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Road Trip! 10 Questions with Marc and Darren of Conyngham Brewing Company

10 Questions with Marc Eble and Darren Wolfe of Conyngham Brewing Company

   Karen and I recently went to Conyngham, Pennsylvania to revisit one of the best breweries we’ve found on our camping trips, Conyngham Brewing Co. Now before you go crazy trying to figure out how to say it just keep it simple, it is pronounced Cunningham. Owner/Brewmaster Marc Eble and Assistant Brewer Darren Wolfe applied for their license in November 2012 and opened their doors in May of 2013. In comparison to here in New Jersey, I would have to say the process is a little easier in PA. The building that houses the Brewery was a general store dating back to the early 1800’s and was once owned by Darren’s grandparents. Marc and Darren took it down to the studs, and upgraded everything except for the old meat cooler with the original antique door. What once housed meat now is the home for the kegs for the taproom. They opened up with a 1 BBL system with a Kölsch being the first beer they brewed. Within 6 months they needed to move up to a 2 BBL system, and then up to their current brew house which is a 5 BBL system with 12 assorted 5 & 10 BBL fermenters. That jump made the beer making much faster. They both joked that what used to take 22 hours to brew now takes 6. The taproom itself is one of the warmest and welcoming ones we’ve been in. It has a 30”+ wide U-shaped bar that is made from reclaimed floorboards from the front of the building which were the living quarters that sits about 12 comfortably.  

The bar area has a nice fireplace, and restrooms are nicer than most custom homes. As you travel through the doorway from the taproom, you enter what was once Darren’s grandmothers kitchen which has been transformed into a nice area with high tables, oversized brown leather couches, and a dartboard. Through a sliding door to your right, you enter what was the living quarters which is now adorned with more high tables, and oversized brown leather couches. Across the front of the room are about a dozen barrels filled with assorted styles including 1-2 year old sours in various flavors. It’s hard to truly appreciate what a great find this is, so you need to plan a weekend and experience true Artisan beer making. When you do go, try to catch a weekend with the Sunday brunch. As you could imagine everything is farm to table. They do it about once a month so do your research, and you won’t be disappointed.

1. What was the first beer you brewed, and how was it? 

I only homebrewed once in my life, and it was in Hawaii. I built my own mash tun out of coolers, and did an all grain Belgium inspired Chocolate Mint Stout. It was ok, but I knew what I did wrong. I used fresh mint, and did not remove the stems which gave it a bittering aspect. I did get the chocolate part right with the timing of the coco nibs, and the underlying beer was quite tasty.

2. What is your favorite style to brew, and why?

The favorite style I like to brew because of the ease and the great final product would be our Kölsch. Now my favorite to brew to drink is our Bourbon Barrel Stout. I lived in Hawaii for 8 years, and still have friends there who send me fresh coffee which I put in the barrels.

3. Do you look at ratings on Untappd, Beer Advocate, or Rate Beer, and does it influence your recipes?

Once in a while I look at Untappd because you kind of have to. I mainly log in to keep the beers up to date. It in no way affects my recipes in any way.

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

We have our own 20 acre farm about 8 minutes away. We grow our own hops, but not 100% of our hop bill is from that. We source local oats. All the fruit in our sours are grown on our farm. The honey for our Mint Tea Honey Saison comes from our hives.

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

Remember you have the advantage. You can buy whatever you want because you don’t have to worry about sales so don’t skimp on the ingredients. I hate t give the typical answer, but sanitizing is a huge part of it which can be extremely hard in the homebrew environment. Keep it simple. If you try to complicate things you run the risk of things going wrong.

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

I get this answer 95% of the time. DON’T! I say that knowing if it’s your true passion nothing will discourage you. You will need to double, and triple the time you think it will take. You will need to be resourceful. Our Glycol chiller went down, and Darren was able to get it operational, and I went and took the EPA test, and now I’m certified in HVAC. For me it’s my life, and I’ve had to make sacrifices in my social life, friends, and sometimes relationships because it’s that important to me.  I used to love going to breweries, but that is very rare since I opened up. If you’re going to other breweries for “research” then you’re just ripping them off, and that’s not respectful, and you probably won’t make it.

7. If there is one beer you could brew with no regards to cost, production, or sales, what would it be?

I’ve actually already have done it. It’s our Imperial Dessert Stout which comes in at 17.5% ABV. We went one step further and put it into a Cognac barrel which should amp it up to about 21% when it comes out. We made that beer just to see if we could. We weren’t worried about cost, sales or time. We just wanted to see how big we could go.

