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Tom

Breweries

Mudhen Brewing Co. of Wildwood is Open For Business!

This past week we had the pleasure of visiting Mudhen Brewing Co. in Wildwood, the latest venture of Brendan and Robin Sciarra who also own the Dogtooth Bar & Grill just around the corner. The name Mudhen takes its name from the nickname given to the first passenger train in Wildwood which started running in 1883. The train would have to take a bridge through the marshlands from Cape May Court House and was often washed out during high tide, thus the legend of the MudHen was born! We arrived shortly after they opened and the place was already buzzing with activity.  As we walked up we were impressed with the transformation from what was once Harley Davidson of Wildwood to this impressive new brewpub.  The outside of the building is emblazoned with a giant Mudhen sign that fits the Doo Wop atmosphere of Wildwood perfectly.  The brewhouse itself is able to be seen from the street through glass garage doors which will allow you to watch Head Brewer Tony Cunha doing his craft.

We met with Marketing Director and Resident Artist Russ Simmons for our tour of the Brew House and restaurant area. Russ is also responsible for the impressive artwork for the labels on the crowler cans, and the original paintings can be found hanging upstairs in the 2nd-floor loft hallway.  As soon as you walk through the door you realize a lot of thought and craftsmanship has gone into this establishment and as Russ walked us through the building he pointed out many details that were carefully selected to add to the overall theme of the brewery.  From the reclaimed bricks and doors brought in from Philadelphia to the wall leading up to the 2nd-floor loft that is adorned with Oak Barrel Staves which give the wall a 3D effect, there is a stunning attention to detail and style that is truly remarkable.  The main room is large and has an industrial feel with high ceilings and rows of tables that remind me of a German Style Brewhaus, communal but far enough apart that you are not on top of each other. Although the high ceilings and big space may remind you of a lot of breweries you have visited, it’s clever use of large round lighting fixtures covered in fabric and a large wall hanging of a Mudhen that help deaden the sound and allow you to have a conversation is a welcome sight.  The bar lines the entire West end of the brewery, just below the reclaimed brick wall with the initials MH smack in the middle.  Just off the main floor is another area called  “The Wildwood Bar” that has high tables along with another bar.  The main wall of the room has the “Wildwood” sign that was in the Harley Shop.  The room also has a glass garage door that can be opened in nice weather. Right outside the garage door is a great outside area with picnic tables, a fire pit, and corn hole.  Back inside, there is a stairway that leads to the aforementioned loft area. Once you are up on the 2nd floor you have a great view of almost the entire restaurant. In addition to the extra seating for dining, there is a nice lounge area that is decorated in a very eclectic style. There is a nice half moon bar as well as restrooms.

The other thing that is different than other breweries in our area is they are also a restaurant with great food. This also means they are not allowed to distribute outside of the brewery, but they can fill growlers, and crowlers to take home. When Brendan was ready to develop the beer for Mudhen, he hired renowned consultant Scott Morrison.  Scott is one of the most sought-after consultants in the business and has a closet full of medals from The Great American Beer Festival and The World Beer Festival.  As for the beer, the evening we visited they were offering 6 different beers with a wide range of styles. From the Mud Light Pilsner to the Baker’s DIPA, Brewmaster Tony Cunha has made something that will fit everyone’s palette. With a degree in Hospitality Management from UCF, Tony definitely knows how to make people happy. After stops in Vegas, Orlando, and Baltimore as a restaurant manager, Tony realized he wanted to turn his love of home brewing into a career.  In 2013 Tony began to follow that passion and started at Rock Bottom Brewing in King Of Prussia. His next gig was at Sterling Pig Brewery in Media, Pa,  with Multiple GABF Medal winning brewer Brian McConnell, who Tony had worked with at Rock Bottom. It was at Sterling Pig when he heard that Brendan was planning on opening a brewery in Wildwood. Tony, who has his roots at the shore and is a graduate of Lower Cape May Regional High School, immediately knew he had to be the brewer, and the rest is history.   We spoke with Tony at length in the brewhouse and it is clear that they couldn’t have made a better choice to brew!  I’m really excited to sit down with Tony after Labor Day when he can catch his breath, and do our “10 Questions With The Brewer”  feature.

After we spoke with Tony and Russ, we decided to stay and sample some beers and have dinner.  The food was more than typical bar fare with a wide range of interesting cuisine.  There is a heavy barbecue presence, but I have no doubt that there is something on the menu for everyone!

