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Vic Sbailo


Ship Bottom Brewery Is What’s Up on Long Beach Island!

Long Beach Island is one of the most beautiful spots on the Jersey Shore. From the iconic Old Barney lighthouse and modern beachfront mansions on the north end to old Victorian homes on the south end, not to mention the gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, and shopping, there is truly something for everyone.  And since 2016 you can add craft beer lovers to that list as Ship Bottom Brewery celebrates its second anniversary this August. 

I had the opportunity to talk with owner/founder, Rob Zarko at the Beach Haven brewery to discuss the genesis of Ship Bottom, beers, brewing and business.      

Our journey takes us back in time to 1995 when Rob was a young Pennsylvania beer lover spending time at a summer house in the Ship Bottom section of LBI (hence Ship Bottom Brewery) with a Cooper’s DIY kit of Australian Pale Ale.  

As with all home brewer’s, the moment of truth…was the beer good, was it bad, was it undrinkable?  The wrong answer can make you quit (sort of like golf), but thankfully in Rob’s case, it was good, he was hooked and the brewery seeds were planted. 

Rob decided to start building his own brewhouse back home in his garage. He started small and gradually increased his brewing knowledge and experience as well as his system.  Doing much of the work on his own he eventually built a 1 barrel system and a walk-in cooler in his garage. You can’t drink that much beer on your own (well maybe some of you can), so he partnered with some local bars and restaurants to supply them with some kegs of his brew. 

After several years of this, Rob took the plunge, applied for his license and presented his plan at a public hearing.  Many locals were supportive but he did encounter several objections, including a neighbor who was worried about a brewery opening in the quiet neighborhood.  “We don’t want him getting so big and becoming Budweiser”. They also worried that the nano-brewery would explode, but Rob was able to counter the complaints by assuring his neighbors that he had been brewing on his back porch for 10 years (One gentleman admitted he had enjoyed several of his beers locally). He was approved and in 2012, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Ship Bottom Brewery was born!  (In his garage…this isn’t New Jersey, folks!) 

Rob’s business plan included expansion, so in the fall of 2015, he began talking to investors about building a brew house on LBI and things moved quickly after that (unusual for a NJ brewery).  He found a location in the popular Bay Village shopping/dining area of Beach Haven (several miles south of his first brewing experience in Ship Bottom). In order to execute the plan he knew he needed some help with the brewing side.  Enter Jake Stablein, who crossed paths with Rob at Twin Lakes in Delaware, but was originally from Colorado, where beer is a way of life (#4 state in breweries per capita…NJ is 45th).  Rob enlisted Jake to help bring life to his recipes.

Doing much of the work themselves and dealing with the challenges of a second-floor brewery, Ship Bottom Brewery opened in August of 2016, with Jake on board as the Head Brewer. 

The unique Beach vibe is reflected in the beer lineup, as Stupid Paddle Boat IPA, Beach Patrol Hefeweizen and The Shack IPA are year-round offerings. Special offerings include Mexican Cerveza, brewed with salt harvested from the Barnegat Bay that is visible from the tasting room bar, and Chicken or the Egg IPA, named for a state if not world-renowned LBI restaurant and brewed with their hot wing sauce. 

I asked Rob if he had any advice for those who may want to open a brewery.  “Have a solid business plan. Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Find people that can do the things you aren’t good at. I hired a professional brewer so I could concentrate on the business. It’s a highly competitive market so make sure your beer, branding, marketing, sales strategy are thought out and designed well.  Hire good people, they are the face and voice of your company “

Rob’s plan included an aggressive distribution plan and Ship Bottom in cans can be found in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  He does some canning in the Ship Bottom facility but a lot of it is done at a partner brewery, Sly Fox, in Pennsylvania. 

I asked Rob what are his go-to beers, aside from his own. “I like 2SP Russian Stout (Aston, PA), as well as the Yeti Stouts (Great Divide, Denver CO)” 

Rob’s favorite Ship Bottom beer is the Mexican Stout which is brewed with Ancho Peppers, Mexican Coffee Mexican Chocolates, Cinnamon and vanilla beans, but he is passionate about all of them.  

“Our motto is “Brew every beer very well”, said Rob.  “I could have a lot more on our tap list, but I want every beer we offer is of the highest quality.”    

That is probably the most important aspect of any business plan, as in the end, it is all about the beer.  Unlike many of the businesses on LBI, Ship Bottom Brewery is open year round, so definitely an island brewery for all seasons! 


Last Wave Brewing Company Celebrating It’s First Anniversary This Weekend

Another Ocean County brewery hits a milestone, as Last Wave Brewing in Point Pleasant Beach kicks off the summer with their First Anniversary celebration!

“This year has been incredible, far above expectations!” said co-owner Bert Roling.”We were welcomed into the town like old friends from the moment we opened the doors.  Dani (Bert’s wife, co-owner, designer) has done an amazing job of keeping the tasting room on track and operating like a well-oiled machine. Nick (co-owner Nick Jiorle) and I are both working the brewery full time now so we are pumped to keep pushing the envelope and delivering tasty concoctions that make Last Wave stand out from the crowd!”

Last Wave has built up a great following as well as a large distribution system and their beer can be found in over 30 bars and restaurants, from Hoboken to Long Beach Island.   “We’ve had a great reception and are blessed to have such a supportive community.  Our hope is that we are creating a buzz for downtown Point Pleasant that echoes through the other businesses here, not only in the bars that get first dibs on our newest brews but also in the plethora of shops and eateries in our community.”

