Beer-Stained Letter - Beer-Stained Letter - Jeff Linkous Tue, 18 Jun 2019 08:42:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Video: Cape May's new world order

Cape May Brewing's fourth anniversary this summer will find the brewery a veritable Goliath compared to the manikin beer-maker that once used air conditioners to climate-control a fermentation room and corny kegs to supply the lone local bar that wanted its debut pale ale on tap for the Independence Day holiday.

That was 2011, and a lot has changed from those days, several times over, in fact. But then Cape May has always been a changeling. It’s never been one to stand still – some of that out of necessity – even right after opening up in 1,500 square feet of garage-like space at the sprawling Cape May airport grounds.

There has always a version update with Cape May Brewing.

The most recent growth ring is the most dramatic and puts Cape May on course to hit 6,000 bbl production mark – double its past peak – and claim the No. 3 spot on the state’s craft beer volume leader board. (Flying Fish and River Horse Brewing are ahead of it.)

A new 30 bbl Premier Stainless Systems brewhouse, installed in a neighboring 15,000-square-foot building this spring, is leading that charge. It will step up the production pace with Cape May's flagship and signature brews, including a pair of IPAs and a honey porter that New Jersey’s ag department blessed with its “Jersey Fresh” imprimatur for the brewery’s use of a nearby apiary’s honey.

The bigger operation, co-founder Ryan Krill says, means extending the brewery’s distribution reach farther out in the state and growing the brand more efficiently with brews that resonate with the craft beer drinking public. (The brewery self-distributes in New Jersey, where its market is now concentrated in Cape May and Atlantic counties. Origlio Beverage distributes the brewery’s beers in the recently entered Philadelphia market.)

A 15-barrel brewhouse in service since 2013 at the startup location will stay put, Krill says. It gets the brewer’s playground job of making sour and wild ales, among other specialty brews. And, importantly, it offers the bulletproof cross-contamination safeguard of separate locations for Cape May’s “dirty” brews and its main production.

The 24-tap tasting room, with its 40-foot bar and gift shop space, is likewise staying at the smaller brewery and hanging on to the brewhouse tours. (Some tours will still be conducted at the larger brewery.) However, the eventual plan is to move the taproom and tours to the new building.

The new 30 bbl brewhouse was put into service in mid-May, busting out core labels Cape May IPA and Coastal Evacuation, an imperial IPA, in batch sizes double what they used to be just weeks ago.

Packaging side, the new facility also is home to a Meheen bottler (backed up with depalletizer, twist rinse and other add-ons) and a cold box that could house the Cape May Brewing Company from those four summers ago.

Back then, the brewery’s output wasn’t anything even the smallest of frat parties couldn’t handle. But then, the brewing rig made from three repurposed beer kegs – batch size, 12 gallons – was really about just getting licensed, getting the door open. It also said “hobby business,” especially to skeptics, whose numbers were matched by inspired homebrewers looking for an economical and manageable way to turn pro.

Cape May has been their touchstone, a case study for a number of breweries that have opened in New Jersey over the past couple of years.

But Cape May’s starter brewery – plastic fermenters, air-conditioned coldbox, and that brew sculpture, which has since been turned into a keg washer – was a passport to bigger things. Business baby steps (50-gallon batches) became more confident strides to bigger volume (4 bbl, would you believe?), and a sweet spot with the jump to the 15 bbl brewhouse. That helped nurture the widening demand for Cape May’s beers.

And it validated the idea of answering the brewery’s second anniversary by taking over a stinky, dilapidated, decades-empty building a couple of football fields away from home base, then spending a year-plus to construct yet another brewery, this time one way bigger than the last, but with a blueprint for tricking it out some more in the future.

Which, for Cape May, begins now.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) Home Page Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:11:56 +0000
Video: Take-home draft beer in a can

A piece on a new dimension in take-home beer, courtesy of I Drink Good Beer. 

