By Kevin Trayner
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 Greco 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.)
Greco, 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. Greco, as a draft system installer, has “seen it all” in the marketplace – lines not being cleaned, improper carbonation, etc. Greco 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 three level tasting room, which can seat about 120, Greco 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 the adjacent 7000 sq ft space. The brewery is looking at a late summer/early fall opening.
Cape May Brewing is adding two more of its flagship beers to cans – Cape May IPA and Coastal Evacuation Double IPA for the summer. The brewery celebrated its sixth anniversary this past July 7. Not too shabby, to go from three guys brewing 12 gallons to over 50 employees and two separate 20-bbl plus brewing systems (either of which makes more in a single batch than they made the whole first year). You may still be able to catch some of the one off beers at the brewery, including the Anniversary DIPA.
Flying Fish (Somerdale) releases cans of its new IPA, Jersey Juice, a 6% unfiltered “tropic fruit hop party” made with cryogenic hops that pack more hop flavor and aroma. The award-winning Octoberfish, an ale version of the classic lager, returns in September. Look for Exit 17, the latest Exit Series beer, to come out in late September/early October. This one will be an Imperial Stout aged in Dad’s Hat rye whiskey barrels.
Owner Gene Muller remembers getting a call from the Bristol, PA distillery when they made the Blueberry Braggot Exit 3 (also aged in Dad’s Hat barrels). “I was like, uh oh, is this going to be an issue with using their name. But, no, they were totally psyched about it and wanted to let me know that they bought a bunch of bottles.” As a result, Exit 17 will more prominently mention the popular local distillery, he said.
Carton releases two versions of its Cream Ale – Canoe and Rebaska. Canoe (the name refers to the joke about lighter beer being akin to “having sex in a canoe”) is a classic summer beer barley and corn, weighing in at 3%. Rabaska is the big brother Cream Ale to Canoe, weighing in at 6%.
Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls is expanding again, adding a new 20-bbl fermernter and 20-bbl bright tank. Owner Mike Skudera expects that the brewery will be in over 100 retail locations by the end of the summer.
Spellbound in Mt. Holly releases its 7.5% Northeastern style DIPA on draft only. Tasting room favorite Major Nelson Pale Ale will be available in cans as well from the brewery. On a related note, Cooper River Distillers is set to release the newest in its Single Run Whiskey series (July 29) distilled from the brewery Peach IPA. Cooper’s is open for First Friday in Camden on Aug. 4., and will have music, food trucks, and of course cocktails and spirits.
Iron Hill (Maple Shade and Voorhees) releases its latest canned beer for the summer – Crusher, a hoppy session ale made with Amarillo, Cascade and Mosaic. Crusher is available in 4-packs of 16-oz cans featuring a surfing bear.
Human Village, anticipating a large crowd for its opening earlier this past November, set up a ticket system to provide timed windows for the 500 visitors to its 1.5-bbl brewery. While things are not quite that busy today (thankfully), husband and wife team Megan and Rich Myers have been getting a warm reception from Pitman locals for their storefront nano brewery.
While in some towns, bars and restaurants look at breweries as competitors, that has not been the case for Human Village, said Megan Myers. “Local restaurants have really embraced us. In fact, Manninos, a local brick over pizzeria actually opened because they knew we were opening around the corner, and they felt it would draw traffic.” Myers remembers the owner getting nervous, as the pizzeria got closer to opening day. “They wanted to be sure we’re going to be open,” she joked.
While Kelly Green, Pitman’s other nano, has an Irish pub theme, Human Village has a musical focus. There is a small stage in the front as you walk in, and a mural of John Coltrane, complete with a crushed saxophone. The brewery features open mike and karaoke every other Thursday, and live music as well – the schedule varying from month to month. (The location was previously The Bus Stop, a coffee shop known for its musical acts.)
Myers is the brewer, who keeps the nano’s 10 taps (one tap is for homemade soda) online, likes to vary modern styles with older, historical styles. Recent offerings including a gose, raspberry sour (my favorite), a smoked oat porter, and an agave flavored beer. An upcoming historic style that Myers is eager to bring on tap soon is Haarlem Bock, a Dutch beer style made with oat malt, and Belgian yeast, which they plan to serve on nitro. “We love this beer. It has great character and a really silky body,” she said. The brewery is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
About 30 minutes north, Kings Road, a 3-bbl brewery in planning for Haddonfield, just received its construction permit to start work on its storefront brewery. Again hoping to spur economic development, the township approved a variance for the brewery to be built in the downtown on King’s Highway East, in the former location of historic Gibb’s tavern (founded in 1777). As Haddonfield is traditionally a dry town, Kings Road would be its first brewery.
