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Beer Biz Profiles

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





10 Questions With... Beer Biz Profiles Breweries

10 Questions with Joe Laluk and Brad Young of Ludlam Island Brewery

We had the opportunity to talk beer with Head Brewer Joe Laluk and assistant brewer Brad Young right before the Ludlam Island Brewery 1st Anniversary Celebration on June 29th.  These two young brewers give you the feeling that they have worked together for years.  Joe comes to Ludlam from River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ, after home brewing and a short stint at Nodding Head Brewery (A now closed brewpub) in Philly.  Owner Bill Topley hired Joe in October 2015, and on his first paid week as a Ludlam Island Brewery employee, Bill took him to Europe.  Joe is a big fan of kölsch beer and one of the stops was Cologne, Germany the birthplace of that style of beer.  Stops were also made in Brussels and Amsterdam where they explored the beer styles of those areas and discussed what they would be brewing back home.  Bill and Joe have hit if off and you can see it in the beer that they brew.  Bill trusts Joe, and Joe treats the brewery as if it was his own, and the pride in his work is clear as soon as you spend a few minutes with him.

Brad is the first person that I met when visiting Ludlam a few months ago.  Brad became the assistant brewer shortly after they opened, and the chemistry he and Joe have is really evident.  Brad home brewed prior to coming to Ludlam, but this is his first commercial brewing experience.  Brad has an energy about him that is infectious, he clearly loves what he is doing and it shows in his words and in his work.

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

Joe-A Cream Ale with my little brother.  It was a Northern Brewer kit.  We were looking for the easiest kit to start.  I was around 18, my parents were cool with it.  In the end, it was drinkable.

Brad-It was a Brown Ale, we didn’t really know what we were doing at the time. We put a bunch of brown sugar in it, which I now know just spikes your ABV, it really doesn’t add any flavor.  We put some cinnamon sticks in it because we thought that would be cool.  I think I was just freshly 21. 

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

Joe-I think here our favorite style is Foundation (Pale Ale).  It is a nice, middle of the road beer that we brew often so we can track consistency and trends in the brewhouse.  

Brad-I love making IPA’s.  I love our Lamplight and, Joe will tell you, every time we brew it I say “we can put some more hops in there” (we all chuckle at that)

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

Joe-I do. I really wasn’t a big Untappd user, I really didn’t use it at the other places I brewed, but here I do.  It has taken over Rate Beer and I do look at it, but I try not to let it influence me.

Brad-Yeah, I used Untappd a ton before I started working here in the industry for my check-ins.  But, honestly, since I started working here I don’t really check in that much, I really don’t think about it, but I do check our beers in there and look at our ratings

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

Joe-We actually went to Timberline Farms and helped them put up their hop trellises, and we also use some locally grown malted barley.  We also used some locally grown blackberries last Summer for a Shandy.  It was a great tasting beer, but we feel we didn’t use nearly enough blackberries to get it fruity enough

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

Joe-Learn proper yeast pitching rates

Brad-Sanitizing properly.  I had a bad beer one time, it was pretty gnarly, from a not properly sanitized fermenter.

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

Joe-Homebrewing experience definitely helps, but it is a big switch.  When you get an entry level job in the commercial brewing industry you are not using your homebrew knowledge in the way that you would design a homebrew.  You don’t have a say in recipes or anything, you are following a set of instructions from your boss.  You need to work hard, clean well, and learn to follow instructions.  You need to have a really good work ethic.

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

Joe-I think Brad and I are on the same page with this, probably something with Galaxy Hops.  I don’t have that much experience in using them, but they are a beautiful hop to use.   It would be a big dirty IPA.

Brad– I would jump on that, but I would love to just get a ton of barrels and do barrel-aged grieses and stouts.

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

Joe-I am really surprised on how much the (Harry’s) Coffee Pale Ale has taken off.  It was Bill’s (Owner Bill Topley) idea actually. The Foundation Rye Pale Ale is an old homebrew recipe I had.  I brewed it for him once and he thought it would go good with coffee.  So I had some ratios to work with from a previous job and it took me three tries until I got exactly what we are using now for this beer.  I am really surprised, it is like our number 2 seller now. 

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

Joe-We love Trillium!  We have been pretty lucky we have had a bunch of Trillium Hook-ups.  

Brad-The new Bolero Snort releases usually make their way to our fridge downstairs too.

Where do you see the brewery in the future?

Joe-I would like to have a 15 BBL brewhouse and crank out some beer, a new building with city water and sewer would let us work faster.  But we do love where we are now.

Brad-I am just going to keep hanging out with Joe.