8. Looking back to opening day forward, what was the one thing that happened that surprised you?

The change in the market. We opened up at the tail end of the first boom, and yes we are seeing another resurgence now. When we started bars and distributors were hounding us, but we weren’t ready, and by the time we were the market got very competitive to the point that it’s a challenge to get into bars and taverns.

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

It’s hard to say our beer since I live upstairs (laugh). I would have to say when I’m lucky enough to find it is Traquair House Scottish Ale. It’s a Brewery that only makes 2 beers to support their castle in Scotland.

10. Where do you see the brewery in a year? In 5 Years?

Darren chimed in right away “Key West”. Which I quickly said “I’m in”. Seriously I want to do more distribution. That’s my main goal because it’s all about the beer. 5 Years. If the distribution doesn’t work out then we will move somewhere where we will have a better opportunity to distribute.

Bonus 1. What’s the best beer you ever had?

The Traquair House definitely comes to mind. There was also a great experience we had in Philly at the Brewers Conference where we went to a bar after and found Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru from Sam Adams on tap for $6 a pint. We had no choice but to kill the sixtel.

Bonus 2. What do you listen to when you’re brewing?

A lot of Van Halen when we’re brewing and country when we are bottling.

To say we enjoyed our visit would be an understatement. I can’t wait until the next visit which will be in early July. If you are a fan of craft beer then you need to punch Conyngham Brewing into your GPS and start driving.

And, as always, enjoy your pour!

 

Visit Conyngham Brewing on the Web at www.conynghambrewing.com

Follow Conyngham Brewing Company on Social Media

Facebook: @conynghambrewingcompany

Instagram:  conynghambrewingcompany

 

10 Questions With...

10 Questions With…Kris Lewis of Oyster Creek Brewing!

One of our favorite things to do at South Jersey Beer Scene is to revisit a new brewery a few months down the road, talk about their experiences and generally see how they are doing. Oyster Creek Brewing opened to much anticipation in May of 2018 and their reputation has continued to grow! I got to sit down with founder/head brewer/salesman (a man with many hats!) , Kris Lewis and ask the iconic 10 questions!

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

First beer as a home brewer was an English Stout. It was an extract from a home brew kit I got as a gift. How was it? At the time I probably thought it was good, but I can imagine what I would think about it now. At the brewery the first one was the Simcoe IPA, which is my favorite hop. It’s still on our tap list.

What is your favorite style to brew?

My favorite is our coffee stout. It is the most complex recipe and I use local coffee from How You Brewin’ on Long Beach Island.

Do you look at beer ratings?

Yes, mostly Untapped. I look at general ratings, not necessarily the opinions expressed on there.
Some of the criticisms aren’t necessarily constructive, but just indicative of a beer style someone does or doesn’t like.

How do you connect to the local area for your ingredients?

I mentioned we source the coffee for our coffee stout from How You Brewin’ coffee shop on LBI .We also source our produce from a local farm, as well as our cranberries and beach plums.

What is one tip you would give to someone to help them brew better beer?

Clean and sanitize, clean and sanitize then do it again! (Kris was actually cleaning when I visited him this evening). It’s not romantic, but the MOST important part of the whole process.

What advice would you give someone that wants to open a brewery?

Build your business plan, get your finances in order….then double the amount you anticipated!

If you could brew any beer without regards to cost what would you make?

A big, 16-17% barley wine! Unlimited grain, a 9 hour boil, that would be fun!

From opening day forward, what has surprised you the most?

The grand opening rush was great and it actually continued through the summer! It slowed a little in the fall, right after school started but we picked back up again and are looking forward to a great summer!

Other than your own beer, what is your go to drink?

Anything from Alchemist is great, I have Heady Topper and Focal Banger in my fridge now. (Like many Jersey people, Kris has got a guy!) I also love Icarus beers, always great!

Where do you see the brewery in 5 years?

I would like to increase our distribution so that we are throughout New Jersey. My short term goal is to add at least 5 new clients by the end of 2019.

BONUS QUESTION

What’s on the sound system when you are brewing?

Depends on the day, but mostly 80’s rock. Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Cake.

Kris, thank you for taking the time out of your busy evening to give us a few minutes. Here’s to Oyster Creek’s continued growth and success!

