Jersey Shore Becoming Brewery Mecca
By Kevin Trayner
Point Pleasant saw two nano breweries open in June – Frye Brewing, owned by husband and wife, Mike and Colleen Frye; and the surf-themed Last Wave, owned by surfer buddies Bert Roling and Nick Jiorle. Recent offering at Frye’s eight taps included a Coconut Stout, Shandy and Covfefe Ale Dark Ale (with the tagline “We don’t know what Covfefe means either”).
Tank installation at Triumph’s new Red Bank location, expected to open in the fall.
Meanwhile the new Triumph brewpub in Red Bank reached a major milestone recently when its new brewing system and fermenters were delivered to its 1 Bridge Ave location. The brewpub expects to start brewing in the fall, and although it seems quite likely it will open by year’s end, owner Adam Rechnitz has been leery around providing an opening date. The Red Bank brewpub will roughly have the same footprint/size as the Princeton location, around 12,000 sq ft.
Seaside Heights will soon be getting its first brewery, with 3-bbl Heavy Reel Brewing. “We are located about two blocks from the beach on the Boulevard,” said owner Jeff Greco, noting that they are walking distance to most of the major attractions in town.
The brewery’s name is a nod to Greco’s other love – saltwater fishing, a love he shared with his father in-law and grandfathers. “If I’m not brewing, my wife’s father and I can be found fishing in Barnegat inlet and the Atlantic Ocean,” he admitted, adding that he would love to have a fishing club based out of the brewery.
Greco is no stranger to the NJ craft brewery scene. He apprenticed under Gretchen Schmidhausler of Little Dog in Neptune City. “I still call her with questions,” he joked. Greco’s storefront brewery plans to open in early fall with four flagship beers, and four rotating taps. The four flagships will include two IPAS, a Pils and a Kettle sour beer. There may even be a collaboration beer with a Hawaiian craft brewery in the future – when I spoke with Greco he was on vacation in Hawaii and talking to a small craft brewery in Honolulu about doing just that.
The brewing system is up and running and has its federal license, and is only waiting on the state license and some build out of the space – the bar and walk-in cooler. The township “has been nothing but supportive” he said, noting that they were happy to grant a variance to allow the brewery to be in a storefront, and hope that it will help boost the town’s economy. “We are hoping to create an upscale kind of vibe, like what Asbury Park is doing.”
Down in Egg Harbor, Hidden Sands gets closer to opening its state of the art automated 20-bbl brewery. Located on Washington St., right off the Parkway and AC Expressway, Hidden Sands has been in planning for five years. “We’ve been to five craft brewers conferences meanwhile,” said co-owner Matt Helm, who designs and installs refrigeration and draft systems for a living.
One of the major holdups was widening the sewer main, a must for the system they had planned. Red tape and lack of communication caused the process to drag out for over a year and a half, and the work was only completed at the end of 2016. Brewery equipment is being delivered and installed through July, and Helm hopes to start brewing in September.
Hidden Sands takes its name from the pristine aquifer “800 Foot Sands” which supplies water to the region. Helm noted that one of their flagship beers will be a Pils to take advantage of the soft water – the brewery has drilled a well to get its water directly from the aquifer.
The brewery has a state of the art Siemens Braumat brewing system, which will completely automate brewing of 20-bbl batches. (This system was showcased at last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference in Philly.)
Helm, and partners John Cipriani and Tony Cepparulo, hope that the brewing system will help drive quality control, which they feel is critical to their success. As a draft system installer, Helm has “seen it all” in the marketplace – lines not being cleaned, improper carbonation, etc. He notes that many smaller breweries self distribute and must rely upon the retailers to clean lines and properly manage the product, which often does not happen. “It needs be great here, and must be even better outside the brewery,” he said, noting that Hidden Sands will have a lab (which many start up breweries do not have, or have a minimal set up) to help ensure that.
Mike LaRosa, formerly from Tired Hands, will serve as head brewer. The brewery will open with 800 Foot Pils (a Keller Pils), Sandy Blue Pale Ale (conditioned on NJ blueberries), a Honey Wheat Ale, and a “breakfast style” Baltic Porter (made with maple syrup and coffee beans). Additionally, Hidden Sands will feature a rotating IPA series, kicking off with a 7.5 West Coast IPA (seasoned with pine needles), a 6.8% Northeastern IPA, and an 8.5% DIPA.
The 7,000 sq ft space will feature a 3-level tasting room, which can seat about 120 people, Helm said. The brewery plans to use a mobile canner initially, but has a large space set aside for a packaging room, which they will focus on later. Additionally, Hidden Sands has a clause in its lease which allows them, with a year’s notice, to expand into an adjacent 7000 sq ft space. The brewery is looking at a late summer/early fall opening.