Follow Ludlam Island Brewery on Facebook @ludlamisland

Follow Ludlam Island Brewery on Twitter @ludlamisland

Follow Ludlam Island Brewery on Instagram ludlamisland

On the web at

10 Questions With... Beer Biz Profiles Breweries

10 Questions With…Jason Chapman of Pinelands Brewing Company

Since its grand opening on March 1st, 2014, Pinelands Brewing Company has really blossomed into one of the premier breweries in South Jersey.  On that day they offered 6 different beers and had no idea if anyone would show up-well they did and have continued to come to the brewery located in Southern Ocean County ever since.  Founder and Owner, Jason Chapman, was inspired by the 1.1 million acre Pinelands National Preserve and uses that inspiration to brew beer that “reflects and embodies the local pride and spirit so famously connected to the area”  which was one of the principles that were emphasized in their grand opening press release in 2014.  Our Tom Renzulli was lucky enough to spend a few hours with Jason and talk beer.  It was a busy day, Jason was judging a homebrew competition, and they also did a food pairing (which you can read about HERE).   Jason and his staff are all great people, make sure you stop by and grab a flight!

Thanks again to Jason and all of the Pinelands Brewing Company Staff for allowing us to stop by!

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

(Laughs) Extract Pale Ale with Hop Plugs.  It wasn’t too bad, but definitely room for improvement.  The ritual (of brewing) is what set the hook for me.

What is your favorite style to brew and why?

Barleywine, Big IPA, Oyster Stout.  Almost anything that presents a challenge, like a gluten-free beer.

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

Yes and No. It’s nice to get good and bad, but I’m my own worst critic, if they didn’t exist I would still be doing it the same way.

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

It all starts with the water from the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer.  Local honey, Hammonton Blueberries, fresh oysters for the Oyster stout, and local farm stand pumpkins

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

Make sure you use good water with no chlorine and pitch more than enough yeast.  Make sure your equipment is clean

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

First and foremost, make sure that your recipes are good, and consistent

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

I would say 100% New Jersey ingredients from the same farm.  It’s very important to me to use local ingredients

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

Definitely the fact that over 450 people showed up with a great response, even the Mayor was there! Sold all the beer we had made and couldn’t open up the following weekend

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

 I like a nice Tanqueray and Tonic, or Sailor Jerry and Coke

Where do you see the brewery in a year?

Doing a lot more of the same, just more frequently.  5 years full time on a 7 BBL system so I can make it my full-time job!


Follow Pinelands Brewing Company on Facebook @PinelandsBrewingC0

Follow Pinelands Brewing Company on Twitter @pinelandsbrewco

Follow Pinelands Brewing Company on Instagram pinelandsbrewingco

Visit Pinelands Brewing Company on the web




Beer Biz Profiles

Passion Is More Than Just A Name at Passion Vines Wine Bar & Spirit Company

When we walked into Passion Vines Wine & Spirit Company’s Somers Point store, we immediately knew that something was different.  Where are all the long aisles of shelves with dusty bottles of beer?  Where are the giant stacks of Budweiser and Coors Light?  Why is there a bar here?  The short answer is that Passion Vines is not your average bottle shop.  They specialize in craft everything including wine, beer, whiskey, and other libations.  The bar was very lively, people partaking in a variety of tastings with lots of discussion of what they were drinking. We sat down with Craft Beer Manager Sean McGuirl and Community Manager Paul Venesz to talk beer.

Sean McGuirl and Paul Venesz

Sean has been in the business since he was 15 and is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server.  He is working on the next level, Certified Cicerone (level 2).  He is a soft-spoken, thoughtful, wealth of knowledge that does not seem possible for someone so young.  Paul, who was the previous Craft Beer Manager, is the voice of Passion Vines on social media, organizes the community and in-house events, and the all-around go-to guy when you need to know anything that is Passion Vines.

Passion Vines does sell all the big names in corporate beer and has a large wine contingent.  We were curious about how they deal with both wine people and the Budweiser buyer.  “Beer and Wine drinkers are pretty separate” and “wine intimidates people,” Sean told us.  “It is easier to move a beer drinker to try something new, there is more openness with them” and most will just ask what they should try.  Sean uses sampling to narrow down what beer someone will like “I don’t want someone to buy a beer to hate it and have that buyer’s remorse” and “I’ve got no problem sitting down with someone and giving them a bunch of samples to sorta dial in their palate of what they like”.  Passion Vines has a variety of 8 diverse beers on tap.  This diversity of style and flavor allows them to really challenge a beer drinker to find something different.  As we were having this discussion, Chelsea, a woman sitting at the bar next to us chimed in “he just got me to try a Sour and I love it!”  It was her first visit to Passion Vines but definitely not her last.  Sean also told us that now and then they do not have something that appeals to that customer and they leave with the Yuengling or Bud, but when they come back they will ask if anything new has come in to try.