To help kick off the weekend, Last Wave will have some variations on some old favorites:

* Soul Arch Saison (Brewed with Hibiscus)

*  A -Frame IPA  (aged on tequila soaked oak and mango)* Red Sky Red Ale (Aged on rum-soaked vanilla beans)

And Of Couple Of New Releases!

*Dawn Patrol Gose ( slightly tart with a  touch of salt and loads of Guava!)

* Flatspell Belgian Witbier (classic easy drinking summer beer)

Congratulations to Bert, Dani, Nick and their team!

Breweries News

Oyster Creek Brewing Company Opens Saturday 5/12 at 2 PM!

The long-awaited opening of Ocean County’s latest brewery, Oyster Creek Brewing Company in Waretown, is set for Saturday, 5/12 at 2 PM.  Founder/Head Brewer Kris Lewis is glowing with anticipation and looking forward to a great day!

 What’s an opening without a menu? Here is the nuclear tap list for Saturday:

* May the Fourth IPA
* DARKmatter Vanilla Porter
* COLDfusion Coffee Stout
* MELTdown Habanero DIPA
Congrats to Kris and his team on this momentous occasion!
Breweries Events

Heavy Reel Brewing Company Grand Opening 4/13!

Ocean County’s newest brewery is ready to go as the taps at Heavy Reel Brewing company in Seaside start flowing this Friday the 13th from 5-10 PM at the taproom in Seaside.

Spoke to owner/head brewer, Jeff Greco and here is a sneak preview of his tap lineup for the opening. Some very interesting names…what do they mean?
You’ll have to go to the brewery and find out!

* Unrelenting Relevance DDH American IPA
* Drowning Clown DDH American Pale Ale
* …just a thought – DDH Cheesecake IPA
* zoomschwartzprofigliano – DDH American IPA
* CT16015 – Golden Ale
* FU/JM/SV – Gose
* Toonkish – Chai Milk Stout
* Paint it Black – Chocolate Porter

Congrats and much success to Jeff and everyone at Heavy Reel Brewing Co!

Breweries News

Arms 2 Artisans Launches at Backward Flag Brewing

Supporting our veteran community, in addition to brewing great beer, has long been the mission of Torie Fisher the owner of Backward Flag Brewing in Forked River. Since its inception, the brewery has focused not only on creating employment opportunities for veterans, but also developing partnerships with many veteran owned businesses.

Backward Flag enters the next phase of this mission as the long planned Arms 2 Artisans fellowship program launches this week. Headed by Fisher and Jason Carty the former Executive Director of NJ Brewers Association, the non-profit’s goal will be to foster the successful transition of post 9-11 veterans from military to civilian life.

“Some vets have challenges in figuring out how to translate the skills learned in the military to civilian employment, or how they can effectively fit them onto a resume.” said Fisher. “I had the problem myself. When I was discharged I would apply for jobs and be turned down because I was overqualified for some and underqualified for others, so I was stuck in between.”

The Arms 2 Artisans program will utilize Backward Flag Brewery as its primary classroom and the brewing process as a training ground for the vets selected. The program will start with two fellows on March 5 and hope to take on as many as six veterans in future classes.

The inaugural class of two veterans started this week. Lizz Devenny an Army Veteran has had multiple deployments and served for 12 years. The other veteran fellow Jose Miranda, has 22 years of service including active duty in the Navy and serving full time in the National Guard as an Aircrew Standardization Instructor. Miranda and Fisher also served together in the 1-150th Air Assault in Iraq. Miranda and Devenny will be participating in the 6 month program, which includes three days per week of training and education in various breweries and facilities.

Classes will have a different focus each week such learning the art of brewing beer, as well as the business end of operating a brewery. Fellows will be tasked with designing a recipe, brewing and marketing it. The classroom will also extend outside of Backward Flag Brewery. Many courses will be hosted via Skype with other veteran owned breweries and participants will visit other businesses in the brewing industry. The veteran fellows will also be visiting several other NJ breweries that have agreed to host instructional sessions covering important topics.

Other brewing-related businesses, like Rabbit Hill Malt Farm in Shiloh, NJ, will also be helping to educate the veterans. At Rabbit Hill they will learn the process of turning malt into grain and be provided a tour of the farm and their facilities. White Labs Inc., one of the largest yeast producers in the country, will also be contributing to the program by providing the veterans a session with their experts.
While the brewery and brewing process may be the face of the program, it will also include sessions on preparing a resume, interview preparation, public speaking, personal finance tips and access to an attorney for pro bono wills. The program curriculum also includes assisting the fellows with accessing veteran benefits programs.

Unique to this program is the opportunity for the fellows to build a network of veteran support. During the 6-month program, fellows will meet regularly as a group with their veteran peers and mentors. This will provide a positive environment to discuss any topic or issue that our fellows are dealing with while transitioning into civilian life. Establishing and maintaining this network of veterans is a core value of our program.

“Give a veteran a beer and you’ll have quenched their thirst for a day. Teach a veteran to make beer and you’ll give them the unquenchable thirst to thrive” ~Torie Fisher

For more information on Arms 2 Artisans visit 

Executive Director Jason Carty can be reached at

Follow Arms 2 Artisans on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @A2Avets