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Vic Sbailo

Breweries Events

Backward Flag Brewing Reopened This Weekend and is Bigger and Better Than Ever!

WE’RE BACK!

With those 2 words everyone’s favorite veteran owned and operated brewery reopened this past weekend to standing room only crowds! Backward Flag recently completed a huge upgrade to its brewhouse, more than doubling in size to a 10 barrel facility with state of the art equipment. That means more beer, but also more opportunity to support the veteran and law enforcement community, the mission of owner Torie Fisher since the brewery opened in 2015.

The brewery was closed the month of January to install the machinery, plumbing, train the staff and of course, brew more beer to fill all of those new tanks!

Mil-Spec Black IPA, Oak Armored Ale and the annual January favorite, Raisin Bread (made with 10 pounds of raisins and Saigon Cinnamon) were among the brews on tap with more on the way.

Congratulations and good luck to Torie and her team at Backward Flag!
Welcome back!

10 Questions With... Beer Biz Profiles Breweries

10 Questions With…Donn Hoosack of ManaFirkin Brewing Company!

“I love the smell of malt in the morning…or in the afternoon or evening!” (apologies to Robert Duvall and Francis Ford Coppola). That was the delicious aroma that hit me as soon as I entered the doors of Manafirkin Brewing Company, as the newest brew, a Belgian Tripel was circulating through the chiller and being transferred to the fermenter.  Located in Manahawkin, the brewery opened its doors on May 19 and has quickly become a local favorite. The name is a combination of the town and a firkin. What is a firkin?  A firkin is a unit of measure and also the size of a particular kind of keg used for cask conditioning; one-quarter of a barrel, 72 pints, 9 imperial gallons. Firkins can be wooden or metal.

Manafirkin is a 3 headed beast with Donn Hoosack serving as Head Brewer and Co-Founder, joined by fellow “Firkin Founders” Todd Hunt and Mick Committee.  Donn had been a passionate home brewer for  11 or 12 years and, over time, expanded his system to the point where he was preparing to turn his garage into a production facility. The 3 friends got together and thought if we are going to do it, let’s go all the way and began doing the legwork on a warehouse location open to the public. Donn knew the brewing end, Todd is the owner of Shore Good Donuts on LBI, so he knew the business end and Mick was in charge of the legal and permit legwork.

Image By ManaFirkin Brewing Co

“We were always set on Manahawkin as our home base. We all live here, our kids are growing up here, so we really wanted to be part of this community. If we didn’t do it here, we wouldn’t do it anywhere, so it would be back to the garage for us.”, said Donn in a conversation we had over a couple of pints of “Wake the Firk Up” Oatmeal Stout, one of their flagship brews.  “This was truly a family project, as wives, moms, dads, kids, everyone was involved in the design, construction and set up”, Donn continued. The family atmosphere is still present as all hands are on deck for tap room days, including wives Lisa, Michelle and Heather, other family members and the friendly bar and brew staff. The large firehouse bell hanging over the taps is a formidable presence, so order the right beer, guess the right number, or give a good tip and maybe you’ll get a ring!  I was there on the Belgian Tripel day so while newest ‘Firkin family member, Assistant Brewer, John Starner, was supervising the transfer, I had the opportunity to ask our “10 Questions With…” to Donn.

What was the first beer you brewed?

First was a Magic Hat #9 clone, the second was the Chamomile wheat, (which you can see is on the tap list in a similar incarnation as Good KARMAmile, a pale wheat ale). Dogfish IPA clone was an early recipe, which really brings us full circle, as one of their brewers at the time, Chris, who is now at Crooked Hammock was a great resource when we were setting up.

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

IPAs…I just love the variety of hops and how you can use them when you are brewing an IPA.

Do you look at ratings on Untapped, Beer Advocate, Rate Beer and if you do how does it influence your recipes?

I do, but I really pay most attention to Facebook ratings. I like to listen to my customers and brew the beers they like. We have 17 beers on tap, which some may say is a lot, but I want to give our patrons variety…I know that everyone will walk away with at least one that they love. I also like to be creative, offer something new, so at least 1x per week, we are brewing something we’ve never served before. 

How do you stay connected to the local area?

Our spent grain goes to a local farm (on cue the local farmer came in to pick up a couple of cans). We also just got a couple of barrels from Laird’s Apple Farm, so we will be starting some barrel projects in the brewhouse.

What is the one tip you would give to home brewers to make better beer?

The secret ingredient…water! Water treatment is the last thing a home brewer grasps. It took me a while, but the water profile makes such a difference!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to open a brewery?

