Beer-Stained Letter - Beer-Stained Letter - News Wed, 26 Jun 2019 18:01:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Rinn Duin marks 1st anniversary with 365 Blackthorn, and talks about what's ahead

Rinn Duin Brewing celebrated its first anniversary (see video here) with a limited release, 365 Blackthorn, an 8.1% ABV Irish red spiked with some Belgian candi sugar, making it the Toms River brewery’s biggest beer. But the brewery has also added entering the Philadelphia market and a small part of New York City to the 2015 to-do list.

With traditional English and Irish ales as its signature styles, Rinn Duin opened its doors at the start of 2014. Its 25-barrel brewhouse made it the largest of a half dozen breweries in that first wave of openings after the law change in the fall of 2012. In the audio clip, owner Chip Town talks about the first year and what to look for from Rinn Duin this year.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:23:24 +0000
Craft Beer & Politics: More N.J. lawmakers are putting breweries on their radar

Congressman Frank Pallone paid a call on Carton Brewing last week, taking a tour of the Atlantic Highlands brewery and sampling the beers as part of an observance of National Manufacturing Day.

Let’s be candid for a minute.

It’s an election year. Pallone’s on the ballot, and Atlantic Highlands is in his district. He’s a longtime incumbent and most likely a lock for re-election. Still, face time with constituents, even for a feel-good observance such as National Manufacturing Day, plays well. It’s a bonus if you can do it against a popular backdrop, and craft beer is still ridiculously popular. So, on one level, it’s smart campaigning to find that everyman niche, be populist.

But politics and cynicism aside, there are some important points to highlight off the Democrat’s talk with owners Augie and Chris Carton, cousins who launched the brewery at the Monmouth County bayshore three years ago.

Namely, the brewery’s doing good things for the neighborhood; it has created some jobs and brought people to town and made for a seamless addition to town-wide events as a local favorite. In that regard, the 6th District rep should always have a stop at Carton on the itinerary. Let’s hope Congressman Pallone comes back often. Let’s hope more Jersey reps find the time for the breweries in their districts.

Growing clout
Kind words for craft brewing are being said in a lot of places across the country, as more craft breweries open up and do their thing, which includes loads of community-minded partnerships, by the way. And this is really the point: Craft brewing continues to watch its clout grow, be viewed as an a town asset, an economic tide that lifts the other boats.

On the Garden State’s brewing scene, Pallone’s visit to Carton is another acknowledgment of that. And he has company.

Rep.-Leonard-LanceCongressman Leonard Lance has put in face time at constituents Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, and J.J. Bitting brewpub in Woodbridge, which is now in Pallone’s district. Lance is a member of the House Small Brewers Caucus, an informational congressional panel for the craft brewing industry that formed when Bush 43 was still in the White House.

Last year, Robert Menendez, one of the Garden State’s U.S. senators, toured Flying Fish’s Somerdale facility. Menendez is among lawmakers pushing to lower the federal tax on producing a barrel of beer, a goal of the Brewers Association for quite a while now.

Unless you’re into C-SPAN feeds, this isn’t exactly exciting stuff. But it is important; it’s building friendships in crucial places. Brewing is a regulated industry, on both state and federal levels, and there’s always a need to take stock of the rules, to see if they are still suited to the conditions on the ground, or in need of updating.

And that happens through policy-makers, who make better decisions (we hope) when they have a clearer picture of what’s going on.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:02:35 +0000
Kane, Flying Fish win 2014 GABF gold in barrel-aged stout, English pale categories


A big win for Kane Brewing's barrel-aging program, and a return to the winners circle for the Garden State's largest craft brewer, Flying Fish.

Barrels-Inner-WallKane, probably best known for its popular IPAs Head High and Overhead, won a gold medal for its Night to End All Dawns barrel-aged imperial stout at the 33rd Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Flying Fish, a 2009 gold medal winner with its Exit 4 American Tripel, the inaugural beer in the Somerdale brewery's Exit Series, won a gold this time for its Hopfish IPA and complemented that win with a silver medal for its assertively hopped red ale, Redfish.

The Iron Hill brewpub chain kept its 18-year streak of medal wins alive, this time thanks to its Media, Pennsylvania, and Newark, Delaware, locations, taking silvers for a rye brew and a Belgian tripel, and bronze for a Burton IPA. Iron Hill has 10 brewery-restaurants spread among Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Winners of the Brewers Association's annual competition were announced Saturday. Just over 5,500 beers commercially brewed beers from 1,309 breweries across the country were judged this year.