]]> (Jeff Linkous) Home Page Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:27:40 +0000
Rinn Duin marks 1st anniversary with 365 Blackthorn, and talks about what's ahead

Rinn Duin Brewing celebrated its first anniversary (see video here) with a limited release, 365 Blackthorn, an 8.1% ABV Irish red spiked with some Belgian candi sugar, making it the Toms River brewery’s biggest beer. But the brewery has also added entering the Philadelphia market and a small part of New York City to the 2015 to-do list.

With traditional English and Irish ales as its signature styles, Rinn Duin opened its doors at the start of 2014. Its 25-barrel brewhouse made it the largest of a half dozen breweries in that first wave of openings after the law change in the fall of 2012. In the audio clip, owner Chip Town talks about the first year and what to look for from Rinn Duin this year.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:23:24 +0000
Spellbound Brewing making public debut at Mount Holly's Witches Ball

Two brewery openings on Saturday to highlight.

You’ll find beers by Spellbound Brewing in the beer tent at Mount Holly’s annual Witches Ball  outdoor costume party in Mill Race Village.

It’s a soft opening for Spellbound, a public debut by Mount Holly’s second craft brewery to open in less than a year. (Spellbound’s just under a mile away from Village Idiot Brewing. Look for Village Idiot to also be at the Witches Ball; Flying Fish will also be pouring there.) The brewery is also among sponsors of 5k charity race the next day.

Co-owner John Companick explains further in the video.

Elsewhere, Forgotten Boardwalk opens to the general public. The Cherry Hill brewery has been teasing its beers to a members-only club over the past couple of weeks. FB opens at noon.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) Home Page Thu, 09 Oct 2014 16:23:31 +0000
Craft Beer & Politics: More N.J. lawmakers are putting breweries on their radar

Congressman Frank Pallone paid a call on Carton Brewing last week, taking a tour of the Atlantic Highlands brewery and sampling the beers as part of an observance of National Manufacturing Day.

Let’s be candid for a minute.

It’s an election year. Pallone’s on the ballot, and Atlantic Highlands is in his district. He’s a longtime incumbent and most likely a lock for re-election. Still, face time with constituents, even for a feel-good observance such as National Manufacturing Day, plays well. It’s a bonus if you can do it against a popular backdrop, and craft beer is still ridiculously popular. So, on one level, it’s smart campaigning to find that everyman niche, be populist.

But politics and cynicism aside, there are some important points to highlight off the Democrat’s talk with owners Augie and Chris Carton, cousins who launched the brewery at the Monmouth County bayshore three years ago.

Namely, the brewery’s doing good things for the neighborhood; it has created some jobs and brought people to town and made for a seamless addition to town-wide events as a local favorite. In that regard, the 6th District rep should always have a stop at Carton on the itinerary. Let’s hope Congressman Pallone comes back often. Let’s hope more Jersey reps find the time for the breweries in their districts.

Growing clout
Kind words for craft brewing are being said in a lot of places across the country, as more craft breweries open up and do their thing, which includes loads of community-minded partnerships, by the way. And this is really the point: Craft brewing continues to watch its clout grow, be viewed as an a town asset, an economic tide that lifts the other boats.

On the Garden State’s brewing scene, Pallone’s visit to Carton is another acknowledgment of that. And he has company.

Rep.-Leonard-LanceCongressman Leonard Lance has put in face time at constituents Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, and J.J. Bitting brewpub in Woodbridge, which is now in Pallone’s district. Lance is a member of the House Small Brewers Caucus, an informational congressional panel for the craft brewing industry that formed when Bush 43 was still in the White House.

Last year, Robert Menendez, one of the Garden State’s U.S. senators, toured Flying Fish’s Somerdale facility. Menendez is among lawmakers pushing to lower the federal tax on producing a barrel of beer, a goal of the Brewers Association for quite a while now.

Unless you’re into C-SPAN feeds, this isn’t exactly exciting stuff. But it is important; it’s building friendships in crucial places. Brewing is a regulated industry, on both state and federal levels, and there’s always a need to take stock of the rules, to see if they are still suited to the conditions on the ground, or in need of updating.

And that happens through policy-makers, who make better decisions (we hope) when they have a clearer picture of what’s going on.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:02:35 +0000
Kane, Flying Fish win 2014 GABF gold in barrel-aged stout, English pale categories


A big win for Kane Brewing's barrel-aging program, and a return to the winners circle for the Garden State's largest craft brewer, Flying Fish.

