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Monday, 22 September 2014 23:45

Mount Holly, a two-brewery town, and a place to watch the craft beer effect

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ScottMikeJohn-SpellboundSpellbound Brewing in Mount Holly got its state brewer's license last week and didn't waste any time before brewing a pilot batch of imperial stout and a 20-barrel batch of a flagship IPA.

The IPA, brewed Sunday (Sept. 21), christened Spellbound's Premier Stainless brewhouse. A soft opening to coincide with Mount Holly's annual Witches Ball on Oct. 11 is planned (keep an eye on the brewery’s website and Facebook page for details); there's also a small-batch barleywine, aged in a Dad’s Hat Rye whiskey barrel, in the works for the brewery's 150-strong founders club membership.

“We had 150 people who saw the passion we had – a lot of them we don’t even know … people as far as Arizona,” John Companick, who co-founded Spellbound with business partners Mike Oliver and Scott Reading, tells Beer-Stained Letter. “We’re going to have barrels; we’re going to do all kinds of crazy stuff, our passion is going to be into that.”

Welcome to Brew Jersey
The pace of new brewery launches remains steady in the Garden State, and Spellbound actually gets eclipsed for the title of being the newest by Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing, which moved into Flying Fish Brewing's original home in Cherry Hill a year after Flying Fish relocated to Somerdale. (Forgotten Boardwalk folks didn’t respond to an email for comment.)

Forgotten Boardwalk announced on Friday it got the green light from the state and released a video that trumpets an Oct. 11 grand opening.

Spellbound's license came through the day before, making its host town, Mount Holly, a two-craft brewery town and an interesting case study into the economic power of craft brewing.

Here's why: When state lawmakers were persuaded to update the craft brewing regulations, to make them more business friendly, part of the argument was that craft beer creates entrepreneurs and draws consumers; its popularity and widening audience make that a good bet.

Two years after the rule updates, there's been the steady tide of brewery launches, with the past 12 months being the busiest ever for licensing. A lot of the new breweries are small, but they still fulfill expectations, essentially becoming local attractions with their tours and tastings.

SpellboundCansIn short, it’s been good for host towns.

Ten months before Spellbound's licensing, Village Idiot Brewing was making that point as Mount Holly's first craft beer maker.

The tiny brewery has helped goose the flagging retail district along the downtown’s main drag. When it opens to the public, Spellbound will undoubtedly turbocharge things: two breweries with tours and tastings located just a mile apart (Spellbound is just off the downtown).

That's sure to make Mount Holly an enticing stop for beer enthusiasts. It also stands to make Mount Holly a reference for mayors and councils looking to attract business and industry to their towns.

An exciting time
The potential for beer tourism looks rather promising statewide. But in particular, there's a run of breweries and brewpubs, from Milford down to Millville, plus others in Pennsylvania, just over the bridges, that would make a beer tourist's day. That’s pretty much mirrored on the east side of the state, from Middletown/Atlantic Highlands down to Cape May.

"I think a trail, where you can go through and hit different spots in one day ... now that you're seeing more pop up, that gives you the opportunity to do that," John says.

Within 30 minutes of Spellbound there will be five breweries.

"We have Third State opening in Burlington City, hopefully soon. Then right across the bridge, you have Neshaminy Creek (Croydon) and Broken Goblet (Bristol). Twenty years ago, you could hit a couple and that's it ... now it's a lot different," John says. "It's actually going to be difficult to figure out what your path is going to be. In the next couple of years, (breweries are) going to be dotted all over the state.”

Brewers still have to do their part: offer beer drinkers variety and innovation. Craft beer drinkers are always in the hunt for new flavors, something that encourages brewers to be fearless and experiment, continue to push the boundaries of styles.

"Our biggest worry right now is making sure we have quality liquid ... the newest generation drinking beer is all about trying new things," John says.

Kane Brewing’s third anniversary party drew what was probably the Ocean Township brewery’s largest tasting room crowd yet. The event featured special anniversary 750’s, and Deep Rooted, the imperial pale ale (not imperial IPA) brewed entirely with fresh Jersey-grown hops.

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