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We Did The Jersey Beer Guys (and a Girl) Podcast! Episode Out Today!

A few weeks ago I got to sit down with Rob, Amy, Eric, and Ian to record an episode of the Jersey Beer Guys and A Girl Podcast to talk South Jersey Beer.  First of all, if you are a fan of South Jersey beer you need to start listening to this podcast.  Rob does a great job hosting the podcast, Eric and Ian are there to add their insights, and then there is Amy.  Amy is the wild card, the  1o.5% Unfiltered IPA of the group who asks the questions that we all wish we could and adds a great amount of hilarity to the show.  Amy is learning about Craft Beer on the show and is the perfect foil to Rob, who is a very knowledgeable beer guy.  I really enjoyed my time with them and cannot wait to get back to sit with them again.

 

To listen to podcast follow the link HERE or click the picture below!

You can reach the Jersey Beer Guys at jerseybeerguys@gmail.com

Follow Jersey Beer Guys on Facebook @jerseybeer.guys

Follow Jersey Beer Guys on Instagram  jerseybeerguys

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

Beer Biz Profiles

Armageddon Brewing Announces Kickstarter Campaign After Helping Change NJ Laws on Cider and Mead Production and Distribution

Armageddon Brewing has announced a Kickstarter Campaign after working for several years to successfully help change and write new laws regarding cider and mead production in New Jersey.  We are publishing their press release in full to tell their story and will have an interview with them on the site in the near future  If you have the means and would like to support them in their quest to open a production facility please follow any of the links below the press release for more information.

From The Press Release

Armageddon Brewing is the culmination of a shared dream of four sons of New Jersey with a passion for hard apple cider and mead. Just like so many, these four close friends are huge craft beer advocates, that love the huge variety of microbrews now available from coast to coast. Unfortunately, a few years back, founding member, Christian was diagnosed with Celiac disease, meaning that beer was out of the picture for him, since it’s basically gluten juice. It was this sudden change that lead Christian to search out gluten-free alternatives to beer – mainly, cider and mead. To his disappointment, what he found on the market was pretty lackluster. Most of the big-name ciders on store shelves were overly sweetened, flavored with artificial apple flavoring, while many being sold as mead were actually just low-alcohol white wine with honey added. Out of frustration, he turned to three close friends – Kyle, Matt, and Gill. As all four were avid homebrewers they resolved to solve this problem the only way they knew how. They started making their own ciders and meads, and nothing has been the same since!

What they learned after making many batches of cider, is that the apple is incredibly versatile, and hard apple cider does not need to be characterized as an offensively sweet beer alternative. The ciders that they began making ranged from incredibly dry, traditional French style ciders to sweet and juicy ciders, reminiscent to taking a bite from an apple right off the tree. And the meads were just as diverse; some were flavored and barrel aged to make the honey character extremely subtle, while others were bold and complex with the full flavor of the honey and added fruits and spices shining through.

Thankfully, after seeking a second and ultimately third opinion, it turned out Christian’s diagnosis was incorrect, and he has since been able to return to drinking beer and homebrewing. But all the guys came out of his experience with a greater understanding of hard ciders and mead, and a newfound drive and passion to create their home-made recipes on a larger scale.  The dream now is to share these incredible libations with as many as possible, starting with a taproom attached to their cidery and ultimately growing into a full production facility capable of far-reaching distribution. There’s was only one obstacle standing in their way…

Being the proud New Jersey sons that they are, they were set on opening in their beloved Garden State, but making hard cider and mead was illegal. Ok, maybe not technically illegal, but the stipulations and requirements needed in order to produce it were outlandish. Requirements like owning at least 3 acres of land to grow ingredients on. Ingredients that needed to make up at least 51% of what went into the hard cider. And there were no laws on the books for mead, making it effectively illegal to produce.
Well, they weren’t about to just give up, so they changed the law. It was a long process and at times seemed like an impossible task. But throughout several years of meeting with legislatures, drafting the bill, making concessions, and with the unwavering support of their local community as well as their local government, and some new friends in the alcohol industry. On May 11th of 2017, their bill was signed into law, making the production and distribution of hard cider and mead in New Jersey legal! Now all that’s left to do is open up shop and start making what they think is soon to be some of the best hard cider and mead on the market.

You’re probably familiar with hard cider. It’s a fermented beverage, like beer, that uses apples instead of grains. But you may be wondering what mead is. Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world, dating back to over 8000 years ago. In its simplest form, mead is a mixture of honey and water that is left to ferment. While the idea of honey water may make you think of an overly sweet drink, mead has all the complexities of wine, meaning it can range the gambit from mouth puckering dry to lip-smacking sweet and juicy.

