Battle River Brewing opened in the summer of 2020 (yes in the middle of the pandemic), and in less than 2 years has become a Toms River institution. The Washington St. historic area adjacent to the brewery closes down Fridays and Saturdays from May-October for Downtown Night Out and Battle River is an integral part of that downtown community.
I had an office across the street from the location for many years which gave me a bird’s eye view of the planning and construction of the brewery which is a worthy successor to the many restaurants, shops and cafes that have occupied the 150 year-old building in the past.
The Yeast Whisperer
Ian Barlet has been Head Brewer of Battle River since its inception, and his responsibilities, like many head brewers, not only includes developing and brewing the beer, but prior to opening helping to select the brewing equipment and working out the floor plan for the brew house. (If you go into our archives you will find some pictures of Ian lowering fermenters down to the basement through a hole in the floor with a manual crane).
I’ve known Ian for a number of years as a member of the Ocean County Homebrewers Association and his knowledge of the chemistry and science behind yeast cultivation (The Yeast Whisperer) enables him to brew great nuanced beers that are true to style. However, despite the hours of conversations I have had with Ian about brewing, the Battle River articles I’ve written, the Vic’s Basement Brew/South Jersey Beer Scene shows and podcasts that Ian has appeared on, I realized I had never discussed the iconic, 10 QUESTIONS FOR THE BREWER with Ian….until now! As I expected Ian has some interested and unexpected answers, so read on and enjoy!
1. What was the first beer you brewed? How was it?
Ian Barlet: It was an all grain recipe was supposed to be an Amber Ale, but it had too much roasted and dark malt and wound up being a porter. As I remember was a good tasting beer, but definitely not an Amber.
2. What’s your favorite style of beer to brew and why?
IB: That would be an American Strong Ale. The grain bill is very complex, which makes it a pain in the ass to put together, but once you have the recipe figured out it is very cool when it comes together as a great beer.
3. Do you pay attention to ratings, i.e Untapped, Beer Advocate, etc.
IB: I do look at it, but really only pay attention to constructive criticism. If I have a cucumber beer and someone rates it a “1” and says “I don’t like cucumbers” I’m not addressing that. Same with other beers, if 1 person rates it “1” and 99 people rate it a 4-5, I’m not as concerned with that “1”. However, if 100 people rate the beer low, I definitely want to see those comments and figure out what went wrong with the beer.
4. How do you stay connected to the local area in relation to ingredients?
IB: We haven’t used local maltsters having worked with Two Track Malting in North Dakota for years, however, we do source some wet hops from Local Roots Farm in Manchester, NJ.
5. What is the one tip you would give home brewers to help them make better beer?
IB: Figure out what the ingredients do. Taste and learn how different malts, yeast, hops affect the beer you are drinking. Don’t just follow a recipe learn why those ingredients are in that recipe.
6. What’s once piece of advice you would give someone who wants to open a brewery?
IB: Make sure you are doing it for the love of the craft, not just as a get rich quick investment. If you are not the brewer at least know the process, so you will be informed about what is needed.
7. If there was a beer you could brew without regard to ingredients/cost or sales what would it be?
IB: It wouldn’t be a particular beer, it would be a location. I love the Haka Pilsner we brew, the majority of which is New Zealand ingredients, so I would like to go down to New Zealand or Australia and brew there with fresh grain and wet hops from that region.
8. Looking back from the beginning of Battle River what has surprised you the most?
IB: That it’s completed and open! This was a longtime in the planning and we opened in the middle of COVID, so we are pleased that we are open, operating and doing well!
9. Other than beer, what is your go-to beverage after a long day at the brewery?
IB: I like some High West Bourbon or Casamigos Tequila in a fresh margarita. Or, I can just go with a cold Yuengling!
10. Where do you see the brewery in a year? 5 years?
IB: Hopefully we are in the planning stage and then operating a larger production facility
Bonus question What is your perfect six pack?
- Allagash Curiex
- Battle River, Rio Bueno (Mexican Lager)
- Taxman Brewing La Maison (saison)
- Yuengling Lager
- Miller High Life
- Rolling Rock
Battle River a terrific summer destination at the Jersey Shore.
Thank you, Ian and cheers!
For more information on Battle River visit www.battleriverbrewing.com/