Needless to say, we were suitably impressed with Mudhen and had a great time!  Being one of the few brewpubs in the southern part of the state, we suspect that this will be one of the go-to places for those who visit South Jersey this year!

Thanks to Tony, Russ, and the staff for being such great hosts and we look forward to seeing everyone again soon!

And, as always, Enjoy Your Pour!

Mudhen Brewing Co. is located at 127 West Rio Grande Ave, Wildwood, NJ 

For more information, visit Mudhen Brewing Co. on the Web at www.mudhenbrew.com

Follow Mudhen Brewing Company on Social Media @mudhenbrew

 

 

10 Questions With... Breweries

10 Questions With…Paul Simmons of Glasstown Brewing Company

Back in January when I sat down with Paul and Jen Simmons to talk about their upcoming 4 year anniversary I also did a “10 Questions with the Brewer” segment.  Paul is a really great guy and we talked for well over an hour, and I could have talked to him for another 10 more!  These articles are one of my favorite things we do here at South Jersey Beer Scene and Paul’s was no exception!  We get a lot of similar answers, but how they each got there is often times very different.  Glasstown will be having its 5th Annual Adult Easter Egg Hunt at the brewery on 3/31 at 11:45 AM.  Paul, Jen, and the rest of the staff at Glasstown hide 1500 Eggs with a chance to win prizes!  You must be 21 or older to participate, and the number of eggs you will be allowed to find will depend on the number of people who show up.  This is a really fun an unique event that gets bigger and bigger every year, so get out to Millville and find those eggs!

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

It was an Amber Ale kit from Northern Brewer. I had been out in Colorado and had a New Belgium Fat Tire, and really enjoyed it so I wanted to make something similar. It turned out really good, and it went really fast. It was right after that I brewed a Helles Lager since I just got a refrigerator for the garage to control the fermentation temperature. Initially, it tasted good, but after about 2 months it started getting an onion taste.

What is your favorite style to brew, and why?

It would have to be IPA’S. I am a hop junkie, and have to try IPA’S wherever I go. There are so many ways to change the characteristics of them from the kind of hops, to the time you add them to the boil. It’s just a very dynamic style for something that seems so narrow. I also enjoy a big, heavy, barrel aged Stouts. I’m not really a whiskey guy, but I do enjoy a hint of whiskey in my beer.

Do you look at ratings on Untapped, Beer Advocate, or Rate Beer, and do they influence your recipes?

I have completely given up on reading those types of sites. For the first 2 years, I read every review on Untappd, and freaked out about a thousand times. If you don’t like a certain style then you can’t give it an educated review. Just because you don’t like a style doesn’t mean it’s a 2 star beer. It’s not just my beers either. When I see other local breweries getting 2 stars I feel angry for them, because I know that beer isn’t a 2. I truly put more stock about our brand from what people say on our Facebook page, at the Taproom, and at festivals. It would definitely be a NO when it comes to them influencing our recipes.

Author’s Note:  I agree with something that Paul said. I too think those types of sites will continue to lose credibility unless they change the rating system.

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

We started using Rabbit Hill Farms lately as have a number of local breweries. In the fall when we make our Honey Brown we use local honey, and when the time comes to make something with blueberries, and cranberries we have a local source for that too. One other way we source local is with our glassware. Millville is known for their glass factories, and we would use Gerresheimer Glass Inc. for our growlers until they moved to Chicago. We now get our glassware from Duran Glass in Millville. All of our merchandise is made local, and we try to buy as much equipment local as well.

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

The answer that was given by Paul was one I heard often,You really need to control your temperature during fermentation. It is extremely difficult to put your wort and yeast into a glass carboy, and not have the temperature spike. If you want to consistently make good beer at home you need to control temperature during fermentation.”

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

Don’t be afraid to start small. We didn’t have the money to start out with a 15 BBL system like we where told. You will need a realistic budget to work off of. We started out only brewing 12 gallons at a time, but if your numbers are right, and you figure out that you can hit those numbers you’ll be okay. You also need to be mechanically inclined so you can fix things on the fly. If you can’t afford something you need to know how to make it cheap.

If there were one beer you could brew with no regard to cost, production, or sales, what would it be?

Without question, it would be barrel aged beers. I would love to brew something, and stick it in a whiskey or wine barrel, and forget about it for 3-4 years. Firestone Walker does this, and I just think it’s so neat.