What makes their hard ciders and meads different is that they strive for perfection – quality over quantity. So much so that the guys have an experimental pilot orchard where they grow a variety of cider apples to see which grow best in certain conditions and which juices go best with each other. With quality being paramount in this endeavor they employ completely organic and holistic farming techniques and methods to ensure the purest, best-tasting fruit and juice possible; No nasty chemical pesticides, just natural techniques used to suppress pests and invasive plants while encouraging the apple trees to produce the best fruit they can.

When it comes to their standard line up of ciders, they only use the best ingredients available and try to use as much organic locally sourced produce and honey as possible. But aside from what goes into the fermenter, what comes out is just as important. They’re making a variety of ciders and meads to please any and every palate. From incredibly tart and dry, to extremely approachable and drinkable. Armageddon Brewing is making the best beverages they can to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.

Armageddon is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to open their facility. Your contributions will help them get the equipment essential to making their hard ciders and meads on a large scale. Things like a glycol chiller to serve their libations at the perfect temperatures, and a canning line to help distribute their ciders. Your help is also needed to make their taproom great. The more pledges they can bring in, the more they can dedicate to making the taproom a comfortable and inviting environment for everyone. Armageddon Brewing is currently working with a property owner and architect in Somerdale, New Jersey to finalize their space, but pledges to their Kickstarter are essential.

Visit Armageddon Brewing on the Web at www.armageddon-brewing.com

Follow Armageddon Brewing on Facebook @Armageddonbrewing

Click the Picture Below for Armageddon’s Kickstarter!

 

10 Questions With... Beer Biz Profiles Breweries

10 Questions With…Tadhg Campbell of Slack Tide Brewing Company

In this edition of 10 Questions With… I headed to Clermont, N.J. to talk to head brewer Tadhg Campbell of one of my favorites, Slack Tide Brewing Company.  Tadhg and his brother Jason opened up Slack Tide in December of 2015 with the intention of making high-quality beer from locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. The Campbell brothers started brewing in their garages about 7 years ago. While the first couple batches were made from extract kits, they quickly moved to all grain where you have more control over the final product. The first year or so was rough, but with a great response from family, and friends they started thinking that they may want to make this more than just a hobby. So they brewed up 6 batches (most are still brewed today) bottled them up and gave them out to 48 people with an anonymous rating sheet in self-addressed envelopes. The response was extremely favorable. One of the 48 was actually a certified beer judge who got a couple of his judging buddies to taste the samples as well, and filled out a more detailed score sheet. The response was also very good, so they asked if he thought they should open a brewery which the beer judge replied, “I would”. So with Tadhg as head brewer, and Jason bringing his brewing knowledge and project management background in which he is very meticulous with the paperwork, things started to come together. Now you add Jason’s wife, Bobbie, with her marketing background, and Tadhg’s wife, Natacha, with her clothing background you have a great recipe for a successful business to go along with the great beer recipes. I highly recommend a trip to Slack Tide to get “unstressed”.

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

It was an extract kit called Dead Ringer IPA. It turned out as well as could be expected for the first time. It was drinkable, but not delicious by any means. Not sure if we did the recipe justice, but we drank it, and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

What is your favorite style to brew, and why?

That’s a tough one. We try to brew many styles here. I know some brewers may be hesitant to say it, but I’m going to have to say an IPA. It’s the most popular and sought-after style, and there are so many variations of it. The New England style is really popular and is a little more difficult to hit the target then the West Coast IPA.

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

It would be silly not to, but I wouldn’t say we look at them too much. The feedback we like, and enjoy, and take into account the most is the face to face contact-Whether it’s in the Taproom, or at a festival, or just out in public. We also trust the other local brewer’s opinions and do the same for them. It definitely does not affect our recipes.

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

It’s a big part of what we do here. Since we do live in the Garden State it’s nice to see farmers like Bad Cat Farms, and Rabbit Hill Farms starting to grow hops and malts. We brew with fruit from Hammonton, and sweet potatoes from Vineland, and Aronia berries that are harvested right down the street. What we do is local, and you always have to pay it forward local with the farmers whether it’s honey, fruit, vegetables, or even oysters.

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

When Jason and I started brewing in the garage we felt our beer quality took a huge step when we got a temperature controlled fermentation box. Dialing in the temperature made our beer more consistent, and a true reflection of what you got.

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

Do your homework! Be prepared to wait for a lot of the permits. The number one piece of advice is to calculate how much time you’ll need to spend at the brewery, and then double or triple that. Brewing is 90% cleaning and sterilizing.

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

I knew this question was coming, and I was debating on a few. I would have to say a big barrel aged Stout or Barleywine. The amount of time would be the expense, not so much the ingredients.

