10 Questions With...

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

 

Breweries News

Women’s Collaboration Brew Day with Kristen Wilson And 20 Of Her Closest Friends!

March 8th is International Women’s Day and many breweries have been busy planning brew days that celebrate not just the women who work in the industry, but women’s achievement throughout history.

The theme for IWD 2019 is #BalanceforBetter and this theme is meant to be carried throughout the entire year.  For anyone who knows me outside of craft beer, you will be familiar with my other life of activism, social justice, and gender equity.  I completely own the fact that I am the feminist killjoy in my social circles!  As I read up on this campaign, I was struck by the use of the word “balance”.  We can all use a little more balance in our lives, right?  Whether it’s balancing our work/home life, the scales of Lady Justice, or the malt bill on a tricky new recipe, BALANCE is something we should all strive for.  And as for balancing gender representation in the craft beer industry, women are here!  Women have always been here and even more are just discovering their palate.  The Pink Boots Society has had a major hand in this representation and sisterhood, as well as local women-focused craft beer enthusiast groups like Girls Pint Out, Barley’s Angels, and Beer for Babes.

Alexis Degan

Now about the beer!  March is Women’s History Month and I had the pleasure of meeting with Director Alexis Degan of the New Jersey Brewers Association.  We shared a few beers and talked about her new adventure in the craft beer world and about the NJBA Facebook posts highlighting women in beer throughout the month.  Learning some of the history of women in beer was her inspiration, which bore the idea for the NJBA Women’s Collaboration Brew Day that happened on March 6th.

This Blood Orange IPA with Lavender was brewed with ingredients contributed by Forgotten Boardwalk, Czig Meister, Eight & Sand, and Krogh’s Restaurant and Brewpub.  Additionally, women from Twin Elephant, Carton, Tuckahoe, Human Village, Bonesaw, Vinyl, Third State, Hidden Sands, and Eclipse came together for multiple shifts to make this happen.

It definitely does not take 17-20 people (simultaneously) to brew two barrels of beer!  And for anyone who’s brewed or been around brewing knows, there is a lot of waiting during each step of the way.  This gave us all the wonderful opportunity to get to know each other.  For a group of women who all work various positions in the same industry, getting this many of us together in one spot was a major achievement – especially on short notice.

“What was most gratifying,” Alexis said, “was watching the relationships form between the attendees who hadn’t gotten the chance to meet each other before.”  I can personally attest to this!  As someone who doesn’t get out of the tasting room very much, I loved the chance to get to know other women in the industry.

We aren’t even halfway through March, but the reception to the NJBA’s posts is telling.  Alexis pointed out, “Others who may be looking to get into the industry are able to see themselves in the women we’re highlighting and know there’s a network of their peers out there.  Women can be found in every aspect of the brewing community across New Jersey, from running the tasting room, taking care of the books, sales, or merchandising.  Women make New Jersey beer happen!”

If you’re wondering where to find this awesome beer, it will be available at the Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival!  Can’t wait to see you all there!  Cheers!

Editor’s Note:  Many Thanks To Alexis Degan for providing the great photo’s for the piece!  Cheers!

Breweries

Battle River Brewing Under Construction in Toms River!

Some big news coming out of Ocean County’s largest town, as Battle River Brewing (formerly known as Hops on Main) received delivery of  their brewing equipment in. The 7 barrel brewery will be the 3rd in Toms River, joining Rinn Duin and Artisan’s Restaurant and Brew Pub.  Battle River will be located in the downtown area and the location and configuration of the 100+ year old building required some creative problem solving skills for the delivery.

 

100 year old buildings don’t  have industrial size garage doors or forklift ready loading docks, so they actually had to remove the plate glass front of the former restaurant and bring everything in from the busy Main St. business area.   Once all the equipment was inside the challenge was to move much of the equipment to the lower level where the main brew house will be located. (You can see Head Brewer, Ian Barlet manning the crane in one of the pictures attached.

Still a lot of work to be done, but co-owner, Ray Carney, is hoping for a May-June opening.. Information about the brewery on social media can still be found under Hops on Main.

Stay tuned for further updates on their progress!

Editor’s Note:  We had Owner Gary  Morrison and Head Brewer Ian Barlet on our latest podcast taped live at Breaker’s Kitchen and Tap in Waretown!  Listen to it here!

Podcast

Podcast Episode 29: Live From Breaker’s Kitchen & Tap for New Jersey Brewer’s Appreciation Night!