Barrels-Inner-WallKane, probably best known for its popular IPAs Head High and Overhead, won a gold medal for its Night to End All Dawns barrel-aged imperial stout at the 33rd Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Flying Fish, a 2009 gold medal winner with its Exit 4 American Tripel, the inaugural beer in the Somerdale brewery's Exit Series, won a gold this time for its Hopfish IPA and complemented that win with a silver medal for its assertively hopped red ale, Redfish.

The Iron Hill brewpub chain kept its 18-year streak of medal wins alive, this time thanks to its Media, Pennsylvania, and Newark, Delaware, locations, taking silvers for a rye brew and a Belgian tripel, and bronze for a Burton IPA. Iron Hill has 10 brewery-restaurants spread among Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Winners of the Brewers Association's annual competition were announced Saturday. Just over 5,500 beers commercially brewed beers from 1,309 breweries across the country were judged this year.

Barrels-Far-WallWith 100 oak barrels perched on ricks along the brewery's walls – most of the wood was previously used to condition whiskeys – Kane (Ocean Township) has probably the most extensive barrel-aging program among the Garden State's two dozen or so craft brewers.

The brewery, which just celebrated a third anniversary, went up against 108 other entries in the wood- barrel-aged strong stout category to win with the 12 to 13 percent ABV bourbon barrel stout. Night to End All Dawns, aged in the barrels for almost a year and a half, is also among Kane's 750 ml cork and cage bottle offerings.

Hopfish2Flying Fish's Hopfish IPA (6.5 percent ABV, 25.3 IBU) won in the classic English pale ale category, besting 36 other entries. One of Flying Fish’s best-selling beers, Hopfish won a bronze in 2009.

Hopfish dates back to 1997, when IPA's generally hewed more closely to the British take on the style, well-hopped but far from the super-aggressively hopped American spin that is pretty much the benchmark of IPAs now.

Redfish (7 percent ABV), the brewery's West Coast-slanted beer with Cascade, Columbus and Chinook hops, won silver in the Extra Special Bitter category, which drew 71 entries. Last year, Flying Fish won silver for its Oktoberfish seasonal; the brewery won bronze for Exit 8 Belgian brown ale in 2012; Abbey Dubbel, part of Flying Fish’s lineup since its 1996 startup, won a silver in 2009.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Sun, 05 Oct 2014 13:24:31 +0000
Mount Holly, a two-brewery town, and a place to watch the craft beer effect

ScottMikeJohn-SpellboundSpellbound Brewing in Mount Holly got its state brewer's license last week and didn't waste any time before brewing a pilot batch of imperial stout and a 20-barrel batch of a flagship IPA.

The IPA, brewed Sunday (Sept. 21), christened Spellbound's Premier Stainless brewhouse. A soft opening to coincide with Mount Holly's annual Witches Ball on Oct. 11 is planned (keep an eye on the brewery’s website and Facebook page for details); there's also a small-batch barleywine, aged in a Dad’s Hat Rye whiskey barrel, in the works for the brewery's 150-strong founders club membership.

“We had 150 people who saw the passion we had – a lot of them we don’t even know … people as far as Arizona,” John Companick, who co-founded Spellbound with business partners Mike Oliver and Scott Reading, tells Beer-Stained Letter. “We’re going to have barrels; we’re going to do all kinds of crazy stuff, our passion is going to be into that.”

Welcome to Brew Jersey
The pace of new brewery launches remains steady in the Garden State, and Spellbound actually gets eclipsed for the title of being the newest by Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing, which moved into Flying Fish Brewing's original home in Cherry Hill a year after Flying Fish relocated to Somerdale. (Forgotten Boardwalk folks didn’t respond to an email for comment.)

Forgotten Boardwalk announced on Friday it got the green light from the state and released a video that trumpets an Oct. 11 grand opening.

Spellbound's license came through the day before, making its host town, Mount Holly, a two-craft brewery town and an interesting case study into the economic power of craft brewing.

