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Friday, 23 August 2013 04:21

Spellbound gathering momentum

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Spellbound LogoNearly everything was, as John Companick explains it, going in the wrong direction.

A warehouse fire in Washington State and bad weather in Europe were making big waves in the hops market, driving prices up. Steel prices also spiked.

The prospects weren't good for the brewery John hoped to open and make the jump from homebrewer to pro brewer.

The year was 2008.

Several of New Jersey's craft breweries then were marking a dozen years in business. But Jersey Brewing Company, which John incorporated that year, wasn't going to be the newcomer to join those beer-makers in the state's brewing industry.

"We never got off the ground," he says. "It wasn't the right time. That's actually when the hop shortage hit ... Stainless (steel) was through the roof. There was just a million things that went wrong."

Fast-forward to the present.

John, now with partners Scott Reading and Mike Oliver – and a new name for the business – incorporated Spellbound Brewing, capitalizing on some of the wisdom that patience and the intervening years offered.

There was another advantage, too.

Last year, around the time John and Scott were brewing a commercial-size batch of an oatmeal cookie beer as winners of Iron Hill Maple Shade's annual homebrewer contest, the rules governing New Jersey's craft brewing industry changed. Thanks to the Legislature, the rules were modernized in the fall of 2012 to provide some key business freedoms that would aid existing breweries and help start-up breweries.

"With three partners, it has made all the difference in the world, not only from a cash flow standpoint, but just the fact that we've learned a lot," John says. (John and Scott are from Burlington County; Mike is from Mercer County.)

So far, talks on leasing a building, in an as-yet undisclosed location, look promising. The trio also have secured financing for Spellbound and their plans for making craft beers in draft and in 12-ounce cans. Those cans, by the way, are just one of the myriad details the three have analyzed, discussed and debated with an eye toward a winter 2014 launch.

"We want to have our own canning line," John says. "(With) mobile canning, you're going to pay more money per can; the label is going to be a wrap. It's not quite the same as having your own cans."

As is a common practice among craft brewers these days, Spellbound's tasting room will feature one-offs and pull some duty as an R&D lab for beers in the pipeline. (As far as brewery design goes, the plans is to have Spellbound's tasting room to look out into the brewhouse space.)

"We want to do a lot of one-off, experimental type of beers, a lot of seasonals. That's what we want to get out there for the beer geeks," John says. "We're going to have all these crazy beers that are out there that we keep doing test batches on.

"This way, we can get appreciation from both sides. We want to keep promoting the whole craft beer movement and get people on board, understanding beer, loving good beer."

Spellbound has on its drawing board a 20-barrel brewhouse, with accompanying 40-barrel fermenters, supplemented by some 10-barrel tanks for those experimental scratch beers.

Core beers planned for launch include an IPA, a porter, plus a hefeweizen to be added after Spellbound finds its legs. A double IPA will be the brewery's first seasonal.

"We incorporated Aug. 23rd of last year. Since then we've just been going gangbusters," John says.

Read 11882 times Last modified on Monday, 02 December 2013 20:53

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