Barrels-Far-WallWith 100 oak barrels perched on ricks along the brewery's walls – most of the wood was previously used to condition whiskeys – Kane (Ocean Township) has probably the most extensive barrel-aging program among the Garden State's two dozen or so craft brewers.

The brewery, which just celebrated a third anniversary, went up against 108 other entries in the wood- barrel-aged strong stout category to win with the 12 to 13 percent ABV bourbon barrel stout. Night to End All Dawns, aged in the barrels for almost a year and a half, is also among Kane's 750 ml cork and cage bottle offerings.

Hopfish2Flying Fish's Hopfish IPA (6.5 percent ABV, 25.3 IBU) won in the classic English pale ale category, besting 36 other entries. One of Flying Fish’s best-selling beers, Hopfish won a bronze in 2009.

Hopfish dates back to 1997, when IPA's generally hewed more closely to the British take on the style, well-hopped but far from the super-aggressively hopped American spin that is pretty much the benchmark of IPAs now.

Redfish (7 percent ABV), the brewery's West Coast-slanted beer with Cascade, Columbus and Chinook hops, won silver in the Extra Special Bitter category, which drew 71 entries. Last year, Flying Fish won silver for its Oktoberfish seasonal; the brewery won bronze for Exit 8 Belgian brown ale in 2012; Abbey Dubbel, part of Flying Fish’s lineup since its 1996 startup, won a silver in 2009.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Sun, 05 Oct 2014 13:24:31 +0000
Mount Holly, a two-brewery town, and a place to watch the craft beer effect

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.

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:45:53 +0000
Video: A look at Oast House's third crop of Jersey-grown hops

Oast House Hop Farm has its biggest harvest yet of the Columbus, Chinook, Cascade and Nugget cones.

Beau Byrtus, one of Oast House’s founders, gives a rundown in the video.

What you should take away from Oast House is not so much that it’s a working hop farm.

No, there’s a bigger take away: Oast House, with its annual harvest gathering of friends, is building on New Jersey’s craft beer culture.

You can easily imagine the harvests becoming, over time, like a small fair, with homebrewing demonstrations, a beer tent, and vendors selling Jersey fall produce and pies.

Or at least that’s the potential. Town hall and the state may think otherwise (this is where you should start looking at Oast House as a working farm, given some of the privileges the state allows for farms).

Two breweries are using Oast’s Jersey hops this year, and it’s a safe bet there will be loads of beer drinkers looking to see what Kane and Triumph Brewing did with fresh-from-the-farm cones.

It’s not just hops that Oast House is growing; it’s the Garden State’s craft beer culture, too.



]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Mon, 15 Sep 2014 21:47:19 +0000
With a fresh N.J. license, ex-Basil T brewer Gretchen Schmidhausler returns as a brewery owner

Jersey brewer Gretchen Schmidhausler has been going to the Great American Beer Festival for the past 16 years, serving as a beer judge at the event for half as long.

But this year, when the festival kicks off its annual three-day run in Denver Oct. 2, Gretchen will be home in the Garden State, in fact, a few blocks from the beach in southern Monmouth County.

"I sent my regrets ... I let them know I wouldn't be able to make it this year," she says. 

There's a good reason, and it has everything to do beer: Gretchen's just-licensed Little Dog Brewing Company will probably be opening around GABF time. 

"It's not just a weekend,” she says of the annual Colorado trip. “I would have been out there for five days. I don't now how I would manage that.”

Because duty calls, with an exciting new chapter. There’s lots to do between now and October. 


Little-Dog-LogoThe ink on Little Dog's state brewing license is still fresh: Just a week ago (Aug. 28), New Jersey regulators inspected Little Dog and gave Gretchen the green light to join the state's growing roll call of craft breweries. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s visit capped a half-year buildout that transformed a defunct coin laundry along Steiner Avenue in Neptune City into an ale brewery with a tasting room.

Now the focus shifts to stocking up on grain and hops to begin turning out a pair of flagship brews – interpretations of German wheat and brown/alt beers – on the 4-barrel brewing set-up that launched Climax Brewing (Roselle Park) as New Jersey's first production craft brewery.

