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They like Belgians
Brewer learns to brew the styles his customers love 

The Hamptons is often called the playground for New York Cityís rich and famous. But the region wasnít much fun after Sept. 11.

"Everybody knew someone who died there," said Phil Markowski, head brewer at the Southampton Publick House in Southampton, NY.

Residents found at least some comfort, however, in Markowski's brewery, where they could immerse themselves in friendships that have developed over pints of award-winning Southampton Old Ale and Belgian Pale Ale.

Markowski didnít set out to create a sense of community when he decided at the age of 27 to end his pursuit of an electrical engineering career and become a brewer. He wanted to make great beer using traditional techniques and recipes. Thirteen years after he turned pro, Markowski's success is demonstrated not just by the breweryís loyal following but also by numerous awards, including two consecutive gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Co.

He may have set out to make great beer, but he has done much more. When he began brewing at the Southampton Publick House in 1996, Markowski faced the challenge of working among a population that had a nose for wine but little knowledge of good beer.

Over the years, Markowski has taught Hampton residents and visitors the art of appreciating good beer. In time these pleased customers developed into a loyal following. They have come in not just to celebrate lifeís successes but also to mingle during times of hardship, such as after Sept. 11.

They didnít necessarily talk about Sept. 11, however. In fact being that they were so close to the situation, and that it was difficult to talk about, Markowski thinks his customers may have talked less about the tragedy than people far away from New York. But there is little doubt they found some comfort in a small brewery among friends.

"Itís like a big family," Markowski said.

Over the years customers have taught Markowski a thing or two. He has learned what they like and donít like in their beer and, being a good local brewer, he has accommodated those needs. For instance, his customers donít appreciate hoppy pale ales, so Markowski, unfortunately, gets little opportunity to brew this style.

But his customers do like Belgian-style beers, leading Markowski down a road toward creating a slew of these brews. His Belgians and other unusual styles have earned him regional and national recognition; his Southampton Old Ale, for instance, won gold medals at the 2001 Great American Beer Festival and 2001 Real Ale Festival.

He continues to get enjoyment from watching people in the bar enjoy his beers, particularly after a difficult brewing session. "It makes it all worth it," he said.

Started with homebrew

Markowski was introduced to good beer and homebrewing while a student at Northeastern University in Boston. Later he earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of New Haven in Connecticut.

After winning awards for his homebrew, Markowski became a professional in 1989 when he was appointed head brewer for the New England Brewing Co. Over the years he has taken brewing courses at University of California, Davis, and at Siebel Institute of Technology.

Southampton Publick House is located at 40 Bowden Square, Southampton NY 11968, (631)283-2800, sph@publick.com.