Kidd Squid—the name sounds a little bit like a cartoon pirate cephalopod superhero. You can picture it, right? One tentacled leg saves a creature in distress from certain death, while another tosses gold coins to adoring masses like a sea-centric Robin Hood, each caper ending with the tidy tagline: “Avast! Kidd Squid saves the day!”
In a hopped-up way, Kidd Squid Brewing, a brand-new brewery in Sag Harbor, is doing just that.
Sag Harbor Village has many wonderful things to call its own, but until Rory McEvoy and Gráinne Coen’s groovy, whimsical pastel tasting room opened last July at 11 Spring Street, it hadn’t had a brewery since 1894.
“This is from The Corrector, which is an old newspaper that used to exist here,” says McEvoy, pointing at a copy of a turn-of-the-last-century ad for Sag Harbor’s long-lost brewery, tacked to the wall of his office. “I looked up this guy—his name was Allan Cameron Dalzell. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery. I went and found his gravestone. He was a Mason, he was part of the fire department. It’s really cool.”
Like Dalzell, McEvoy and Coen are dug into the community—he’s now vice president of the Chamber of Commerce; she ran and won a seat on the local school board. Also like Dalzell, who worked at Sag Harbor’s watchcase factory and struck out to try his hand at something new, McEvoy didn’t start out as an experienced professional brewer, either.
His career path led him to be the visionary behind creating large-scale experiential events, first for the New York City Parks Department, and then for his own firm, Area4. Coen was in hedge fund management. Looking for something a little different, the couple decided to try working remotely before it was a thing, moving to Shelter Island in 2010. Their first son, Bennett, was born in 2013; 16 months later came a second, Lochlan.
While the change of pace and scenery was a welcome one, in his first winter on the isolated island, McEvoy found himself needing a few extra hobbies to make up for his quieter, newly slowed-down pace of life.
“I started making beer, smoking pastrami, making my own sausages. All very stereotypical manly man stuff I was doing in the basement,” he laughs. “The beer stuff I really liked.”
The Kidd stays in the picture
He kept going with it, brewing with a couple of friends on the island and, eventually, adding more and more equipment to his homebrew set-up. “I had gotten to the point where I was brewing enough and cobbled together enough equipment, so it was no longer happening on my stovetop, boiling sugar. I was actually milling grain and brewing in a little half barrel system.”
By 2016, he had it pretty well dialed-in, and decided to take the giddy, exciting step of canning his brews. But what to name it? The symmetry of using Dalzell’s brewery name would have been great, but that name, Montauk Brewery, was already well in use. So he asked then three-year-old Bennett.
“So, I don’t know if he was reading a book about squids at the time, or some Native American story, but I asked Bennett what we should call it, and he said, ‘spirit squid!’”
It had a nice ring to it, but the spirit part sounded a little too close to liquor, which beer is decidedly not. Instead, McEvoy took inspiration from another family member.
The Kidd part is a nod to McEvoy’s father-in-law, Gordon Marriott, an Englishman who loved taking his son-in-law on historic pub crawls in his London home. The last place they clinked glasses together before Marriott’s death in 2021 was a pub called the Captain Kidd, named so because it was apparently where the pirate met his final demise.
“He grew up as such a proper Englishman. And he’d spent so much time in London. He filled me with the culture and history of that place,” McEvoy says. “We’d drink pints at these crazy old places.”
With the added knowledge that the storied pirate had buried treasure on nearby Gardiners Island, and its easy rhyming quality with squid, it seemed a natural fit—Kidd Squid was born.
Community and collaboration
Currently, McEvoy and Coen can’t brew on premises (at least not yet), but they’ve formed great, collaborative relationships with a multitude of local talents and supporters, like Rob Raffa at übergeek in Riverhead, where McEvoy keeps two unitanks and his fermenters. He also uses the space and facilities at Long Ireland and North Fork Brewing Co., too. McEvoy brews it all himself and creates all the can art, too. Currently half goes right into the latter format, and the other half gets kegged and heads to taps at several local bars and restaurants, which has naturally grown with the good spirit of local supporters.
“We started selling out of the tasting room only, then Sen put us on their menu,” says McEvoy. After that came Sag Harbor Cinema’s Green Room (for whom he made Sag Harbor Lager’s art to mimic that of the restored, beloved movie theater), Sag Harbor Beverage, Schiavoni’s, Almond. And as of last month, distribution in New York City. He’s looking to do more and more collaborations with other local businesses, too. “We’d just like to keep growing and keep doing stuff in the community and collaborating with different people here,” says McEvoy. “We’ve got a couple of things that are going to be really cool that I can’t talk about yet—I don’t want to jinx it!”
When the weather becomes outdoor-friendly, he and Coen will again work with their neighbor, Linette Roe, who took over the Sag Harbor Garden Center from long-time owners Phil and Diane Bucking, creating a sort of literal beer garden among Roe’s annuals and perennials, and offering live music on certain nights. “It’s the beer garden center!” he laughs.
The community has easily and happily embraced the young couple and their squid spirit. During the school year, a group of teachers has even made Kidd Squid their end-of-week spot to kick back for a beer and relax, donning themselves the Squid Squad.
“[Brewing is] creating something tangible and tactile, but it’s still creative. I like designing the labels. I like designing the beers. And I like the fact that people are enjoying them,” McEvoy says. “The fact that there is alcohol in them is also just mirth. It’s just like a nice happy spot in my mind. Community is the most pleasantly surprising thing about opening up this place.”