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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

10 Questions With Shawn Grigus and Gayle D’abate Of Tomfoolery Brewing

In this edition of “10 Questions With…”  I traveled to Hammonton to talk with Shawn Grigus and Gayle D’Abate of Tomfoolery Brewing Company. The 7BBL brewery is located in the old bottling plant of Eastern Brewing Company of Old Bohemian fame, which is conveniently located near downtown Hammonton. As you walk in the door, you immediately know that this historic building was meant for one thing, beer! They have a canning machine and a small bottling machine which really adds to their versatility.

With backgrounds in biochemistry and electrical engineering, Shawn and Gayle make a formidable team that brews some great beer. As founders of the local homebrew club, Brew Jersey. and owners of Tap It Homebrew supply store, they definitely have what it takes to be a force in this emerging market. While talking with them I quickly realized why they are so well liked and respected in the brewing community. As with all the breweries in our area, I wish them the best of luck going forward. I sampled most of what they had on tap and found them all to be great and true to their styles. Today they will be moving into their new bigger and temperature controlled tasting room.  The Grand Opening will include a special limited draft release of Blood Orange Irish stout.

 

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

Shawn brewed an Oak Butt Brown ale which was a recipe out of John Palmer’s “How to Brew” book. It was drinkable, but it wasn’t very good. It was muddled with a lot of different flavors, but nothing popped. It just wasn’t a balanced beer. Gayle’s first beer was Shawn’s pale ale recipe, and it was obviously very good because of better equipment, and it was a proven recipe. Shawn added that his guidance didn’t hurt either

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

We actually have 2 answers for this question. First would be our pilsner. It’s a simple beer and a simple recipe, but not a simple beer to brew. The 2nd would be an I.P.A. We hate to even use that answer, but the reason is because of the aromas during the brewing process. The customers enjoy the smell as well, but the cleanup part is not easy due to the amount of hops.3.

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

We do monitor the ratings to get a general idea of what people want, and are thinking. You do need to dig a little deeper on some of the reviews to see how they rate other beers of a similar style. As far as influencing our recipes, that would be no.

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

Our blueberry beer doesn’t come out until the middle of July because we wait until the middle of June to get fresh blueberries. When it’s gone it’s gone until next year, because we will not use syrup or extract. We are also using a lot of grains from Rabbit Hill Farms. It seems more and more brewers are using grains from this farm in Shiloh, NJ which is awesome to see.

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

Don’t rush it to the glass. Take the time to let it ferment out, and age appropriately. Your beer will definitely suffer if it’s rushed out. You really want the flavor to pop in whatever style you are brewing. Make sure to treat the water to really push your home brew over the top.

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

The one thing we would tell someone to do is to go work in a commercial brewery, and get familiar and talk to the owner to find out what he had to do to get there. You must be committed to your passion. Be prepared to work hard and long for your dream.

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

This is a hard question since we pretty much brew what we want to brew. We will always try to brew something once to see how it turns out. We do 5-gallon experimental batches every Thursday where we can see what the consumer’s response is. If we had to pick one it would be a Brown Ale.

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

In unison, they both said, “The amount of work” which goes back to question 6. There is so much more to it than just brewing beer. Also, the great response from the public, and the comradery between the fellow breweries.

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

A tall glass of ice water (laugh). A refreshing quality beer from another independent craft brewer. Victory Hop Devil or Yards Brawler are 2 beers that come to mind.

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

Next year you will see a huge increase in production. We have the infrastructure to expand and really start to push out beer. In 5 years we want everybody in this region to know our name and our beers.

Thanks to Shawn and Gayle and congrats on the new tasting room!

Follow Tomfoolery Brewing Company On Social Media!

Facebook: @tomfoolerybrewing

Twitter:  @tomfoolerybrew

Instagram: tomfoolerybrew

Find Tomfoolery Brewing Company on the Web:  www.tomfoolerybrewing.com

 

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
10 Questions With... Breweries

10 Questions With…Tim Caron of Tuckahoe Brewing Company

In this edition of 10 Questions with…, I traveled a short distance from my house to Tuckahoe Brewing Company in Egg Harbor Township. Established in 2011, it’s one of the oldest breweries in South Jersey. I talked with Tuckahoe’s Head Brewer, Tim Caron, who joined Tuckahoe Brewing in January of 2016 after spending 3 years with 3 Stars Brewing company in Washington D.C. where he was an assistant brewer. He also worked on 3 Stars’ barrel aging projects.