The wheat and alt will be complemented by a pair of seasonals, including a pumpkin brew this fall. Jersey craft beer enthusiasts can also expect a stout from Little Dog, plus 22-ounce bomber bottles of the wheat and brown/alt, as well as quart growlers of seasonals, all retailed from the tasting room during tours. (Gretchen’s still working on how tours and tastings will run. Stay tuned.)

"There was so much time and energy spent on the buildout. Now it's time to concentrate on the brewery ... I'm hoping to be brewing mid-month,” Gretchen tells Beer-Stained Letter. 

Tim-Gretchen1Gretchen is a familiar face in craft beer in New Jersey: a former president of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild (the state's industry trade group she now rejoins), and an award-winning brewer at Basil T’s brewpub in Red Bank for a dozen years. Think Ms. Lucy’s Weimaraner Wheat, Maxwell’s Dry Stout, Big Vic Porter, an anise-licorice brew at Christmas, and a Scottish ale that saluted iceboat racing on the Navesink River.

A homebrewer in the early 1990s – Glinda's Gold was the name of one her hobby beers then – Gretchen came to commercial brewing by way of the now-defunct Red Bank Brewery. (Tom Clark, Red Bank Brewery's founder and now owner of Berwick Brewing in Pennsylvania, recently modified the brewing kettle Little Dog bought from Climax owner Dave Hoffmann, fitting it with a stack condenser; Tom also did some modifications on Little Dog’s fermenters.)

Three years ago, Gretchen left Basil’s, and its 7-barrel brewhouse, with plans for her own place on her mind. (Basil's itself shut down a month ago to retool and re-emerge as an updated wine-and-beer-centric restaurant called Birravino.) She spent the hiatus from brewing doing some consulting work, refining her business plan, scouting a location, and making sure the one found for Little Dog was a match for Neptune City's zoning rules. 

She also wrote Making Craft Beer at Home, an intro to craft beer and homebrewer handbook that’s illustrated with about 100 photos, many of them taken at New Jersey breweries.

Her husband, Kevin McIver, closed on the Steiner Avenue property purchase last February, leasing it to GretchenBrew/Little Dog Brewing. What followed was the buildout that now brings a fourth production brewery to Monmouth County’s shore, an area that has become a hub for Garden State craft brewery startups over the past three years. 

Just three miles south of Little Dog, Beach Haus Brewery is under construction in Belmar. Triumph Brewing will make Red Bank the home of its second New Jersey location. Belford Brewing, an operation smaller than Little Dog, recently opened in Middletown, while Dark City Brewing in Asbury Park just leased a space and plans a 7-barrel brewery and tasting room. And all of that follows Kane and Carton breweries’ opening in 2011.

But the spotlight now is on Little Dog’s launch.

“Pretty soon, after I have opened to the public, additionally, I’m going to do two seasonal beers which will rotate,” Gretchen says, “and I’m going to start with a pumpkin – why not, right? – and probably a stout. I think that will give me a nice range. 

"I certainly have enough experience working on a small system that I should be able to have four beers within a couple of weeks, once I start brewing.”

And that will be soon.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:41:12 +0000
Kane Brewing using Oast House Jersey-grown hops in IPA

Teaming up with the Oast House for a third year, Kane Brewing will make a wet-hop brew using Nugget and Cascade cones from the Burlington County hop farm.

The Jersey-grown-hops IPA is on the Ocean Township brewery's production schedule for Tuesday (Aug. 26) for a 20-barrel batch. About 145 pounds of hops were dropped off at the brewery on Monday.

"We're curious. We've never done a 20-barrel all wet-hop (brew)," owner Michael Kane tells Beer-Stained Letter. "When I was a homebrewer, I used to do 10-gallon all wet-hop."

Kane Hops2The beer is expected to finish out around 7.5% ABV. Oast House, located in Wrightstown, is expected to deliver another load of hops in about a week that will be used for dry-hopping.

This summer was the farm’s third growing season. In addition to Cascade and Nugget, Oast House has also grown Chinook, Columbus and Centennial cultivars.

In the two years prior, Kane Brewing has been limited to using Oast House's harvests for dry-hopping, and on a smaller scale. A much larger yield this year has afforded the opportunity to use the hops in the kettle, for bittering, flavor and aroma.

"This year they really ramped up. It's the third year, so the plants are coming in better," Michael says.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Tue, 26 Aug 2014 06:19:56 +0000
Cape May Brews By Bay fest 2nd NJ guild event for 2014

The first Saturday in September brings a second festival for 2014 by the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild.