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

I would have to say the way the community embraced us. Not just the customers who are some of the best, but the other local breweries as well. We all work hard, we all drink beer, and we all have fun. It’s just a great fraternity of people, and we all want each other to succeed.

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

Most of the time it would be a cold glass of water, but if not that it would definitely be something from a local brewery.

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

We are currently installing a 10 BBL system which is almost complete. It’s going to take a lot of outside work in sales, but we want to have it maxed out. Maybe tweak the Taproom hours. In 5 years we want to be canning a lot so we can get into the package good stores. Hopefully another expansion, and continue to grow organically.

Bonus Question: What is your favorite beer, other than yours?

The most memorable beer would be Red Dog. (laugh) When I played football in college the 1st team was the blue team, the 2nd team was the white team, and the 3rd team was the red team. Since I was a freshman I was on the red team, and we called ourselves The Red Dogs and drank a lot of Red Dog. Probably because it was like $5 a case. This is a hard question because I like different beers in different seasons. The answer would be Firestone Walker Brewing’s Wookey Jack, which is not in production anymore. It was actually the inspiration for our Knockdown Black IPA which took home the bronze medal at the Best Of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Oregon.

Beer Biz Profiles

Beer Biz Profile: Clayton Liquors, the Local Growler and Crowler king of South Jersey

Tucked away off of Rt 47 in the town of Clayton, NJ, sits one of the best beer purveyors in all of South Jersey, Clayton Liquors.  I first heard of Clayton Liquors and, more specifically, owner Raj from my friends in the brewing industry last year.  I heard tales of a giant crowler/growler station in Clayton that was killing it with 18 taps, with most of them dedicated to local beer.  I stopped in and immediately knew that I had arrived in beer paradise.

The store exterior itself is nondescript, a simple white, 2 story building that looks like it may have been a home at some point.  It sits on the corner of Delsea Drive (Rt 47) and East Academy Rd and, at first glance, looks like any other small town purveyor of spirits.  But once you step inside that all changes.  I took a few steps into the store and looked to my left, and there it was, the monster 18 tap (now 22) station that was filled with mostly great local beers along with some really hard to find drafts from out of town.  I saw Cape May, Brotherton, Three 3’s, Tuckahoe, Ludlam Island, Slack Tide, Carton, Kane, Tonewood, Tomfoolery, and Glasstown offerings next to hard to find offerings from Pipeworks, Shebeen, St. Bernardus, and Troegs.  It was like I woke up in beer heaven, the only question was “how many crowlers can I take home before Mrs. Beer Scene starts questioning my research process?” What also struck me was that is was 3:30 pm on a Wednesday and there were people waiting for fills. Orchestrating the movements at the filling station was Raj, the owner of Clayton Liquors.  Raj is a guy you immediately like when you meet him.  He engages all of his customers as if he has known them forever and encourages his clientele to try a small sip of whatever they want before they purchase.  Raj, who doesn’t drink himself, knows what beers the people want and works tirelessly to get them.  When I was there, he took calls from at least 2 people in hopes of getting their new beer and was 2 for 2.   “I do what I do for my customers” Raj told me, “I want to keep moving beer, keeping it fresh and different”, which is a little tough in this Big Beer run business.

Raj is the consummate success story.  He grew up in India and emigrated to Delaware in 1997.  After working jobs at 7-11 and the like, his family opened their own convenience store. Then, in 2015, Raj and his family purchased Clayton Liquors and entered the spirits business.  The store was much more modest back then, sporting only 8 taps and a small selection of craft beer.  Raj quickly saw the opportunity that was growing in the beer industry and doubled the size of his growler station to 16 and started using many of those taps for local beer.  The addition of a Crowler machine made it even easier to try more than one of the many beers that he had on tap.  Also, Raj has one of the finest selections of bottled and canned craft beers in South Jersey, and now has 22 rotating taps full of great beer.

Raj also has a great selection of kegged beer on hand and is always trying to find the next big thing.  I know a lot of beer purists out there frown at this, but this is Raj giving the people what they want.  Plus his support of local beer is one of the best in all of South Jersey.  He shows deference to the locals and looking at his shelves it is very evident by the multitude of local beer that is stocked.

So, whether you are looking for your old standby or are trying to expand your beer drinking horizons, take the trip to Clayton and grab some great local beers.  Raj keeps his offerings up to date on Beer Menus and announces new beers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well. Cheers to Raj and his family for his great support of the local brewing community.

For more information on Clayton Liquors check these out!

Clayton Liquors on Facebook @claytonliquors

Clayton Liquors on Twitter @ClaytonLiquors

Clayton Liquors on Instagram claytonliquors

Find Clayton Liquors on Beer Menus HERE