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Vic Sbailo

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




Heavy Reel Brewing Company Will Soon Be Landing Beer Fans in Seaside Heights

Winter on the Boulevard in Seaside Heights can be kind of quiet, dark, almost desolate. A few lights from the local pizza places and bars, break up the evening, but it is a long way from the noise and crowds of the summertime. The distinctive logo of Heavy Reel Brewing Company will soon break through that gloom, as another new brewery gets ready to open in Ocean County. I had the opportunity to meet head brewer/founder, Jeff Greco as well as his wife Jesse (head artistic director, if I can give her that title) as well as Jessie’s mom and dad, Susan and Paul Sosnowski to talk beer, breweries, and family over some supreme pizza.

The name Heavy Reel not only reminds you that the Atlantic Ocean is only 2 blocks away but also reflects family, as some beautifully framed photos of Jeff and Jessie’s grandfathers fishing dominate the wall to the left of the bar. A huge striped bass keeps watch over the taps (Paul says it was caught on eBay), while the wall to the right has an original mural of Jersey marine life, painted by Gregg Hinlicky a local artist.

Heavy Reel is the realization of a dream for Jeff, who after receiving a homebrew kit from Jessie as a gift about 5 years ago, was hooked (pun not intended, but it works.)  “The first beer I brewed was a Lagunitas IPA clone. I would probably spit it out now, but I thought it was great! I decided then, I want to open a brewery.” Jeff realized that he needed a lot more knowledge, experience and skills to bring his ideas to fruition, so he put out an offer for free brewing help to any brewery that would have him. He needed to learn not only about brewing on a large system, he needed to also learn to sanitize and how to operate and market a business. His prayers were answered as he heard from Gretchen Schmidhausler, of Little Dog Brewing Company in Neptune, a pioneer of the NJ brewing community and someone who is always open to sharing her knowledge with new brewers. Jeff and Gretchen connected and he wound up serving as her apprentice for 6 months. “Gretchen was amazing, her wisdom, advice, and experience really helped us get off the ground. I learned so much, she was a tremendous help in making Heavy Reel become a reality!”

Jeff was ready to go, but as with all breweries finding a location was key. He scouted a number of possible sites before he settled on the Boulevard location in March of 2017. Once all permits were obtained they were able to begin construction of the 2 ½ barrel brewery. Paul’s carpentry skills came in handy and can be seen in the beautiful reclaimed wood look on the walls. Jessie’s artistry can be seen in the Heavy Reel logo on the front of the taproom bar, done with a wood burning technique, as well as in the brew process diagram on the back wall of the brewhouse. The wood burning style will also be evident in the stools and taproom tables Jessie will be working on.

Yes, enough about the decorations, how about the beer?! Well, Jeff anticipates his opening date to be near the end of March, however, Heavy Reel has already had a foray into the large beer production business. Jeff collaborated with Jason Goldstein of Icarus Brewing on Bay Dreamer, which was released at Icarus, 12/30 along with some limited edition shirts promoting the brew.

Recently, Heavy Reel received the approval to begin brewing beer, so the first beer in the fermenter, Drowning Clown, a Pale Ale was brewed last weekend. The family theme continues even amongst our breweries as Jeff got support from Icarus, Last Wave in Point and Backward Flag in Lacey to help get production off the ground.  “I plan on having about 8 beers on tap, 6 rotating standard beers, but 2 will be experimental. That’s part of the fun of brewing so I want to do some crazy stuff, surprise my customers.” While Tired Hands Brewing in PA as well as Twin Elephant in Chatham have some of his favorite beers, Jeff had a different answer then I’ve heard when I asked: “What’s your favorite beer?”
“I like IPAs, but favorite beer…depends…who am I drinking it with?”
Good answer….hope you catch a big one Heavy Reel!

Breweries News

Oyster Creek Brewing Company of Waretown Edges Closer to Opening!

The impressive stable of Ocean County breweries will soon be joined by Oyster Creek Brewing Company, Waretown’s first! I had the opportunity to sit and meet with founder and head brewer, Kris Lewis, tour the facility and talk about the progress.

The brewery is minutes from Oyster Creek Generating Station, the oldest operating nuclear plant in the US (which recently announced it will be closing later this year) and the tributary of Barnegat Bay which it is named for. Kris wanted to keep a local feel, so rather than ignore the proximity to the plant, he incorporated it into the name, logo, and design of his brewhouse. The table tops are embedded with a map of the Tri-State area, with markers of all the generating stations and locations. He also has several booths from the now closed local restaurant the Forked River House, again, keeping that local connection.

That sense of community that we see with many of our breweries is important to Kris, as he was born, raised in still lives in Southern Ocean County. His love of brewing started over 20 years ago when he bought a homebrew kit for his dad. It was an extract kit, “Your basic ale”, and soon, like many home brewers, he was hooked! The passion grew quickly, followed by the need to upgrade his system, develop more complicated recipes and brew larger batches.

Kris refined his skills and recipes and for many years his brews have been enjoyed by friends and families who all encouraged him to open his own brewery. Buoyed by the favorable change in NJ laws and the recent surge and success of local breweries, Kris decided to take the plunge and after much planning secured his present location about a year ago.

Maybe more than any other industry, the brewing community is very supportive, nurturing group and the experience Kris had was no different. “We were at the Manahopkin Brew Festival, and even though we weren’t able to produce beer yet, everyone was very supportive. Jason from Icarus Brewing stopped by and we had a great conversation about his experiences, the pitfalls, and frustrations in waiting for inspections and concern over the finances. But we also spoke about the excitement of building the brewhouse and the sense of accomplishment once everything comes together. It was a very encouraging conversation and the success they are having at Icarus now shows it can be done. Torie at Backward Flag has been great also. We are so close to their location, I didn’t want it to seem like I was encroaching on their territory, so I introduced myself to her, but she was nothing but supportive and full of advice. We even heard from Megan Myers from Human Village Brewing Company all the way down in Pitman, offering congratulations and best wishes!”

It takes a village to convert a computer repair shop to a brewery so Kris, his wife Colleen, contractors, family, friends have been working diligently. The work has paid off and with a beautiful concrete bar as a focal point, the dream that is Oyster Creek Brewery is taking shape. “We have a few more inspections to go through and then hopefully we can start brewing.”

Kris anticipates 6-8 taps running for the 1.5 barrel brewhouse including 4-5 staples and some seasonal beers and possibly some experimental batches. “Our Irish Ale and Habanero Double IPA are 2 of our standards, so we hope to have them year round. Opening…possibly by St Patrick’s Day or maybe a little longer. Again, it all depends on how the inspections go.”

In honor of Kris’ hope to be open by St Patrick’s Day, we leave you with this Irish toast:

“May you always have love in your hearts, and beer in your belly!”