10 Questions With...

10 Questions With…Jeff Greco of Heavy Reel Brewing Co

 10 Questions with Jeff Greco, Head Brewer, Heavy Reel Brewing Co

Winter in a resort town can be lonely and quiet as businesses close up for the season, the boardwalk goes dark and the parking meters go into hibernation. Not in Seaside Heights as Heavy Reel Brewing, after a fantastic summer season, continues to thrive. Heavy Reel is building a stellar reputation for creative and outstanding brews with some of the most thought provoking titles in South Jersey like Drowning Clown, Toonkish, and Paint it Black. Jeff just expanded to a 2.5  barrel system and hopes to be hiring an assistant brewer in the spring. 

Jeff and his wife Jessie were gracious enough to host our Ocean County Home Brewers Association meeting this month, so I got the opportunity to visit with them both. Over a delicious pint of The Wake of Isolation (Imperial IPA, 4.38 on Untapped, if you are wondering)  I got to ask Jeff the 10 questions.

What was the first beer you brewed? 

“Lagunitas IPA clone. Back then I thought it was good, but now…I don’t know how it would rate. It was all grain which I did from the start. I’ve never brewed with extract” 

What is your favorite style of beer to brew? 

“IPA, especially New England IPAs.  It’s my favorite to drink so naturally, it is my favorite to brew”

Do you look at ratings (Untapped, Beer Advocate, etc.)? Do they affect your recipes? 

“All the time! The ratings are not that far off of from what I think.   They don’t really change my mind about what I am brewing. “

How do you connect to the local area for ingredients?

“I’ve got the Atlantic Ocean a block to the east, Barnegat Bay a few blocks to the west, so  I use Barnegat Bay oysters for our oyster stout and Atlantic sea salt for our gose.” 

What is one tip for home brewers to help them make better beer?

“Keep messing up until you figure it out! Mistakes happen!” 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery? 

“Talk to actual brewers, brewery owners and work at a brewery first to see what it takes to operate on a daily basis.  Fill out your applications, federal and state, right away…don’t sit around waiting saying I’m going to open a brewery, do it. Assume it is always going to take longer than you anticipate!”   

If you could brew a beer, regardless of cost, what would you brew? 

“I do it every time I walk through that door.  That is an advantage of a small brewery, I brew what I want to brew” 

Since you have opened, what has surprised you the most? 

“The number of people who want to work in a brewery, but once they see what is involved, they don’t!”

Other than your own beer, what is your go to? 

“Bay Dreamer, our session IPA collaboration that we brewed at Icarus is one of my favorites, outside of that, I like anything funky or sour… the more sour the better!” 

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

“Hopefully still in business!” he said with a laugh. “Really I’d like to have a larger staff and expand more so we can distribute our product.”   

In the near future, Jeff says to look out for some special releases and surprises for their April anniversary. 

Jeff, Bonus question: 

What kind of music do you listen to when you brew? 

Hard core!”  

Jeff turned up the volume and the voice of Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose sang us out into the foggy Jersey Shore evening.  

10 Questions With... Breweries

10 Questions With Bonsaw Brewing Company’s Brewmaster A.J. Stoll!

We finally made it to Bonesaw Brewing Company in Glassboro, N.J. to do our “10 Questions with the Brewer” Brewmaster AJ Stoll. If you are like us, you have been following construction of this Brewery over the last year or so. Bonesaw was one of the first breweries in our area to be built from the ground up and we were curious about what it would look like, and more importantly how good the beer would be. From the moment you pull into the parking lot, to entering into the massive taproom, to the first sip of beer, one word comes to mind:  Craftsmanship. What Dr. Rich DeVerniero, and brother-in laws David & Allen Doe, and Brewmaster AJ Stoll have created is a total sensory overload. From the custom light fixtures crafted by Dr. Rich himself to the impressive live edge bar, and wood work done by Randy P. Goodman of Random 8 Woodworks. All 4 owners were heavily involved with every single phase of construction. Bonesaw Brewing consists of a 17 BBL (20HL) brewhouse with 10-50 BBL (60HL) fermenters and 2-50 BBL (60HL) Brite tanks. He also has a few freshly filled barrels that I can’t wait to try.

