
I guess our style/philosophy of our beers is quite simple. We want to make truly unforgettable beer every time we brew. I think brewing, when held to the high standards which permeate through the craft beer culture, is a true art. The love and excitement for the process should come through in every sip. That’s our mission!
What beers are you starting with?
We are launching with 3 beer styles: 1) Our American Wit, 2) Our American Pale Ale, and 3) Our Dark American Mild.
Why did you choose to open a brewery in Staten Island?
We decided to open Flagship on Staten Island for a few reasons. My business partners and I are all born and raised Staten Islanders. Also, as craft beer drinkers we knew and felt the need for a brewery here, especially with the rich brewing history of Staten Island.
What kind of reception have you had in Staten Island?
The reception from our fellow Staten Islanders has been great! It really seems like everyone, from politicians, to neighbors, to family, are all 100 percent behind us. We couldn’t ask for more when it came to support from Staten Island.
What breweries have inspired you? Why?
I could go on for hours about all the different breweries that have inspired us. There are so many now, all with a ton of different styles and selections. That’s what’s so great about craft beer, the variety. The ability a small business has to cater to the taste of their customers. When it comes to inspiration, I would say the craft beer movement as a whole, along with all the breweries have inspired us every step of the way!
Photo courtesy of Flagship Brewing Company