Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turtles, South Jersey and beer

Across deepest South Jersey, there are only three commercial breweries. Two of them are brewpubs – the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City and Iron Hill in Maple Shade – while the third is production brewer Flying Fish in Cherry Hill.

Ben Battiata and Becky Pedersen are toiling to boost those ranks to four with Turtle Stone Brewing Company in Vineland, in Cumberland County. A 10-year homebrewer turning pro, Ben took the Siebel brewing sciences course in 2007 and represents the mash tun side of the business; Becky tends the business side. (FYI: The photos are courtesy of their Facebook page.)

A guy who likes to talk beer and has been nurturing this brewery idea since 2006, Ben took some time on Friday to update Turtle Stone's progress toward a projected 2010 opening of what will be a production brewery.

His description of where things stand is not unlike an airport with aircraft circling, waiting for a place to land. The planes: a used brewhouse he and Becky were able to acquire sits in Oregon, while the companion equipment – six fermenters and tanks – are being stored locally until they have a definitive place to touch down. The equipment came from a now-shuttered Rock Bottom brewpub in Braintree, Mass.

The landing strip: Vineland's industrial park, off Route 55. Ben says they have their eyes on a 6,000-square-foot unit there, while another unit in the park that's two-thirds the size is their fallback option.

The focus for this month is getting the keys to one of those units (they prefer the larger one). Not to oversimplify (after all, there is licensing and other regulatory details to be addressed), but once that's done, you'll see a brewery coming together. Ben says a spring 2010 debut is optimistic, but still quite doable.

The beers
If the dominoes keep falling into place correctly, you'll likely see Turtle Stone building its beer foundation with a stout (6% ABV) done up the American way (a little hoppier at 70 IBUs, and not finishing dry), backed with a honey blonde ale accentuated with green tea and jasmine flowers.

The name
Don't think animals, think indigenous tribes of North America. In American Indian lore, turtles were symbolic of the earth, of land and shelter. Still, it's hard to overlook the menagerie represented in New Jersey's craft brewing industry: Fish (Flying ones), hippos (River Horse), crickets (Cricket Hill – despite the sport of cricket connection, they use a cricket in the logo), and now turtles.

The town
Amid the craft brewing industry's rise in New Jersey, Vineland was home to Blue Collar Brewing, founded in 1999. Blue Collar went out of business not too deep into this decade (after about five years of operation).

Historically speaking, Vineland is somewhat of an ironic choice for a brewery, whose product runs counter to a tenet held by the city's founder, Charles Landis.

Landis, a lawyer turned land baron, snapped up 20,000 acres near Millville in the mid-19th century with the notion of creating a town in his vision. As such, the sale of beer, wine and spirits was banned within the boundaries of his planned settlement.

Also, the name Vineland comes from grapes. The soil was suitable for vineyards, except given Landis' disdain for ethyl alcohol, the grapes weren't pressed for wine, but juiced à la Welch's.
Landis is also notable for founding Sea Isle City in Cape May County and infamous for shooting a newspaper editor in the head, mortally wounding him, and walking on a verdict of temporary insanity. Oddly enough, the newspaper had published articles questioning the sanity of Landis' wife, not his.

1 comment:

John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

I can't wait until these guys open next year. This is very cool news! - John