Since coming to Tuckahoe, some of Tim’s creations have been a Kölsch,“The Beauty of Tarth”, “Snack” an aroma filled highly drinkable session IPA, “Grounded” Rye Pale Ale, and “Rabbit Hole” a Farmhouse Ale made with ingredients from Rabbit Hill Farm. Like all of the brewers I’ve met with, Tim was a wealth of knowledge and I could talk to him for hours.

It was a great time to sit down with Tim. It was just announced that Tuckahoe will be having their first ever can release on Friday 8/4, the fantastic Quatrain IPA.  The event starts at 3 pm and Three Guys Rolling Pies will have their food truck outside the licensed premises so you can grab a bite to eat.  And, if that wasn’t enough, it is Sales Manager Rob Callaghan’s birthday.  Stop by the brewery and grab a 4 pack for 15$ or grab a case for 85$

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

It was an off the shelf extract partial boil Pale Ale. It was darker than I wanted it to be and maltier, but I drank it. It came out ok and I gave a fair amount of it to my friends. Nobody does an all grain Barleywine for their first beer.

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

It wouldn’t necessarily be a particular style, but just something drinkable. When I want to drink I want a beer that I can have 3-4 of with friends and family and have a little conversation. So, to answer your question, I would say a Kölsch, Pale Ale, or a nice Pilsner. Something you can have a few of with your meal.

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

All of those platforms are both a blessing and a curse. You get immediate feedback from whoever wants to give it. You have to dig a little deeper into the person’s response. If they score the same style from other breweries low or high across the board, I’m not going to sweat that score. We certainly know what people are saying about us on there, but I wouldn’t say it influences our recipes. Our recipes are our recipes, and you have to have conviction and be committed to high quality and consistency.

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

We work with Rabbit Hill Farm in Shiloh, NJ for a couple collaborations with their malt. We’ve also done a collaboration with Screaming Hill Farm Brewery in Cream Ridge, NJ. We are in communication with 2-3 local hop farmers whose crops are about to be ready. We use some of our locally harvested yeast a couple times that we cultured up from blueberry skins. We also have a great relationship with a cattle and pig farmer that picks up all our spent grains. So, anytime we want local fruit or honey, he’s usually our first call since he has relationships with farmers that can get us that stuff.

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

GET NERDY! It’s all about yeast management and basic water chemistry. You must pitch the right amount of yeast and make sure it’s healthy and fresh. Make sure your water’s not too hard and basic carbon filtration. Sanitation, sanitation, sanitation. Make sure everything is really clean and really sanitized. It’s not just hanging out around a boiling kettle and drinking beers.

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

It’s an industry that needs a lot of capital. You need to do your research on how much it’s going to cost you, and how much you’re going to see in return. A main piece of advice is to be prepared to lose money or break even in the first few years. If you can get through that, and you’re still on board and love what you’re doing, then you made the right decision. There will always be troubles and issues, but you just work through them. If you love it, you’ll make it work. One bit of advice is to buy as many good hops as you can and as much as you can. If you can’t use it all yourself, you’re going to make friends with other breweries who would love to trade.

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

Pilsner. I think a really clean, crisp Pilsner is the ultimate expression of a brewer’s ability. There’s nothing in the way. It’s soft water, its one maybe two hops. The fact that pilsners are kind of muddied by the yellow fizzy stuff that people drink in mass quantities is unfortunate.

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

Although I wasn’t here opening day, the biggest surprise on my first day is an emergency came up and my brewing partner had to leave, and I got put in charge of the brew house. Happy to say the emergency and the boil both turned out good.

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

Founders All Day IPA. There’s always at least a 15 pack of that in my fridge. That’s my morning cap, afternoon cap, or evening cap depending on when the brew day is done.

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

1 year- Just keep crushing it with a few more tanks. Hopefully pushing a lot of cans out. Quatrain to start with, and a few more to follow. We want to be the beer that people are putting in their cooler when they’re going to the beach, picnics, canoeing, tubing, etc. 5 years- My goal is to be state wide, and big in Philly. But hopefully sooner. Also, to keep driving to be more creative with the offbeat stuff that we do, keep the tasting room as a destination, more can production, and just keep evolving with what people like to drink.

 

Visit Tuckahoe Brewing Company on the web at www.tuckahoebrewing.com

Follow Tuckahoe Brewing Company on Facebook HERE

Follow Tuckahoe Brewing Company on Twitter @TuckahoeCo

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