Thursday, May 10, 2007

Moves at the Tun

A changing of the guard’s on tap at the Tun Tavern brewpub in Atlantic City.

Brewmaster Ted Briggs is heading to Lake Placid Pub & Brewery in the Adirondacks. (Flagship beer: Ubu Ale, an English style strong ale that found favor in the Clinton White House; Bubba liked the brew and had some sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Lake Placid was also crowned best craft beer in the Hudson Valley at the Tap New York festival last month, winning the FX Matt and Matthew Vassar Cups.)


Ted grew up in Michigan and is an outdoorsman. So hunting and fishing in the scenic mountains of upstate New York will be like returning to his roots. His last day is May 15th. Swing by the Tun, have a beer and toast his years of hard work as he hands the mash rake to Tim Kelly, the No. 2 brewer at Flying Fish in Cherry Hill, who’s getting a chance to captain a ship.

Tim takes over May 21st, with the Tun’s hefeweizen as his first beer. And yes, our recommendation is to pop in when the wheat’s neat and inaugurate Tim’s tenure at running the Tun’s 10-barrel, one-person operation, a system he’s familiar with after filling in last year when Ted was sidelined with a knee injury. (The Tun brews about 550 barrels a year.)

“I hope to hit the ground running," Tim says. He notes it's been a year since he's worked on the Tun's system and he'll filter beer his first day on duty.

Incidentally, like Tim, Ted is also an alumnus of Flying Fish (not to mention his stints at brewhouses in Manayunk, Pa., and Michigan), and both he and Tim sharpened their brewing skills first as homebrewers, then through the American Brewers Guild program.

On Thursday, Tun CEO Monty Dahm gave some props to Ted’s service, and looked ahead to Tim’s turn. The Tun’s a brand that has earned its place with “the quality of the beer and we complement that with our food,” he says.

The brewpub’s also evolving, Monty says, with local clientele, tourists, crowds from the nearby convention center and a new shopping district that gives Atlantic City another attraction besides the casinos.

Seven year itch

After 6 1/2 years at the Tun, Ted put his stamp on the brewpub with a great crop of specialty beers and seasonals, plus regularly featured beers like Sterling ESB, American IPA, Leatherneck Stout and Devil Dog Pale Ale (the Tun’s heritage is the U.S. Marine Corps; hence the Semper Fi styling in some of the beer names). To drink at the Tun is to browse Ted’s recipe book.

So he leaves behind a respected body of work. And his decision to move on is about the wider opportunity at Lake Placid, where he'll be one of two brewers.

It goes something like this: Lake Placid started as brewpub before branching out with a production brewery -- Lake Placid Craft Brewing Company in Plattsburgh, N.Y. -- that added bottled beer to its product lineup behind a healthy boost in brewing capacity.

Having both production and pub breweries under one banner is something you can’t do in New Jersey, since the law limits your brewing operation to one or the other. (That never-the-twain-shall-meet restriction is high on the list of dumb-ass beer industry regulations in the Garden State. Sigh.)

But there’s more.

Lake Placid has a reciprocal brewing agreement with Matt Brewing Company in Utica (widely known for its Saranac line of beers). Under the deal, Lake Placid provides pilot brewery services for Matt, which in turn offers some extra capacity for Lake Placid as a contract brewer. Observant drinkers of Flying Fish’s Farmhouse Summer Ale will recognize Matt Brewing as the contract brewer of the Fish’s April-through-August seasonal.

And speaking of Flying Fish, it’s been home to Tim Kelly for the past two years, a place where he worked his way up from the bottling line and cellarman to a spot as assistant brewer behind Casey Hughes.

“It’s quite a privilege to be mentored by Casey and Ted ...” Tim says.

That Tim will be leaving the comforts of the Fish comes unexpectedly and with some sadness, he says. But, proverbially, opportunity knocked with an offer that well serves Tim's ambition -- to have his own brewpub some day.

Arrivals and departures

Tim will pick up where Ted leaves off, initially relying on his predecessor’s recipes but tossing in some of his own beer interpretations soon. (In Tim’s file are his take on doppelbock, English mild, and he’s interested in trying out a tropical wheat beer jazzed up with passion fruit.) Tim also plans to take the Tun's beers on the road, hitting more of the festivals in the region.

(Note: The timing of the transition at the Tun could put a question mark on the brewpub’s appearance at the Garden State Craft Brewers Festival next month. Keep your fingers crossed that the Tun can hustle and make the June 23rd event.)

The Big 1-0

Tim also inherits a big (15% ABV) Belgian ale that Ted brewed to mark the Tun’s 10th anniversary next year. The outgoing and incoming brewers on Wednesday sampled the beer, which still needs some finishing. That process could include dosing it with some active Belgian ale yeast to get the job done. Early ideas for the beer call for it to be racked into 750ml bottles, then corked and capped.

So stay tuned.