New Jersey Craft Beer = Jobs, Tax Revenue, Tourism $, Community Involvement, Everyone Wins!!

Brewing up a comeback

Vineland, Cape May among the locales seeking to satisfy cravings for craft beer

Growlers on sale are displayed at Cape May Brewing Company.

Becky Pedersen and Ben Battiata hope to start distributing their beer at local businesses by the end of March. Their business, Turtle Stone Brewing Company, is located at 1940 S. West Blvd., Vineland.

Becky Pedersen and Ben Battiata hope to start distributing their beer at local businesses by the end of March. Their business, Turtle Stone Brewing Company, is located at 1940 S. West Blvd., Vineland. /

FOR MORE INFO

Cape May Brewing Co. (Tours, tastings and growler fills on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.); 1288 Hornet Road, Cape May. Website: capemaybrewery.com
Tuckahoe Brewing Co., 9 Stoney Court, Ocean View. Phone: (609)827-5375. Website: tuckahoebrewing.com.
Turtle Stone Brewing Co., 1940 SW Blvd., Vineland. Website: turtlestonebrewery.com
Pinelands Brewing Co. Website: pinelandsbrewing.com

Talk about facing a good problem: five months after opening last July, Cape May Brewing Company exceeded its production capacity.

Owners pooled their remaining resources to buy more equipment for their tiny Cape May Airport brewery then started churning out as much beer as their new 1.5-barrel system (1 barrel = 31 gallons) could handle. It’s now eight weeks later and they’re pushing up against their limits yet again.

“We started small so we could dip our toe in the water and see if there was a demand for a microbrewery in Cape May. We were surprised that one wasn’t there already so we decided to build our own,” says co-owner Ryan Krill. “It turns out there is a huge demand for it.”

“Huge demand?” File that in the category of “huge understatement.”

For the first time in modern history, the number of South Jersey beer drinkers clamoring for high-quality, flavorful beer is reaching a critical mass, and batches of young brewers are rising up state-wide to satiate those desires in quantities not seen in more than a century.

“The growth of the N.J. craft beer scene has been meteoric in the last year,” says Mark Haynie, who covers New Jersey for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. “The paucity of breweries in the southern end of the state has begun to reverse itself. Breweries are beginning to popup throughout the region and are drawing residents into the craft beer fold.”

Cape May is the first production brewery to open in South Jersey in more than a decade. Three more are under construction or in the late stages of the approval process.

These endeavors – Tuckahoe Brewing in Upper Township, Turtle Stone Brewing in Vineland, and Pinelands Brewing in Belleplain – are starting small.

Vineland’s Turtle Stone will brew the most of the four on a 15-barrel system, while Pinelands will produce the least on a one-barrel system. Co-owner Turtle Stone’s co-owner Becky Pedersen said they hope to begin distributing their beer in local stores by the end of March.

Despite their diminutive output, their impact is already being felt — before three of them have officially brewed a drop.

“More localized distribution of beer has been trending recently, and the trend makes people more excited to travel around and explore the scene,” says Mike Kivowitz, founder of NewJerseyCraftBeer.com. “People are eager and excited to see what the new crop of New Jersey brewers are producing, and the bars, restaurants and beer stores are excited to sell it to their customers.”

Case in point, Cape May Brewing’s inaugural India Pale Ale, Stout and wheat beers are in rotation at SeaSalt restaurant and Cabana’s Beach Bar and Grill, both in Cape May, and at the on-site tasting room that opened last month. Tuckahoe’s DC Pale Ale will go on taps at Yesterday’s in Marmora, The Tuckahoe Inn in Beesley’s Point, The Buck Tavern in Corbin City, and Levari’s in Petersburg by mid-January, with additional plans to hit the taps at the Whitebrier in Avalon by spring. 22-ounce bottles will be sold at Gleeson’s Liquors in Dennis Township and at Yesterday’s package goods store. TurtleStone has an agreement to sell its products and brew a house beer at The Oar House in Millville, even though it won’t sell its first keg until spring at the earliest. Pinelands, which is still waiting on approvals and is hoping to be operating by summer, isn’t ready to talk publicly about distribution.

Local sourcing of ingredients, local production, and local distribution – it all feeds and feeds into the locavore ethos that propels this generation of brewers to support their communities in tangible and imaginative ways.

Not only are their endeavors minimizing the carbon emissions generated when beer is trucked or shipped across nations or oceans, they’re stimulating the economy by cultivating jobs and agri-tourism. (Officials and business owners at and around the Cape May Airport have publicly thanked Cape May Brewing’s owners for the activity at their tasting room, and TurtleStone is among the businesses helping to advance a Renaissance in Vineland.)

What’s more, these fledgling breweries are establishing new channels for charities and revenue streams for suppliers.

For example, Cape May sponsored a cycling team for the 2011 MS City-to-Shore ride; Turtle Stone’s Ben Battiata and Pedersen are closely tied into fundraising efforts for Vineland’s Landis Theater, and Tuckahoe’s owners will be donating all profits from their TBC Coffee Stout to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. They’ll buy the coffee beans at Harry and Beans in Dennis Township, and they’ll buy most of their annual supply of barley from local farmers, even though they don’t have anywhere to roast the malt in a region whose ancillary brewing businesses haven’t yet caught up with the breweries that require their services.

“Our intention is to provide … a product that the people in South Jersey can identify with and be proud of,” says Tuckahoe’s Tim Hanna, who’s decorating his tasting room with artwork that depicts the state’s southern coastline.

It hasn’t always been this way. New Jersey has lagged behind as craft brewing has turned states like Pennsylvania, Colorado and Michigan into hot destinations for beer tourism. But the progress is now measurable and stunning, as the Garden State finally starts to realize the wealth of its assets.

Jeff Linkous,  credits higher profit margins for craft’s sudden widespread placement. This burgeoning supply correlates with the growing number of people willing to pay more for beer that’s artisanally brewed, especially among the younger generation that grew up drinking imports instead of the cheap domestics their father or grandfather stocked in the garage fridge.

“That factor is driving the market for craft beer, driving it hard. I’ve seen plenty of people who fall into those age groups (21-30) doing the “thousand beer stare” at bars and package goods stores, trying to make a decision,” says Linkous.

This demographic has also grown up with homebrewing, legalized in 1978, which offers the opportunity for brewing aficionados to privately develop recipes and make mistakes before acquiring enough skill to enter the big league of commercial brewing. It’s homebrewers who are behind each of the new South Jersey breweries; thanks to rising demand and easier financing from Trenton, they’re finding now to be the time to catapult their scientific and artistic hobby to the next level.

“I’d compare a small craft brewery to a boutique bakery, always with fresh products and fresh ideas,” says Battiata, who started brewing at home 12 years ago.

 

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