Brewmaster AJ Stoll took the long way to get to N.J… He is originally from Orange County, California, where his brewing journey started at Seven Bridges Organic Homebrew Supply in Santa Cruz. AJ got the bug early, and the supply store gave him a way to stay in touch with it (Plus the discounts didn’t hurt either). While at Seven Bridges he actually worked with Tim Clifford and Jason Hansen who went on to open Santé Adairius Rustic Ales in 2012, and are really making some great beers. After college, AJ got an assistant brewer job with Seabright Brewery. After a short stint there, he moved on to his first Head Brewer job at Ukiah Brewing Co. From there he moved to Figueroa Mountain Brewing where his Imperial IPA Lizard’s Mouth was nominated for best new beer in 2014. Along with dozens of awards he helped Figueroa grow from 1,200 BBL to 20,000 BBL per year in production. 

Later on in 2014 AJ got the opportunity to go to Kerry, Ireland where he helped start-up Killarney Brewing Company which has become well-respected in the beer world. Although AJ joked that it only rains twice for 6 months at a time he was taken by the beauty, and the 40 shades of green. Something else that was surprising to him was that most of the 10,000 BBL they produced sold in just a 10 mile radius which confirms that the Irish love their beer. 

The time at Killarney lasted about a year, and it was time for AJ to come back to the states. In 2015 he found himself at Funky Buddha in Florida where he helped get their Brewhouse in order before it was sold to Constellation Brands. Then like the song say’s, I’m going back to Cali. When he got back to California he started working as a consultant with the plan to work with as many different breweries of all sizes to absorb as much experience as he could. He helped start new breweries, and helped tweak existing ones until he got the call to be the Brewmaster at Bonesaw.

1. What was the first beer you brewed, and how was it? 

It was an all grain Belgium double kit which I brewed twice before I wrote my own recipe for a Maple Buckwheat Brown Ale, and my love for brewing spiraled out of control from there. The first batch didn’t come out exactly like I hoped, but all the next ones came out good, and drinkable.

2. What is your favorite style to brew, and why?

I’m a chameleon when it comes to that. I like to brew darker beers because it makes the whole brewery smell good. Being from California I do love to brew IPA’s, but if I had to pick a favorite it would have to be Lagers. They are the hardest, and most transparent. If something goes wrong everyone knows it. I also like Pilsners for the same reason.

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

I do look at them from time to time just as a quality control check to see if there’s a problem. I’m really not looking to see if someone liked the beer, but more if they went into one of our accounts and got a beer that tasted funny. It does not affect my recipes at all. We have 16 beers on tap right now with all different styles, so if you can’t find something it may be you just don’t like beer.

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

That’s one of my favorite things to do everywhere I’ve been is to use local ingredients. We use local honey for some of our beers as well as malts from Rabbit Hill Farms which has been a nice recurring theme to this question. Our peaches, and pumpkins are all local, and our coffee is roasted right in Pitman. It’s not just the freshness, and quality, but supporting local businesses that support us.

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

Don’t be afraid to dump a batch and start over if you’re not happy with it. With all the books and internet it’s much easier to get it right the first time than it was 20 years ago.

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

Don’t assume that because you are a home brewer that you’re a brewer. I’m not saying you can’t make the leap to a 3 BBL system, but it would be a good idea to bring someone in who has big system experience. Try to get some professional schooling or an internship with a bigger brewery. Make sure it’s your passion.

7. If there was a beer you could brew with no regards to cost, production, or sales, what would it be?

I would probably brew a Triple IPA with some of the more expensive, and hard to get hops like Galaxy etc. I would also love to try an Ice Bock (Eisbock) which is where you freeze and remove a percentage of the water to increase the alcohol content, and turn it into a Triple Bock. I can’t legally do it in New Jersey because it’s distillation, but it would be pretty cool to do. A Stone Beer would be interesting to try also. It’s when you super heat rocks and put them in the kettle to get it to boil.

8. Looking back to opening day forward, what was the one thing that happened that surprised you?

How many people showed up to drink beer, and support us. We obviously wanted to be successful, and built this place for the consumer, but the response was very humbling. We only had 2 beers for the first 2 weeks, but the place was packed, and we were extremely grateful for it.

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

I still love Yuengling. It was hard to get in California and Florida so it was a treat when I could get it.