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

We started out brewing mainly IPA’s, but quickly found out that the Millville area had a large dark beer loving colony, so we rapidly switched gears, and started brewing some. We where totally caught off guard by that, but we love making, and drinking them. Judging by the response everyone else likes drinking them too.

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

Usually, it would be Founders All Day IPA, but I do like to enjoy some barrel aged stuff like Bourbon County or KBS. I also got my hand on a couple Founders Backwoods Bastard that I like to enjoy, but mostly All Day IPA. You can have 3-4 and get sloppy.

Where do you see the brewery in a year? In 5 years?

Just to continue canning. Hopefully be able to hire another part time or full time person. We would love to add another tank or two, and another fermenter or two. Also, start spreading out a little farther with our distribution zone. See if we can start opening 6-7 days a week. In 5 years we would want to be up to a 10 BBL system, and swap out some of the 7 BBL tanks for 20 BBL tanks. Increase our distribution area to about 2/3rds of the state, and maybe start sneaking into Philly. The ultimate 5 year goal would be to open a Farm Brewery on a piece of land we have our eye on. We would love to do a whole sustainable thing with growing some hops, and barley, and have some animals. We want to make it more of a daytrip for the whole family where you can walk around having a beer while the kids feed the animals spent grains, and learn about the whole brewing process. In the fall we would have a pumpkin patch, and hayrides.

Bonus Question. What’s the best beer you ever had?

That would have to be Firestone Walker’s Stickee Monkee.

Bonus #2. What do you listen to while brewing? I got this idea from Tadhg Campbell of Slack Tide Brewing.

It’s a mix mash of everything. Primarily it’s 80’s  90’s rock, and early 2000 alternative rock. There are a few rap days, and some jazz days thrown in for good measure. If we are canning, and Rage Against the Machine comes on it seems to speed up the process.

Thanks so much to Paul and Jen Simmons of Glasstown Brewing Company for spending some time with me!  They are truly 2 of the nicest people that you will ever meet!

Enjoy Your Pour!

Breweries Events

Pinelands Brewing Company Celebrating Their 4th Anniversary on 3/3!

On Saturday, March 3rd at noon Pinelands Brewing will celebrate their 4 year anniversary.  I had the pleasure to be there on opening day 4 years ago and, while a lot has changed at the brewery from that day, the one thing that hasn’t is the incredible beer they make.  I recently sat down with Jason Chapman and Luke McCooley to discuss the years prior to opening day, the subsequent 4 years, and the future.  I first asked Jason to think back to what inspired him to make his first beer, and what was it?  He thought back and clearly remembered brewing a mason-jar-hopped extract ale with his brother that he had purchased at a bookstore.  The year was 1999, and that one quart of brown boozy ale contained flavors so exciting he had to learn more.  He immediately began reading everything about home brewing that his 96K modem would allow.  Jason also learned from a friend that Richland General Store had home brewing supplies, and he came home with the ingredients for a 5-gallon partial mash LME (liquid malt extract) Pale Ale with aromatic hop plugs from Kent Goldings.  This was Jason’s first real batch and the hook was set.  Jason’s second batch was an all grain Pumpkin Ale which his father still talks about to this day.  He loved sharing the flip-tops with family and friends and the conversations they evoked.  Jason explained, “the way you can take these beautiful natural materials, and brew them into beer and brings people together, and satisfies them to the core is magical”.  From that point on, the love affair with taking malts and hops and transforming them through fermentation to yield a gift from nature blossomed.  Most of the subsequent recipes are what you’ll find in the taproom today, like Pitch Pine Ale, Mason’s Wheat, and Evan John Porter.

In the beginning, Pinelands had 5 partners, but since then 3 have moved on and only Jason and Luke remain.  In addition, Pinelands has added 7 employees and will also add a few part-timers when the festival season starts.  They started out brewing on a 60 gallon Marchisio false bottom tank along with a Stout Tanks and Kettles 1BBL pot, a 1BBL brite tank, and 2 Blichmann 1BBL fermenters.  They quickly realized they needed to start brewing double batches, and purchased a 3BBl brite tank, and 3BBL fermenters.  The next progression was a Stouts T&K 3BBL system which is still in use today.  The next phase would be to move up to a 7BBL system with a 15BBL brite tank and some 15BBL slim fermenters.