Here's why: When state lawmakers were persuaded to update the craft brewing regulations, to make them more business friendly, part of the argument was that craft beer creates entrepreneurs and draws consumers; its popularity and widening audience make that a good bet.

Two years after the rule updates, there's been the steady tide of brewery launches, with the past 12 months being the busiest ever for licensing. A lot of the new breweries are small, but they still fulfill expectations, essentially becoming local attractions with their tours and tastings.

SpellboundCansIn short, it’s been good for host towns.

Ten months before Spellbound's licensing, Village Idiot Brewing was making that point as Mount Holly's first craft beer maker.

The tiny brewery has helped goose the flagging retail district along the downtown’s main drag. When it opens to the public, Spellbound will undoubtedly turbocharge things: two breweries with tours and tastings located just a mile apart (Spellbound is just off the downtown).

That's sure to make Mount Holly an enticing stop for beer enthusiasts. It also stands to make Mount Holly a reference for mayors and councils looking to attract business and industry to their towns.

An exciting time
The potential for beer tourism looks rather promising statewide. But in particular, there's a run of breweries and brewpubs, from Milford down to Millville, plus others in Pennsylvania, just over the bridges, that would make a beer tourist's day. That’s pretty much mirrored on the east side of the state, from Middletown/Atlantic Highlands down to Cape May.

"I think a trail, where you can go through and hit different spots in one day ... now that you're seeing more pop up, that gives you the opportunity to do that," John says.

Within 30 minutes of Spellbound there will be five breweries.

"We have Third State opening in Burlington City, hopefully soon. Then right across the bridge, you have Neshaminy Creek (Croydon) and Broken Goblet (Bristol). Twenty years ago, you could hit a couple and that's it ... now it's a lot different," John says. "It's actually going to be difficult to figure out what your path is going to be. In the next couple of years, (breweries are) going to be dotted all over the state.”

Brewers still have to do their part: offer beer drinkers variety and innovation. Craft beer drinkers are always in the hunt for new flavors, something that encourages brewers to be fearless and experiment, continue to push the boundaries of styles.

"Our biggest worry right now is making sure we have quality liquid ... the newest generation drinking beer is all about trying new things," John says.

Kane Brewing’s third anniversary party drew what was probably the Ocean Township brewery’s largest tasting room crowd yet. The event featured special anniversary 750’s, and Deep Rooted, the imperial pale ale (not imperial IPA) brewed entirely with fresh Jersey-grown hops.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:45:53 +0000
Ramstein Oktoberfest tapping  ]]> (Jeff Linkous) Home Page Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:59:10 +0000 Video: A look at Oast House's third crop of Jersey-grown hops

Oast House Hop Farm has its biggest harvest yet of the Columbus, Chinook, Cascade and Nugget cones.

Beau Byrtus, one of Oast House’s founders, gives a rundown in the video.

What you should take away from Oast House is not so much that it’s a working hop farm.

No, there’s a bigger take away: Oast House, with its annual harvest gathering of friends, is building on New Jersey’s craft beer culture.

You can easily imagine the harvests becoming, over time, like a small fair, with homebrewing demonstrations, a beer tent, and vendors selling Jersey fall produce and pies.

Or at least that’s the potential. Town hall and the state may think otherwise (this is where you should start looking at Oast House as a working farm, given some of the privileges the state allows for farms).

Two breweries are using Oast’s Jersey hops this year, and it’s a safe bet there will be loads of beer drinkers looking to see what Kane and Triumph Brewing did with fresh-from-the-farm cones.

It’s not just hops that Oast House is growing; it’s the Garden State’s craft beer culture, too.



]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 21:47:19 +0000
With a fresh N.J. license, ex-Basil T brewer Gretchen Schmidhausler returns as a brewery owner

Jersey brewer Gretchen Schmidhausler has been going to the Great American Beer Festival for the past 16 years, serving as a beer judge at the event for half as long.

But this year, when the festival kicks off its annual three-day run in Denver Oct. 2, Gretchen will be home in the Garden State, in fact, a few blocks from the beach in southern Monmouth County.

"I sent my regrets ... I let them know I wouldn't be able to make it this year," she says. 