Have a good partner! It’s hard to do it alone, so being able to share responsibilities really helps to lighten the load! Also, make sure you really settle on an established site and all of your administrative ducks in a row.  Once you have a site, you have to start paying the lease, so the sooner you can start producing, the better.

If there were a beer that you could brew, with no regard to cost, production or sales, what would it be?

Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout! Dark, rich, complex…so much flavor!

Looking back on opening day forward, what was the one thing that surprised you the most?

From a business standpoint, we have exceeded all projection, so we are thrilled if not surprised at that. Our biggest surprise is that the Kalsch Kölsch is still one of our top sellers, number 3, in fact. In this world of IPA popularity, that is a great surprise.

Other than your beer, what is your “go to” drink after a long day at the brewery?

I like local brews, and my go-to is  “We Want the Gold” from Icarus in Lakewood. All of their beers are excellent and this one is a NEIPA.  I also like Weyerbacher’s Imperial Stout “Tiny”.

Where do you see the brewery in 1 year? 5 years?

We have a 5-year lease, so our plans are to continue to upgrade our production, recipes and grow here in our hometown. We have discussed alternative methods of getting our product out there like crowlers, etc. but nothing definite yet.

Bonus question…Donn..Why no Big Beard?

Can’t grow one…I’m like Mr. Bigglesworth!

Follow ManaFirkin Brewing Co on Social Media!

Facebook   @ManaFirkinBrewing

Instagram  @manafirkin_brewing_company

10 Questions With... Breweries

10 Questions With…Torie Fisher, Owner, Backward Flag Brewing Company of Forked River

Staff Sergeant Torie Fisher was nearing the end of her military career and was looking to do something different. After 2 tours of duty in Iraq, deployed in 2004 and 2008, she proudly served her country but knew it was time for a change.  So Torie, being a home brewer, decided to combine her love of the craft with the love of her veteran community and the idea of Backward Flag was born. “I knew from the beginning that our brand would be geared towards veterans and law enforcement,” Torie said as we spoke at the brew house over a glass of Mission Continues, a limited edition Black Ale made with saffron.

Brewery Manger Jeff , Torie, and Head Brewer Melinda of Backward Flag Brewing Company

The ale is really a microcosm of the mission statement and vision for Backward Flag. The brew is named for Mission Continues, an organization that assists returning veterans in adjusting to life at home. The saffron is from Afghanistan and is supplied by a company called Rumi Spice, which was founded and is run by veterans of Afghanistan who fell in love with the country and wanted to give back. Other ingredients are Counterstrike Coffee and Micacao chocolate tea made from the shells of the cacao bean, again both veteran owned companies. And 50% of the profits from Mission Continues goes to non-profit veteran organizations.

Torie’s original plan was to open a brew pub, however, with no restaurant experience, she thought that wasn’t realistic, so she decided a brewery was a better option. She still worked at the Lakehurst Joint Base and wanted to remain nearby so she looked at various locations throughout Ocean County.
While bringing her daughter to a day care location in Lacey, she happened upon the perfect property right across the street and that Challenger Way location became Backward Flag Brewing Company.
Torie has held true to her initial commitment and Backward Flag is the site of many benefits and fundraisers to support our military and law enforcement community. Her nonprofit agency, Arms2artisans, will be up and running in January 2018.

Here are our 10 questions for Torie:

What was the first beer you brewed and how was it?

Stone Brewery Smoked Porter. It was awful… All smoke, no porter!

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

Stouts…my favorite beer to drink and as a brewer there is a lot of flexibility.

Do you look at ratings on Untapped, Beer Advocate or Rate Beer and, if you do, does it influence your recipes?

No….and Yes…We brew what we like to drink and if it sells that means the customer likes it. We do look at Untapped, etc for trends and quality control, is our beer under carbonated, too sweet, etc.

How do you stay connected to the local area in relation to sourcing ingredients?

We try to work with a lot of businesses owned and operated by our veteran and law enforcement partners, which goes along with our mission statement. The Mission Continues black ale is an example of that. We also do work with The Fir Farm in Colts Neck for some of our hops and Rabbit Hill Farms in Shiloh is a maltster we could possibly be working with in the future.

What is one tip you would give home brewers to make better beer?

Source your information from books and other resource sites. You’ll learn so much more than trying to do it on your own.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone who wants to open a brewery?

Decide whether you want to work in a brewery or own a brewery. If you are an owner your brewing days are numbered. An owner has 20 different people that need your attention and help. I still write most of the recipes, but without my head brewer, Melinda Gulsever (National Guard and Black Hawk engine mechanic), we wouldn’t be able to produce what we do.