Going down to Hammonton, Three 3’s is tapping an easy drinking 5.8 Mosaic Pale Ale and Totally Drenched DIPA. Hunterdon has picked up distribution of the brand, so you can expect to see more of them on local tap handles. Check the newly minted website www.three3sbrewing.com or Facebook pages for upcoming taps, events and hours.
The new Triumph brewpub in Red Bank reached a major milestone in the end of June 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.
Sourland Mountain Spirits in Hopewell, founded by former Triumph owner Ray Disch, has won several awards recently for its gin and vodka. The gin, from a recipe created by former Triumph brewer Tom Stevenson, won a silver medal at the 2017 American Distilling Institute Craft Spirit awards, with the vodka taking a bronze. The distillery also won a silver medal at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits competition. Lastly, Sourland Mountain Spirits was recognized as the New Jersey Gin Distillery of the Year at the 8th Annual New York International Spirits Competition.
Check www.SourlandSpirits.com for hours and upcoming events for NJ’s first farm distillery since Prohibition. And while you are there, visit Troon Brewing, which shares space on the 800-acre Double Brook farm. Recent taps included Tchotchke (6.7%); Stylistic Self-Immolation (6.2%) brewed with lactose, raspberries, fresh lemon zest and rose puree; Orchard Torture (5.9%), made with 170-lbs of peach and apricot; and two DIPAs.
River Horse releases its 8.5% Juiced IPA, a New England style IPA, dry hopped with 2.5-lbs of Citra and Lemondrop hops per barrel – available only at the brewery. (The logo features a suspiciously muscle bound hippo lifting weights.)
Up the road in Hillsboro, you may still be able to catch some bottles of Flounder’s funkiest beer yet – a 4.2% Brett version of their table beer, fermented in Chardonnay for over a year. The beer was a collaboration with local yeast maker – East Coast Yeast, using their proprietary wild yeast blend, dubbed “The Dirty Dozen.”
Going North, Gaslight has a bevy of beers coming up for the summer including Wit with Blood Orange, Octoberfest, 1920s lager, Brown Ale, Perfect Stout, Colossus Imperial Stout, and Hopfest. South Orange’s food truck street fest returns on Oct. 10 to Irvington Ave. The fest includes bands, food trucks, and a biergarten with all NJ beers (run by Gaslight). Admission is free.
Owner Dan Soboti may have a budding cider maker in the family. Son Tony won five medals at the 2017 International Amateur Winemakers competition, one of the largest amateur wine competitions in the world, held in West Dover, VT. Soboti took home gold for a pinneapple-pear perry, and two silver and three bronze for his other ciders.
Speaking of ciders, Ironbound, Newark-based cider maker, is coming out with a new cider in late August. Devil’s Harvest is brewed with tart cherries, wild cranberries and a hint of white pepper, and weighs in at a drinkable 4.6%. Available in 6-packs.
JJ Bitting gears up to host the 11th annual Central Jersey Charity Beerfest in Woodbridge at Parker Press Park on Sept. 23. Expect to see lots of local NJ breweries in attendance, including Little Dog, Cypress, Demented, and Trap Rock to name a few. Proceeds benefit local charities.
The Garden State Craft Brewer’s guild hosts a second festival this fall – the Drafts and Crafts Festival on Sept. 16 at iPlay America in Freehold. The fest will feature over 30 breweries and distilleries and locally made cheese, chocolate, and jerky, along with local crafts. VIP tickets available. Check www.njbeer.ticketleap.com for more info.
Brix Brewing (Little Ferry) cans Electric Dream Machine, a 7% IPA made with Denali, Waimea and Amarillo hops. Just Another Double IPA is still available in cans as well. The usual suspects will be on tap, including Joe and Oats, Porter Authority, and the limited release Can You Dig it Ekuenot.
Czigmeister will host an epic HopFest event on Aug. 12 at its Hackettstown brewery, which will feature over 30 different beers, including dry-hopped Kolschs, IPAs, pale ales and some hoppy stouts for good measure.
Cricket Hill’s Pumpkin Ale will be on tap at the brewery on July 27, and will also be available in bottles. Also available in the summer, will be the limited release of the double dry-hopped Sim-Notic IPA, made with Falconers Flight hops. Next up for the nitro taps will be Jersey