With the explosion of breweries in South Jersey, Pinelands Brewing seems to still be on their own little island, which suits Jason and Luke just fine.  The one tough thing when they started out 4 years ago was that there wasn’t a lot of breweries that you could talk to and get some advice and tips from.  In Luke’s case, Pinelands Brewing was always meant to be his full-time job. I seem to think it is better not to have a plan B to fall back on because it really makes you put your heart and soul into it. And, 4 years later, it is apparent that it was the right path.

Now, on to the main reason for this article.  What surprises are in store for everybody at the anniversary celebration?  First and foremost 3 special beers will be available.  The first will be their Belgium Quad called “Birthday Suit”  that will clock in at about 10.5% ABV.  Next up is their “Gnarly Pine Barley Wine” that has been aging almost a year, and will sport a hefty 9% ABV.  Last, but certainly not least, is their “Cockeyed Imperial Coffee Milk Stout” which has been barrel-aged in barrels from Little Water Distillery in Atlantic City, and will be topping out at 9% ABV.  In addition to being on tap in the tasting room, they also plan on having about 100-120 22 ounce bottles of each one for sale too.  Along with the 3 beers, there will be food available from Brothers Bear BBQ so come hungry.

In closing, Jason said it best, “Our role is to keep the tradition of brewing alive in our lovely little corner of the world”.  These guys truly live up to their motto,  “AS PURE AS THE PINES”.

Congratulations to Jason, Luke, and everyone at Pinelands Brewing Company on this milestone.  If you have not visited this brewery you need to take the drive to Little Egg Harbor and have a few of their great beers!

And, as always, Enjoy Your Pour!

Breweries Events

Glasstown Brewing Company Celebrating Their 4th Anniversary on 1/27!

This week I traveled to Millville to sit down with Paul and Jenifer Simmons of Glasstown Brewing Company to talk about the past, present, and future of the brewery. It’s hard to believe, but Glasstown will be celebrating their 4 year anniversary this Saturday, January 27th from 12 pm-8 pm at the taproom. Glasstown was one of the first breweries in South Jersey and, until this week, the only brewery in Cumberland County.  Paul and Jenifer are great people who are widely recognized in the brewing community as mentors and have been generous in helping breweries that have opened in South Jersey.

I started the conversation by asking Paul what made him want to brew his first beer. He explained that he had brewed a few times in college with some Mr. Beer kits, and had been drinking a lot of craft beer, but it wasn’t until he passed by a homebrew shop, stopped in and looked at all the supplies that his and Jenifer’s interest was really piqued. They didn’t buy anything, but did go home and got on the computer to research some more and found Northern Brewer and More Beer and saw all the different kinds of beer you could make. That was the start of what would become one of the more respected breweries in our area.

In 2009 Paul and Jenifer moved to Millville from Cape May County where Paul was bartending in the summer. With his winter weekends open he couldn’t think of anything better to do in the fall/winter but to brew beer and watch football. It wasn’t long before they went all in on their passion and found a building to house their brewery at the Millville Airport. They opened in December of 2013, and started out brewing 12 gallons at a time on a Sabco system. That lasted about 3 months until they upgraded to a Handmade 1 ½ BBL system which they used for the next 3 months. Then one day while flipping through ads on Pro Brewer, Paul found a 3 BBL system for sale in Ohio. After an impromptu road trip, and some finagling of funds, the stars aligned and they were able to get the 3 BBL system much sooner than they had originally thought. They are still brewing on that system today, but have 6- 10BBL fermenters, and 8-7BBL fermenters (and the original 2- 3BBL kept for experimental batches). They are hoping to add 2 more 7BBL fermenters which will hopefully allow them to be open 7 days a week in the summer.

Along with the expansion of the brewhouse came the expansion of employees. Paul was full-time from the beginning which really helped speed things up (rather than getting there when he could) and Jennifer working part-time while still working her job until November of 2016 when she was able to work full-time to fulfill their dream of being a full-time business. Soon after they realized that they needed more help.  They started hiring a month and a half into it, and it hasn’t stopped. To date, they have 4 full-time and 2 part-time employees and may have to add another part-timer in the spring. In addition Jenifer’s Brother Mike works there and also does the artwork for the brewery as well.

When asked how the landscape of breweries have changed since they opened Paul said, “it would probably be the number of breweries that have opened. We applied the same time as Village Idiot and our ABC Brewers License numbers are 13 and 14, and we are in the 80’s now with more on the way”. Paul continued, “there is also a lot of great beer being made, and New Jersey is starting to get the recognition they deserve”.