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

We are planning on growth of course. Our taproom is our most important thing right now, but we want to expand out with our accounts to more of New Jersey and Philadelphia. We also have plans for a second building in the back lot where we can not only make more beer, but more interesting beer. We just filled our first set of barrels which is something we want to continue to do more of. In 5 years we would love to build another Bonesaw probably in South Carolina somewhere. Rich, Dave, Allen, and I really enjoyed building this one, and our fingerprints are on almost everything in here. We are not the kind of guys to stand around with clipboards, and would love to do this again.

Bonus: What’s the best beer you ever had?

I have a couple ones. I would have to say a Rodenbach Grand Cru for sure. I had a 10 year vertical of Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada that was really good. It’s also an experience that makes a beer the best one. If I really had to pick one it would be the Augustiner Helles’ Lager I had sitting in the Augustiner Beer Hall in Munich.

Bonus 2: What do you listen to when you’re brewing?

I have to have music playing when I’m brewing. I’m all over the place when it comes to music. The other day I listened to The Killers all day. Some days I listen to older country music, or I’ll get on a Peter Gabriel or Genesis kick. You can never go wrong with 80’s heavy metal either.

I would like to thank AJ, Rich, Dave, and Allen for being such gracious hosts, and taking time out of their day to sit down with me. One other thing I noticed was that the entire staff was extremely friendly and knowledgeable which was the cherry on top of the whole experience. Do yourself a favor and stop by if you’re in the area. They also have nitro cold brew coffee on tap as well as homemade sodas for you non beer people.

                        As Always

                     Enjoy Your Pour!

10 Questions With...

10 Questions With…Nick and Bert of Last Wave Brewing!

Days are getting shorter and nights are getting colder, but you can still hold on to that elusive endless summer at Last Wave Brewing Company, Point Pleasant Beach’s favorite craft brewery. Last Wave just finished up their second successful summer season and co-owners, Nick Jiorle, Bert Roling and wife Dani Roling continue to grow the business to keep up with the demand.    

“We went from 5 taps to 25 in a year.”, said brewer Nick Jiorle.  “We also will be getting a new mash tun in a couple of weeks that will enable us to double batch more efficiently and produce 3 – 4 more barrels per brew. 

I was able to catch up with Nick and his longtime brew partner Bert to ask our 10 Questions.

First Beer you brewed? How was it?

The first beer we made as home brewers was Red Sky, a red ale which is still on our tap list and is the original recipe.  So obviously it was pretty good!

Favorite style to brew and why? 

That’s hard to decide, we don’t like to put one beer over another.  I would say Spot Check Golden Ale. It is more challenging because there is nowhere to hide.  You can’t hide flaws so you really have to pay attention to the process. 

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

We don’t really pay attention to it as far as influencing our recipes, but we do use it as a resource to see what some people think about them. We look for trends and don’t take it personal if someone says a beer is awful.   

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

We’ve started using Port Coffee Roasters in Point Pleasant.  Nick doesn’t drink coffee but likes using it in their recipes.  Port Coffee Roasters website states that craft coffee roasting is a priority, so easy to see what the connection is.

One tip you would give to home brewers to make better beer? 

Temperature control! Particularly your fermentation temperature that is so important to the process. And write everything down! 

One piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to open a brewery. 

Don’t have any other social obligations! Work on consistency. Perfect your craft, start with 3 or 4 beers and make them well.  Also, remember when you own a brewery, 25% is making beer….75% is everything else that goes along with being a business owner.

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

Definitely an Oktoberfest. We don’t have lagering capabilities right now, so that’s something we would like to do.  We also brewed a wee heavy called Winter Warmer, which was actually our highest rated beer on Untapped.  It would be great to produce it more often, but it is very expensive to brew, as it includes fresh maple syrup and pecans.  

From opening day forward, what surprised you the most? 

Every day brings new surprises!  Really, the biggest surprise has been how welcoming the other business owners and everyone else in town has been. We were welcomed with open arms from day one and that hasn’t changed! 

Other than your own brew, what’s your  go to drink after a long day at the brewery? 

After a long day at the brewery?  Nice cold water…you mean beer?  Whatever beer someone wants to bring us! 

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

We want to still be in Point Pleasant Beach, we love this town! We would also like to    continue to expand our reach and cover new markets. 

Bonus Question:  What music do your listen to when you are brewing? 

Wow, that’s tough. Wide range we could be listening to Jamiroquai one day, Modest Mouse, or Soundgarden.  

      

Eclectic music, eclectic beers…the Jersey Shore is beautiful in fall and winter so check out Last Wave!