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Tuesday, 19 November 2013 06:26

Brewpub HearthStone readying its house beers

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HearthStone Growler
New Jersey's newest brewpub is about ready to put its house-made beers on tap.

The folks at HearthStone Grill in Jamesburg in Middlesex County say keep an eye on their Facebook page for the details of when it will happen.

But that could be very, very soon.

HearthStone FermentersOn Monday, chef-brewer Mark Spiezio took a break from racking a batch of black ale to talk to Beer-Stained Letter about the wood-fired American grill and tiny brewery that he launched three months ago with his wife, Christina, and son, also named Mark.

"I'm a small-batch brewer. When you get here, you're not going to see big stainless steel tanks and everything else," he says.

What you will find is a clay-brick oven that Mark built for creating artisanal pizzas, breads and casseroles, plus a Southern-style barbecue pit with an Argentine grill for turning out steaks, seafood and chops over oak fires. (Curious about their side dishes? Think roasted Yukon gold potatoes, macaroni and cheese, asparagus and maple carrots).

HearthStone, Mark says, is a "three-headed monster. Right now, two of the heads are active: pizza from the front oven and steaks from the back grill."

That leaves the forthcoming addition of house beers. (HearthStone opened with guest taps.)

After some finishing touches (i.e. carbonating), the house beers will take their place alongside four rotating draft craft beers, such as Long Trail (a personal favorite of Mark's), Magic Hat, Yuengling, and a macro brand like Bud Light. (Five additional taps are to be installed this weekend, Mark says.)

HearthStoneGrill"I'm hoping to have three (house beers) on tap and one bottled," Mark says. "My initial offerings are going to be a red ale, a pilsner, the black, and a bottle-conditioned Russian imperial that won't be ready for a few months; that will be closer to a barleywine than a stout. That won't be ready until close to springtime."

The lead-off red ale comes in at a very sessionable 4% ABV. At a time when high-gravity beers have become wildly popular, the red may seem slight, but Mark says it's well in tune with his patrons' tastes.

"I was shooting for a light-bodied (beer), not overly hopped. My clientele here likes craft beers, but they don't like overly hopped craft beers," he says.

The restaurant's 1-barrel brewing set-up is indeed modest: repurposed beer kegs and plastic 40-gallon fermenters situated beneath a bannered Bob Marley turn on Psalm 118:22: "The stone that the builder refused shall be the head cornerstone."

Despite HearthStone's nano size, the set-up is probably still a leap from the beginner beer kit that Mark bought at a Red Bank homebrew shop back in the early 1990s.

The extract ale kit spun the years-long thread that led to this past winter, when Mark applied for a brewery license. New Jersey regulators granted HearthStone a brewpub license two months ago, adding it to the cluster of restaurant-breweries that call Middlesex County home: Uno Chicago Grill & Brewery (Metuchen), J.J. Bitting (Woodbridge), and Harvest Moon (New Brunswick). The brewpub joins Iron Hill's Voorhees location and Rinn Duin Brewing in Toms River as new Garden State brewery licensees in 2013.

"I started the licensing process in February. It was long and tedious – arduous," Mark says. "There were several times I was pretty sure it just wasn't going to happen."

But it did, giving Mark the perfect complement to his culinary interests (he's also an adherent of ayurvedic cooking: "I consider food to be medicine. All of our food is fresh, natural and wholesome," he says.)

"I've always been interested in yeast in live cultures. Brewing and baking are natural extensions of each other," Mark says. "As a baker, I was interested in brewing, and as a brewer I was interested in baking.

"Right now in our restaurant, at any given time, we're utilizing probably six to eight different types of yeast, between beers and breads and doughs and everything else."


Read 7629 times Last modified on Monday, 02 December 2013 17:11

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