Brews By the Bay, set for Sept. 6, is also a bistate affair, with consecutive four-hour sessions at the ferry terminals in Cape May and Lewes, Delaware, and, depending on which event ticket you opt for, ferry passes that allow you spend your day sampling Jersey-brewed craft beers and those made by our neighbors across the bay.

What makes this event rather cool is, it’s a sendoff for summer that fits nicely in plans for a post-Labor Day weekend getaway in either state. Or you can go the far simpler route and just enjoy some craft beer sampling, à la festival.

brew poster-4ABrews By the Bay is a spinoff of a festival on the Delaware side that has seen a good turnout over the two years it’s been held. To craft beer industry folks in both states, reshaping the Delaware fest into a bistate event seemed like a great way to build on the initial momentum. (It also gives the Garden State brewers guild a follow-up event to its annual June festival aboard the USS New Jersey on the Camden waterfront.)

To that end, Cape May Brewing co-owner Ryan Krill has been working with folks from Dogfish Head (and the Delaware Brewers Guild) who have run the Delaware event.

The result, Ryan says, is a fest where you can tailor your experience.

“You can buy a ticket for just one side – you can go to just Delaware or New Jersey. Or you can do both,” he says. “And how that works is, it includes a roundtrip foot-passenger ferry ticket.”

(It’s 60 bucks for both sessions; otherwise, it’s $40 for either the Jersey or Delaware sessions. Find tickets here. The Jersey-side event starts at noon, 4 p.m. in Delaware. As with festivals, the lineup can change. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is also a sponsor.)

A sufficient number of ferries will be sailing during the hours of each session. So, catching a ride back to whichever side of the bay you need to be on shouldn’t be a problem. And there’s a good chance that at least one of the ferries will feature something craft-beery to do besides dolphin watching during the 17-mile, cross-bay cruise.

“We haven’t worked out the details of what we’re going to do on the boat yet, but we’ll probably have an event,” Ryan says.

  • NEW JERSEY Breweries
  • Cape May
  • Tuckahoe
  • Flying Fish
  • Kane
  • Carton
  • Rinn Duin
  • Glasstown
  • Iron Hill
  • Cricket Hill
  • River Horse


  • 16 Mile
  • Dogfish Head
  • Fordham/Old Dominion
  • Iron Hill
  • Stewarts
  • Twin Lakes
  • 3rd Wave
  • Argilla
  • Mispillion River Brewing


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:41:53 +0000
A look at Spellbound's tasting room


A quick update from startup brewery Spellbound in Mount Holly ...

The brewery's equipment has been in for a while and now awaits power. Electricians will be on site for a couple of weeks, and an order of cans for packaging has been placed, says co-founder John Companick.

The tasting room is in the finishing-up stage, and John says he and co-founders Mike Oliver and Scott Reading are now looking at opening some time in September, a little later than originally forecast, but delays are not uncommon with any construction project.

Getting oriented in the 10-tap tasting room: The far door on the right is the entrance; the dark door on the left, just off the bar, leads to the brewery area. Windows that look out on the brewhouse are behind the bar. (Photo courtesty of Spellbound Brewing)

]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Sat, 02 Aug 2014 14:13:19 +0000
Smoked Scottish ale 1st in bottles, 6-packs for Rinn Duin


Trinity Smoked Scottish 70 is Toms River brewery Rinn Duin’s first beer to go into 12-ounce bottles and six-packs.

Rinn Duin christened its bottling line last week with a run – 235 cases – of Trinity (4.0% ABV, 18 IBU) done over a couple of days. The startup brewery plans to bottle two more flagship brews, St. John’s Irish Red (4.9%, 20 IBU) and Sandpiper English Brown (5.1%, 23 IBU), beginning next week.

Rinn-Duin-Bottling-4“St. John's is in the fermenter now; (it) will be our second set of bottles. Sandpiper will be the last flagship, and our next seasonal, English Half-Wit, will be the first seasonal bottled,” says Jacqui Town, who opened Rinn Duin with her dad, Chip Town, last year.

Half-Wit is a wheat ale made with orange spice tea to give it an English slant. (Rinn Duin brews English and Irish-style ales.) Rinn Duin’s other seasonals are River Toms English IPA (6.8%, 55 IBU) and Pota Caifé (5.1%, 30 IBU), an Irish dry stout with coffee.


]]> (Jeff Linkous) News Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:29:57 +0000