If there was a beer you could brew without regards to cost, production or sales, what would it be and why?

You’re drinking it now. Mission Continues is what I look for in a brew. It’s complex, delicious, most of the ingredients are from veteran owned companies and 50% of the profits go to veteran owned organizations.

Looking back from opening day forward, what was the one thing that surprised you most?

How quickly things can change! I started with 2 partners who were involved in the operation, now I have 2 new partners who mostly provide financial resources for the company. I am also surprised at how quickly we’ve grown.

Other than your beer, what is your “go to” after a long day at the brewery?

Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro. Creamy and delicious!

Where do you see the brewery in a year? In 5 years?

We are excited that our new brew system will be here in October which will more than double our production to 10 barrels. In one year we hope to be able to meet the demand that comes with that expansion. We don’t really want to grow much more than that, so our future focus will be on social issues affecting our veterans and helping them as they transition to civilian life.

Visit Backward Flag Brewing Company on the web at www.backwardflagbrewing.com

Facebook @backwardflagbrewing

Instagram backwardflagbrewing

Twitter @BackwardFlag

 

Editor’s Note-Backward Flag Brewing Company will be celebrating their 2nd Anniversary on Saturday, September 16th at the brewery.  There will be special casks on tap as well as music, and a food vendor outside the licensed premises.  Also, Backward Flag will be presenting certificates and checks to the charity organizations they raised money for.  Congrats to everyone at Backward Flag on this milestone!

10 Questions With... Breweries Road Trip

Road Trip! 10 Questions With…Brett Cracco of St. John Brewers in The US Virgin Islands

Welcome to our “Road Trip” edition of “10 Questions With…”.  We go a little south of South Jersey for this one….well, actually WAY south, about 1,500 miles as we visit the beautiful island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands and the Tap Room at St. John Brewers.

St John Brewers tale starts in 2001, when 2 University of Vermont grads, Kevin Chipman and Chirag (Cheech) Vyas decided to leave the corporate world and move to the paradise that is St. John. Kevin and Cheech worked as waiters, bartenders and other jobs in the tourism industry to sustain them while they worked on their craft. After much experimentation, they arrived at what would be their flagship brew, a pale ale with island grown mango, a true local beer.

Serving as their own distributors, the beer exploded on the scene and the demand soon outpaced the production ability of the small brewery, so they reached an agreement with Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine to be their bottling and distributing partner. They also established what is now an island staple, the Tap Room. While the original Tap Room burned down in a fire in 2015, the partners soon rebuilt and a new 2 level Tap Room is expected to be ready soon, enabling the small 2 barrel brewery to more than double in size.

St. John Brewers beers are now available throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as in 4 states…including New Jersey!   Although the bottling and distributing are done in Maine, all the recipes are concocted, tested and approved on the island. All draft production is also done on the island.

Kevin and Cheech were not available when I visited, but I got the opportunity to meet with Brett Cracco, Sales and Marketing Manager. Brett was with the Tap Room a while ago, but recently returned to the island and is a brew industry veteran in his own right, having worked as Senior Brewer and Specialty Projects Manager at Heavy Seas Brewing in Maryland.

What was the First Beer you brewed? How was it?

Tropical Mango Pale Ale….brewed with mangoes right from the island. Outstanding!

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

A session IPA, drinkable with while still having some flexibility with your hops.

Do you look at ratings on Untapped, Beer Advocate, Rate Beer and if you do how does it influence your recipes?

We haven’t a lot in the past but we are starting to now. Part of my job is partnering with Social Media and increasing awareness of our product.

How do you stay connected with the local area in relation to sourcing ingredients?

Obviously our Tropical Mango was originally inspired and sourced from our local fruit, but we also just brewed a Passion Fruit Gose (sorry that was kicked just before you got here) and our Toasted Coconut will be ready next week (sorry you will be gone by then) and others that are only available in the Tap Room. The island is very small and very limited fresh water supply, which limits what we can brew.  We can’t grow the grain or hops on the island and we also have to import any outside yeast we use, so that creates some challenges. 

What is the one tip you would give to home brewers to make better beer?

Temperature control is key, consistency of process is also very important. Lastly, repeat and refine your recipes…master one before you move on to another. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to open a brewery?

Don’t look to get too huge too fast. At least in the beginning, keep it in house, keep it small.

If there were a beer that you could brew, with no regard to cost, production or sales, what would it be?

