10 Questions with Jeff Greco, Head Brewer, Heavy Reel Brewing Co
Winter in a resort town can be lonely and quiet as businesses close up for the season, the boardwalk goes dark and the parking meters go into hibernation. Not in Seaside Heights as Heavy Reel Brewing, after a fantastic summer season, continues to thrive. Heavy Reel is building a stellar reputation for creative and outstanding brews with some of the most thought provoking titles in South Jersey like Drowning Clown, Toonkish, and Paint it Black. Jeff just expanded to a 2.5 barrel system and hopes to be hiring an assistant brewer in the spring.
Jeff and his wife Jessie were gracious enough to host our Ocean County Home Brewers Association meeting this month, so I got the opportunity to visit with them both. Over a delicious pint of The Wake of Isolation (Imperial IPA, 4.38 on Untapped, if you are wondering) I got to ask Jeff the 10 questions.
What was the first beer you brewed?
“Lagunitas IPA clone. Back then I thought it was good, but now…I don’t know how it would rate. It was all grain which I did from the start. I’ve never brewed with extract”
What is your favorite style of beer to brew?
“IPA, especially New England IPAs. It’s my favorite to drink so naturally, it is my favorite to brew”
Do you look at ratings (Untapped, Beer Advocate, etc.)? Do they affect your recipes?
“All the time! The ratings are not that far off of from what I think. They don’t really change my mind about what I am brewing. “
How do you connect to the local area for ingredients?
“I’ve got the Atlantic Ocean a block to the east, Barnegat Bay a few blocks to the west, so I use Barnegat Bay oysters for our oyster stout and Atlantic sea salt for our gose.”
What is one tip for home brewers to help them make better beer?
“Keep messing up until you figure it out! Mistakes happen!”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
“Talk to actual brewers, brewery owners and work at a brewery first to see what it takes to operate on a daily basis. Fill out your applications, federal and state, right away…don’t sit around waiting saying I’m going to open a brewery, do it. Assume it is always going to take longer than you anticipate!”
If you could brew a beer, regardless of cost, what would you brew?
“I do it every time I walk through that door. That is an advantage of a small brewery, I brew what I want to brew”
Since you have opened, what has surprised you the most?
“The number of people who want to work in a brewery, but once they see what is involved, they don’t!”
Other than your own beer, what is your go to?
“Bay Dreamer, our session IPA collaboration that we brewed at Icarus is one of my favorites, outside of that, I like anything funky or sour… the more sour the better!”
Where do you see the brewery in a year…in 5 years?
“Hopefully still in business!” he said with a laugh. “Really I’d like to have a larger staff and expand more so we can distribute our product.”
In the near future, Jeff says to look out for some special releases and surprises for their April anniversary.
Jeff, Bonus question:
What kind of music do you listen to when you brew?
Jeff turned up the volume and the voice of Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose sang us out into the foggy Jersey Shore evening.