There's a good reason, and it has everything to do beer: Gretchen's just-licensed Little Dog Brewing Company will probably be opening around GABF time. 

"It's not just a weekend,” she says of the annual Colorado trip. “I would have been out there for five days. I don't now how I would manage that.”

Because duty calls, with an exciting new chapter. There’s lots to do between now and October. 


Little-Dog-LogoThe ink on Little Dog's state brewing license is still fresh: Just a week ago (Aug. 28), New Jersey regulators inspected Little Dog and gave Gretchen the green light to join the state's growing roll call of craft breweries. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s visit capped a half-year buildout that transformed a defunct coin laundry along Steiner Avenue in Neptune City into an ale brewery with a tasting room.

Now the focus shifts to stocking up on grain and hops to begin turning out a pair of flagship brews – interpretations of German wheat and brown/alt beers – on the 4-barrel brewing set-up that launched Climax Brewing (Roselle Park) as New Jersey's first production craft brewery.

The wheat and alt will be complemented by a pair of seasonals, including a pumpkin brew this fall. Jersey craft beer enthusiasts can also expect a stout from Little Dog, plus 22-ounce bomber bottles of the wheat and brown/alt, as well as quart growlers of seasonals, all retailed from the tasting room during tours. (Gretchen’s still working on how tours and tastings will run. Stay tuned.)

"There was so much time and energy spent on the buildout. Now it's time to concentrate on the brewery ... I'm hoping to be brewing mid-month,” Gretchen tells Beer-Stained Letter. 

Tim-Gretchen1Gretchen is a familiar face in craft beer in New Jersey: a former president of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild (the state's industry trade group she now rejoins), and an award-winning brewer at Basil T’s brewpub in Red Bank for a dozen years. Think Ms. Lucy’s Weimaraner Wheat, Maxwell’s Dry Stout, Big Vic Porter, an anise-licorice brew at Christmas, and a Scottish ale that saluted iceboat racing on the Navesink River.

A homebrewer in the early 1990s – Glinda's Gold was the name of one her hobby beers then – Gretchen came to commercial brewing by way of the now-defunct Red Bank Brewery. (Tom Clark, Red Bank Brewery's founder and now owner of Berwick Brewing in Pennsylvania, recently modified the brewing kettle Little Dog bought from Climax owner Dave Hoffmann, fitting it with a stack condenser; Tom also did some modifications on Little Dog’s fermenters.)

Three years ago, Gretchen left Basil’s, and its 7-barrel brewhouse, with plans for her own place on her mind. (Basil's itself shut down a month ago to retool and re-emerge as an updated wine-and-beer-centric restaurant called Birravino.) She spent the hiatus from brewing doing some consulting work, refining her business plan, scouting a location, and making sure the one found for Little Dog was a match for Neptune City's zoning rules. 

She also wrote Making Craft Beer at Home, an intro to craft beer and homebrewer handbook that’s illustrated with about 100 photos, many of them taken at New Jersey breweries.

Her husband, Kevin McIver, closed on the Steiner Avenue property purchase last February, leasing it to GretchenBrew/Little Dog Brewing. What followed was the buildout that now brings a fourth production brewery to Monmouth County’s shore, an area that has become a hub for Garden State craft brewery startups over the past three years. 

Just three miles south of Little Dog, Beach Haus Brewery is under construction in Belmar. Triumph Brewing will make Red Bank the home of its second New Jersey location. Belford Brewing, an operation smaller than Little Dog, recently opened in Middletown, while Dark City Brewing in Asbury Park just leased a space and plans a 7-barrel brewery and tasting room. And all of that follows Kane and Carton breweries’ opening in 2011.

But the spotlight now is on Little Dog’s launch.

“Pretty soon, after I have opened to the public, additionally, I’m going to do two seasonal beers which will rotate,” Gretchen says, “and I’m going to start with a pumpkin – why not, right? – and probably a stout. I think that will give me a nice range. 

"I certainly have enough experience working on a small system that I should be able to have four beers within a couple of weeks, once I start brewing.”

And that will be soon.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:41:12 +0000