Reporting on NJ Breweries Since 2007
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The first-ever American Homebrewers Association rally to be held in New Jersey drew a healthy crowd to Flying Fish Brewing Sunday for a membership-drive mixer over craft beers, brewhouse tours and hobby banter.

Coming on the heels of the AHA’s annual national conference, at which a couple of Garden State homebrewers claimed prize medals, the rally served as a way to keep the drumbeat going for the growing hobby and the beer camaraderie it inspires.

Homebrewer-Rally3The crowd pulled predominantly from the South Jersey and Southeast Pennsylvania areas. But that’s something you would expect, given Flying Fish’s host town, Somerdale, is a Philly ’burb.

Nonetheless, the event was an opportunity for members of homebrew clubs from around the region to meet, catch up, and for those who went, to share tales from Mashing in Michigan, the 36th Annual National Homebrewers Conference, held the the weekend prior in Grand Rapids.

But there’s another takeaway from the rally: New Jersey’s craft beer profile gets a boost, a bit of recognition. The AHA is part of the Brewers Association’s extended family, so the Garden State enjoys a moment on the radar of the folks who champion craft brewing on the pro and amateur levels.

And that’s a good thing.

Congrats to Jim Fish of Brooklawn (pictured above), a Barley Legal Homebrewers Club member whose Flanders red took a first place in the sour ale category at NHC, and Doug Bellingeri, who won a second place in the German wheat and rye category.


Carton Brewing’s hoppy session ale, Boat, has a first mate – and a passenger.

The Monmouth County craft brewer last week added its signature double IPA, 077XX, and its mulberry-infused sour seasonal, Monkey Chased the Weasel, to its lineup of canned beers.

O-Dub (the zero, plus double 7s, a nod to the brewery’s postal ZIP code), the brewery’s shorthand for its 2X India pale ale, and Monkey Chased the Weasel (3.9% ABV) were packaged in pint-can four-packs last Friday and put on sale in the brewery’s tasting room over the weekend. (Check with the brewery for availability. Learn the story behind Monkey Chased the Weasel.)

Monkey-WeaselBoat Can8Carton launched in 2011 with Boat session ale (4.2% ABV) and 077XX (7.8%) as draft-only beers; last summer the brewery canned Boat, becoming New Jersey’s first craft beer-maker to package in cans. 

Both brewers and consumers are still big on craft beer in cans. A lot of brewers have embraced canning as a better option for preserving the beer from staling. Beer drinkers like them because their ease of handling and recycling.

Even when there was nothing but a homebrew pilot rig in their building in Atlantic Highlands, the folks at Carton Brewing noted their plans included canning beers under their brand. Cans are a good fit, says co-owner Augie Carton, for a brewery that is managing growth while continuing to brew a diversified portfolio of beers.

“Cans are good for beer; they’re just better for beer,” Augie tells Beer-Stained Letter. “We’re trying to figure out some ways to make some bottles … some things you would want to oxidize, things we’re designing to age. Right now we’re making things we want to deteriorate as slowly as possible, and cans preserve that creation.”


Wednesday, 11 June 2014 17:34

Ramstein's summer bock returns for 2014

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High Point Brewing is bringing its Ramstein summer bock back around for a fourth year.

The 7% ABV, draft-only beer goes on tap at the Butler brewery’s tasting room on Saturday.

It’s a limited-run beer; only a single 30-barrel tank was brewed of what High Point owner Greg Zaccardi describes as “a juicy, supercharged blonde bock.”

The beer has its roots in Ramstein Double Platinum Blonde, High Point’s ramped-up 7% hefeweizen. Some production constraints forced some brew-day changes, and the summer bock was born. It’s now brewed from an almost entirely pilsner and vienna malt bill, with a dash of wheat.

The beer quickly found favor among the brewery’s followers.

“I think it’s a delicious representation of the style, with our own little spin on it,” Greg tells Beer-Stained Letter. “When we did it the first time, we didn’t know what to expect … The great advantage of having a (tasting room) bar is people come in and tell you right away. They may flatter you with words, but he truth is really shown in their purchase habits.”

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 13:58

Bolero Snort announces summer wheat, Grazer

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BSB-PR-Grazer1Bolero Snort’s Mosaic dry-hopped summer wheat beer hits the market on Friday.

The 4.2% ABV beer, called Grazer, joins Bolero’s lineup behind the release of the Bergen County beer company’s Irish stout seasonal, Lucky Buck (4.0%), and a session IPA, dubbed Longhop (4.2%). (Bolero's beers are brewed for them by High Point Brewing in Butler.)

Lucky Buck and Longhop came out in late winter and early early spring in 16-ounce cans. Grazer is going into 12-ounce-bottle four-packs, and of course, draft.

Co-owner Andrew Maiorana talks about the new Bolero seasonal in this video from last month’s Garden State Brew Fest. 



After a parade of stainless steel-laden trucks to Spellbound Brewing’s loading dock, the next delivery truck to pull up will most likely be loaded with malt and hops, yet another signal of “beer soon” from the Mount Holly craft brewery.

On Wednesday, a canning line was offloaded at Spellbound, the last of the equipment that co-owners John Companick, Mike Oliver and Scott Reading acquired to outfit their production brewery.