Now on to the big anniversary event on Saturday. They will be releasing 2 beers for their 4th anniversary. First up is their Big Breakfast Coffee Maple Porter brewed with bourbon soaked oak chips to give it some barrel aged characteristics, and topping out higher than the original 7.2% ABV. There will be 600 22oz bomber bottles available, so when it’s gone, it’s gone. They are also doing a variation of their 609 IPA on draft only. They just surpassed their 100th batch of this fan favorite so they did a little change with the hop profile by adding some Galaxy hops for a little zing, and it will also look more like an NE style IPA. I really enjoyed sitting down with Paul and Jenifer, and wish them 50 more anniversaries. I also did our 10 questions with the brewer that will be coming out soon. Do yourself a favor, and come celebrate with the whole crew, and drink some of their delicious beers. You can bet I’ll be there. As always…….

Enjoy Your Pour!

Beer Biz Profiles Breweries Events

Slack Tide Brewing Company Year Two Celebration Saturday, 1/20!

I sat down with Jason & Tadhg Campbell of Slack Tide Brewing to talk about their upcoming 2nd Anniversary event happening on Saturday, January 20th. What started out with zero employees (other than themselves) has grown to 2 full-time employees and 2 volunteers with hopes to add 2 more employees by late spring of this year.  When Slack Tide opened they were brewing on a 20-gallon Tippy Dump system from More Beer and for the first 5 months. They quickly transitioned to a 3BBL system in April of 2016. Both of those systems were able to get them through until October of 2017 when they commissioned into service their current 10 BBL system.  “It’s been a nice progression of systems”,  Tadhg explained. The 20-gallon Tippy Dump was like an advanced homebrew system. The 3BBL had some nice features but also gave you some homebrew aspects. The 10 BBL system is a fully automated system, but the progression of systems really helped with the learning curve. The people at American Beer Equipment, who they purchased the 10 BBL system from, were extremely helpful and sent guys down to stay as long as was needed until they were comfortable with the system. (One funny side note, they recently sold their 20-gallon Tippy Dump and it was actually being picked up the day of this interview). I asked them what were their best and worst decisions they’ve made, and with a chuckle, Tadhg said, “opening a brewery” for both answers. After a good laugh, Jason told us “by far opening the brewery was the best decision”, and Tadhg added “trying to stick to a wide array of styles on their board.” Tadhg continued “we try to make something for everyone who comes through the door”.   The brothers both agree that there haven’t been that many setbacks over the two years with the exception of being a little delayed on the packaging aspect of the brewery, specifically with canning and bottling. “It was not by choice, it was more out of necessity due to the cost of equipment, and putting the main effort into making a great product” Jason explained.  “Also, we wanted to make it through the first year or so to see if it would match what we thought was going to happen”.

 

I hear from people all over how they love the nautical name of the brewery and the beers. During today’s interview, I found out the Slack Tide name was in a little jeopardy. While in the early stages of opening, they received a call from 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg who wanted to name a beer of theirs “Slack Tide”. Once the Campbell’s informed 3 Daughters they were definitely opening the brewery, they backed off the name and wished them luck. The beer names themselves come from a board in the back that employees put their ideas on. The guys really do put some thought into matching the right name to a beer. Example: Treble Hook. Treble means 3 and Treble Hook is their triple Belgium.  “There are some names we love, and the public doesn’t, and some that we aren’t so hot on, but the public loves” we were told. In the end, it is the beer that really matters. And speaking of beer, what are the styles and names of the 2 new 2nd anniversary beers for Saturday? The first one will be a Triple IPA called “Overnighter” named after tuna trips the guys like to take (also if you have too many you may want to stay overnight). The second one is a Berliner Weisse Kettle Sour with hints of pineapple and cranberry called “Haywire Twist”. I had the honor to sample this unique beer and think it will be a huge hit. Looking ahead I asked what their hopes for the 3 year anniversary are. Almost in unison, they said for people to be able to come in and purchase 6 packs. Also, adding some more taps is something Tadhg would like to see. I have no doubt that this will be achieved. The Campbell brothers and the entire staff at Slack Tide continue to grow and impress with every new beer they put out. Tadhg also added, “we have a true sense of co-opetition, and craft beer spirit”. Yeah, I had to look it up too, but co-opetition means collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results which, in the end, is good for everyone!

ENJOY YOUR POUR!