When Michael Bray opened, he made a commitment to supporting local businesses. This local commitment is clear by their selection of local beer, wine, and liquors.  Passion Vines also hosts many events which include wine tastings, a book club, charitable events, Beer Vs. Wine tasting events, and tap takeovers and tastings with local breweries.  The next beer event is on April 6th with Tuckahoe Brewing Company. Seats are still available, they run $25 and can be purchased HERE.  The tasting will include pairing 6 of Tuckahoe Brewing’s beers paired with Di Bruno Bros. of Philadelphia’s Artisanal Cheeses.  Sean and Tim Caron, Head Brewer of Tuckahoe Brewing Co., will both be on hand to discuss the pairings and answer any questions.  When asked how they decide what to pair, Sean and Paul both told us that “you really have to experience it first-hand and develop the palate”.  Sean explained to me that cheese helps you to get deeper into flavors and the character of a beer.

What does the future hold for Passion Vines?  Paul told us that the next big addition to Passion Vines will be adding a Crowler station.  A Crowler is a 32-ounce can that is filled with any beer that is available on draft, then sealed with a machine in-house for taking out. These have become very popular in the industry and adds a few dimensions to the take-home beer business that a Growler cannot do.  First, the beer can be kept longer, up to a month or more, as the can eliminates UV light and permeating oxygen which is the cause of most of the off-flavors of beer.   Secondly, the beer stays carbonated until opened.  And Third, it is cost-conscious enough to allow a beer drinker to have more choices about what they are going to take home without having to worry about drinking it all in a day or two.

If you are looking for a unique beer experience we highly recommend Passion Vines.  The staff is really knowledgeable and patient and they clearly love what they do.  The really do have a passion for what they do.  It is not only a great place for the beer geek but also the newbie that wants to learn more about beer.  We really enjoyed our visit with the guys and want to give a big thank you to Sean, Paul, and the rest of the staff!  Cheers!

For tickets to the Tuckahoe Brewing Co. Tasting click HERE

Here are some helpful links!

Passion Vines on Beer Menus

Passion Vines on Untappd

Visit them on the web at


Beer Biz Profiles

Brew Bus New Jersey: Let Them Do The Driving!

Last March, Scott and Susan Akins took a 6 hour drive to Portland, Maine to have a mini Beercation.  While visiting breweries and drinking good beer, Brew Bus NJ was born.  When asked about the genesis of Brew Bus NJ, Scott told me, “When we were looking at other (touring) places, the two companies up there were extremely helpful. We had a weekend free, it was only a 6 hour drive so we went and picked their brains and drank alot of really good beer.”

Brew Bus NJ serves all of Southern New Jersey from Asbury Park south, and in the future plan on expansion to all of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, and Delaware.  “We want people to enjoy good beer and to laugh” Scott said and, “When a customer walks into our bus they can expect to be treated like family, we will educate, make fun of, and have a really good time with you”.  This light atmosphere and dedication to local beer has helped them to be successful.  “What really makes us unique is that we love people more than beer, we make you feel like old friends”.

Brew Bus NJ does two types of tours.  The first is a private educational tour that accommodates up to 13 people.  “A craft beer lover will enjoy our tours because we specialize in the brewery’s story.  We could never tell you how to make beer like the brewer, but we can tell a story and keep it interesting.”   Brew Bus NJ also does a brewery party bar crawl which averages about 150 people.  Both tours visit multiple breweries and give you enough time to enjoy each one.  Brew Bus NJ’s next scheduled Brewery Crawls are the St. Patrick’s Day Brewery Tour visiting 4 breweries in Camden County on March 11th from 12-8pm, followed by the Heroes Vs. Villains Tour in Atlantic City on April 22nd from 12-8pm.

When I asked Scott what was the funniest thing he has seen along the way he told me “we had well-known South Jersey radio personalities twerking on a charity tour!”

If you are looking for something different than the usual, Brew Bus NJ wants to be your designated driver.  Scott and Susan are dedicated to having a great time and you may just learn something!  “I think the one thing people love about us is that we have fun.  We laugh a lot, we make you laugh a lot.  By the end of the tour you feel like we are best friends.  I mean we are drinking great beer with other people who like beer, if we can’t have a good time we should become lawyers!”

For more information, visit Brew Bus NJ at or by clicking the image below.