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.
The Long Way to NJ
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 says, 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!