We packed the equipment up and did a live broadcast at Breaker’s Kitchen and Tapin Waretown, NJ for their New Jersey Brewer’s Night Celebration!  Vic, Tom, Rob, and John interview a bunch of great guests including:

  • Ian and Gary from the Battle River Brewing in Toms River
  • John Howard-Fusco, noted South Jersey Foodie and Author
  • Kris Lewis, Owner and Head Brewer of Oyster Creek Brewing
  • Corey From Pinelands Brewing
  • Joe Molineaux, our Co-Host on Brewing Up South Jersey Business!

 

 

Breweries Road Trip

Exploring and Taste Touring South Jersey with Joe Moore

Cape May Zoo & Craft Beer Too

 

Cape May County Park & Zoo

The Cape May County Park and Zoo complex, located within Cape May Court House in Cape May County, is one of South Jersey’s hidden treasures.  Established in 1978, the zoo began as a county park and recreation area for natives of Cape May County.  It would later go on to house indigenous species of animals found throughout South Jersey and North America.  Finally, in 1989 the Cape May Zoo received official zoo accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (also known as the AZA).  

Today, the zoo is recognized as one of the top 25 zoos in the nation from a survey conducted by TripAdvisor in 2015.  The Cape May Zoo has a free admission policy but accepts and encourages donations in any amount upon entry.  With convenient free parking a short walk from the zoo’s entrance, this donation is a bargain for the wild experiences one is about to encounter within the zoo itself.  

As you exit the vehicle and walk through the dense paths made up of the scenic nature trails of Cape May County Park, the beach takes a backseat to wooded forests and also the high flying ziplines of the recently constructed Tree to Tree Adventure Park.  As you pass through the front gate, throw your donation in the donation bucket (or just politely hand that donation to the person volunteering their time at the front gate) and proceed within.  Some of the most notable attractions and exhibits within the zoo are the, now famous, Himalayan snow leopards, an intelligent pair of river otters and the entirely unique boardwalk safari.  The boardwalk safari allows guests to take a stroll on a classic South Jersey styled boardwalk to encounter wildlife that dominate both the North American and African plains.

If I were to recommend one exhibit at the Cape May Zoo, it would be the World of Birds enclosure house located just inside the entrance of the zoo.  Some of the more interesting and exotic animals reside within this exhibit, such as the American flamingo and a colony of Roseate spoonbills suspended above the house’s guest walkway.  The Cape May County Park & Zoo is open year-round with summer and winter hours that can be found on the zoo’s website (www.cmczoo.com).

Slack Tide Brewing Company

Slack Tide Avalon Amber

Founded in 2015 by two brothers and located just outside of Cape May Court House in Clermont, New Jersey, is Slack Tide Brewing Company.  The brewery’s tasting room alone is enough to get any beer enthusiast through the door to try Slack Tide’s beer but be warned, seating is first come first served.  

The beer selection itself is uniquely South Jersey in the naming and style.  The Angry Osprey, their flagship IPA, is an essential addition to any tasting flight or great as a pint on its’ own.  Tipsy Dipsy speaks for itself as a stand-alone Double IPA.  Fun twists on a classic stout and ample pale ale brew can be sampled in Monkey Face and 5 Fathoms flagship beers respectively.  Check out their tasting room in person or on the website (www.slacktidebrewingco.com) for new releases and seasonal brews.

The ‘crowler’ operation the brothers have going on at Slack Tide Brewing Company is at a different level with the option of 16-ounce pounder  four packs or 32-ounce crowlers poured and canned to go.  For those unaware, a ‘Crowler’ is just a giant can that is filled with either Angry Osprey, 5 Fathoms, Tipsy Dipsy, or many of the other brews on tap and then canned before your very eyes on the canning machine positioned just behind the tasting room’s bar.  Recently, Slack Tide has begun distributing cans throughout South Jersey.  Talk about canning around!

Country Club Tavern    

   

If sitting down with a pint and eating a hearty meal in a beer pouring establishment is more up your alley after conquering one of the county’s top 25 zoos, then Country Club Tavern located just off Route 9 in Cape May Court House will meet those very needs.

Only a few minutes’ drive from Cape May Zoo, the Country Club Tavern offers a wide range of local and not so local craft brews.  Slack Tide happens to have Angry Osprey on tap in this establishment, should their tasting room elude you.  Cape May IPA from also close by Cape May Brewery has a tap here as well.  The brewers of South Jersey are well represented at the Country Club Tavern.  Local breweries include: Glasstown Brewing, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Ludlam Island Brewery and 7 Mile Brewery all have rotating taps all year round with different selections from each one. 

 As for eating, I can personally recommend the burgers as I devoured a Hickory Burger when visiting this establishment. With a large and diverse menu, the Country Club Tavern can cater to anyone’s post adventure cravings.