Have you ever thought, I wish I had my own brand of beer? Well, now you can — and without all the hassle of starting your own brewery. A new Pine Island brewer offers Build-A-Beer, an online service through which you can take one of his beers and design a custom label to slap on bottles to give as a gift or serve at your next social event.
The brewer is Mike Kraai, and his program is called Kraftify, an offshoot of his just-opened Pine Island Brewing Company and taproom in Pine Island. You might think he got the idea from Build-A-Bear, but since he won’t become a parent until March or so — he and his wife, Suzanne, are expecting a baby boy — you’d be wrong. He got it from a car show.
Mike Kraai of Pine Island Brewery and taproom offers clients the chance to design their own labels to put on his signature beers
A few years ago, Kraai was an accountant and dedicated home brewer. His father-in-law, an antique car buff, asked him to brew a custom craft ale for a British antique car show in Stowe, Vermont. “He said, ‘Brew some beer for my friends, they’ll love it,’ ” Kraai says. He made an Extra Special Bitter, a singularly British style of beer, with custom labels that featured his father-in-law’s 1950s Singer and the Union Jack. He called it British Invasion Ale, “and people fell in love with it,” he says. This was his “aha” moment.
Kraai had studied business in Michigan, and had worked as a CPA in his home state of New Jersey, but yearned to start his own company. “I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “A lot of wine companies do custom wines, but it surprised me that no one was doing custom craft beer at all.”
He lives in his hometown of Hawthorne, New Jersey, but looked north to New York, where the brewery laws are more accommodating. Scouting locations, he found Pine Island. “It’s a really beautiful area, and there was no brewery there,” he says. He bought an old firehouse to convert into a brewery and tap house, which he opened in October. He brews six beers on a 2.5-barrel system, with an IPA and Scottish Ale as his “flagships,” and four other seasonals on rotation.
For a custom order (minimum of a 12-pack), patrons can visit the Web site, use the design tools to choose the style of beer and make a label from several templates, or upload their own graphics. It could be the perfect brew for a bachelor party, corporate event, retirement party, or birthday gift. To learn more about the Build-A-Beer, visit www.kraftifybrewing.com.
Pine Island Brewery and Taproom
Saturday 1-7 p.m., Sunday 1-5 p.m.
682 County Rte. 1, Suite B, Pine Island