“All the equipment we need is in the building,” John tells Beer-Stained Letter.  “It’s nice seeing it here, knowing that we don’t have to wait for another (equipment) truck to back up. The next truck that backs up is going to have our ingredients.”

On Wednesday evening, the Cask ACS line, capable of putting up 30 cans a minute, sat freshly uncrated, waiting to be tucked into its spot in the brewery floor plan. 

Spellbound-BrewhouseThe canner and depalletizer arrived a couple weeks after Spellbound’s 20-barrel brewhouse was forklifted piece by piece off a flatbed trailer; in weeks prior, it was the brewery’s fermenters.

There’s still some crucial work ahead, i.e. electrical work and completing the coldboxes. But the finish line is very close, John says, and a summer opening with eight to 10 taps in the tasting room is within reach.

“Right now, we’re just working on finishing up the electrical, getting the permits; same thing with the plumbing,” John says. “Then we're down to getting our certificate of occupancy, getting our OK from the state after inspection, and then we’re ready to go.”

When that happens, Spellbound will become the second Mount Holly craft brewery to open its doors. Village Idiot Brewing opened late last year just three miles away along High Street, the main thoroughfare through the town, the county seat of Burlington County.



Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing has released an image of their completed 30-barrel brewhouse.

In an email to people who signed up with the brewery’s member-benefits group, called the “Refuge Society Club,” Forgotten Boardwalk also indicated the brewhouse equipment has been tested and the only thing standing in the way of making beer – so far an IPA and Belgian wit have been announced – is a licensing inspection by state regulators. The brewery indicated it did not have a date for inspection.

Forgotten Boardwalk's email provided no other details. 

Among New Jersey growing number of start-up breweries, Forgotten Boardwalk is probably best known for taking over the Cherry Hill business park space where Flying Fish, now New Jersey's largest craft brewery, began making beer in 1996. Flying Fish moved 10 miles south to much larger space in Somerdale two years ago. 


Spellbound Brewing enters a homestretch with its buildout. The Mount Holly brewery on Thursday took delivery of its 20-barrel brewhouse and some other equipment. Owners John Companick, Mike Oliver (that’s Mike operating the forklift in the video) and Scott Reading have been forecasting a late June-early July launch. Thursday’s equipment arrival helps keep that objective in sight. 
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 19:42

VIDEO: Garden State Brewfest-2014

Some scenes from the 2014 Garden State Brewfest held in Berkeley Heights (May 10). This year marked the third time out for the festival. Video by Beer-Stained Letter.

It looks like the Golden Urinal will be staying in New Jersey.

South Jersey’s Barley Legal Homebrewers club, one of the largest, if not THE largest, organized homebrew club in the Garden State, took home the Golden Urinal beer tap following last year’s annual National Homebrewers Conference, held in June in the club’s back yard of Philadelphia (the club meets every first Tuesday of the month at Iron Hill brewpub’s Maple Shade location).

The award used to be given to the club that brought the most kegs of homebrew to the national conference. When Barley Legal’s 80 or so members showed up at the 2013 conference with more than 130 kegs, Pissoir d’Or, as the Golden Urinal is also known, became the club’s to keep.

The American Homebrewers Association decided, after bestowing the urinal/tap upon Barley Legal, to end the annual practice, club President Evan Fritz tells Beer-Stained Letter.

Evan took some time out from the Barley Legal crowd’s observance of Big Brew last Saturday (May 3rd) to talk about the award on camera.

Barley Legal is a juggernaut of a homebrew club: Two of its members just went pro by opening Village Idiot Brewing in Mount Holly, and the guys behind Spellbound Brewing, also in Mount Holly, are club alums.

This isn’t the first time the AHA has changed course (coincidentally, perhaps) after the South Jersey homebrewers notched a win in an AHA event.

Three years ago, the club’s entry in the AHA’s Big Brew video contest won most-viewed, a victory that followed a 2010 AHA video contest win by the club (disclosure: Barley Legal’s video entries were shot and edited by Beer-Stained Letter).

When Big Brew 2012 rolled around, the AHA scrapped the 4-year-old video contest, without giving a reason on its website. (Via email to Beer-Stained Letter, the AHA said it had opted to try other ancillary homebrewer events for Big Brew.)


Spellbound-Tanks 2Some key pieces of the puzzle begin falling into place at Spellbound Brewing.

The 40-barrel fermenter and brite tanks arrived Monday at the Mount Holly brewery, where they were promptly set upright on the freshly finished floors of the brewing area.

Spellbound also took delivery of its chiller on Monday.

More equipment is on the way, namely the 20-barrel brewhouse; that’s due in a week. The company is still on track for brewing to begin around June-July, says John Companick, who co-founded Spellbound with Mike Oliver and Scott Reading.

Spellbound-Tanks 3


A peek at the goings on at Little Dog Brewing: a key milestone is passed and preliminary work goes on in the building.

The Neptune City brewery got the green light from federal regulators last week. The sign-off by the federal Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau comes as Little Dog is in the early phase of a buildout in the Steiner Avenue site that was last home to a coin laundry many years ago.

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