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard Brewing Company. Just because it is my favorite beer. Fantastic!

Looking back on opening day forward, what was the one thing that surprised you the most?

Ever since I started with the company, it has always amazed me that the entire community has supported St. John Brewers.  Through the past 13 years we have always had that support, so when the fire burned down our tap room in 2015, the owners knew it was only a speed bump and that they would be able to rebuild and still have the locals standing by our side the whole time.  That is why I love this island!

Other than your beer, what is your “go to” drink after a long day at the brewery?

Whatever someone wants to buy me!

Where do you see the brewery in one year…five years?

Where do you see the brewery in a year? 5 years? 
A year…new Tap Room being opened for business. 5 years…with the success of the expanded brewery being able to supply more kegs to more bars and restaurants on the island. 

For more information on St. John Brewers, visit them on the web at www.stjohnbrewers.com

Visit St. John Brewers on Facebook @StJohnBrewers

Follow St. John Brewers on Instagram @stjohnbrewers

Follow St. John Brewers on Twitter @StJohnBrewers

 

10 Questions With... Breweries

10 Questions With…Jason Goldstein of Icarus Brewing

If you really want to get honest answers from a brewer, catch him in the midst of a double brew day. Jason and his crew were brewing 2 batches of Icarus NEIPA, Yacht Juice. The brew house was a scene of organized chaos, “We are a well-oiled machine at Icarus….no I swear, we are!” as Jason ran from fixing a leak in the glycol chiller to dumping a 100-pound bag of oat flakes in the mash tun.  The 10 barrel brewery just celebrated its 6 month anniversary and is continually expanding and working on new projects. These batches of Yacht Juice are earmarked for canning, the newest endeavor for Icarus.

Jason is an Ohio State alumni with a degree in food sciences and fermentation. When he graduated instead of going to graduate schools in the states, Jason applied for and was accepted to the Brew Labs at the University of Sunderland in England. “I didn’t want to do and learn the same things as everyone else, so this was an opportunity to expand my experience… do something different.” Jason had the opportunity to work at Darwin, Maxim, and Jarrow Brewing companies in the Newcastle area of Northern England and has applied that experience and knowledge to his work at Icarus.

What was the First Beer you brewed? How was it?

Caribou Slobber a brown ale and it was delicious!

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

I like to brew weird beers, different and challenging, like the Sunwalker Smoked Pilsner and the Pineapple Hindenburg (Habanero Pale Ale).

Do you look at ratings on Untapped, Beer Advocate, Rate Beer and if you do how does it influence your recipes?

I look at the outliers, the bad reviews, that guy who gave my IPA zero stars. I want to find out what I did wrong, see what can be fixed and where Quality Control can be increased.

How do you stay connected with the local area in relation to sourcing ingredients?

We are beginning to work with Fir Farm in Colt’s Neck to source some local hops. Grain is a little tougher, not that many maltsters in NJ, but that is something we hope to work on in the future. We believe it is also important to give back to the community, so we’ve raised money for the Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Department, Island Heights VFD and hosted fundraisers for Extended Arms of Toms River and local chapters of the Police Unity Tour.

What is the one tip you would give to home brewers to make better beer?

Write down everything!! Even your mistakes, keep a book, keep a journal…I still do.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to open a brewery?

Research everything, plan, over plan…and when you think you are done, research and plan some more!

If there were a beer that you could brew, with no regard to cost, production or sales, what would it be?

That’s a great thing about having your own brewery, I am my own boss. I have no restrictions so if I want to brew a beer, I can.

Looking back on opening day forward, what was the one thing that surprised you the most?

I think being able to develop, produce and market such a large variety of beers in such a short time.

Other than your beer, what is your “go to” drink after a long day at the brewery?

You mean like today? This is my drink of the day today (he holds up a nearly empty, lukewarm gallon jug of water). Hard to say, I love rye, not exactly thirst quenching. Let’s say a spiked lemonade.

Where do you see the brewery in one year…five years?

Brewing a lot more beer over the next year. Five years…our own canning system. That was the most recent project, it was well received so I’d like to expand on that.Do I get a bonus question?

Do I get a bonus question?

OK, why no big beard?

Volunteer fireman…giving back to the community!

 

Vic Sbailo is the newest contributor to SJbeerscene.com.  Vic is the President of the Ocean County Home Brewers Association and an avid home brewer.  We are looking forward to Vic’s insights on the Ocean County Beer Scene!  Check out his bio on our home page!  For info on Ocean County Home Brewers Association email Vic at ochomebrewers@gmail.com