Monday, October 3, 2011

Turtle Stone projects December licensing

Craft beer's return to New Jersey's southwestern reaches looks to be entering a homestretch, as the planned Vineland-based brewery Turtle Stone Brewing expects to get its brewhouse set up this fall and potentially licensed to start making beer toward the end of the year.

If successful with that pace, Turtle Stone will become the third production brewer licensed in the Garden State this year (the others are Kane Brewing and Carton Brewing, both in Monmouth County); 2011, as a growth year, is on track to see the most craft brewers – seven – get the green light from regulators since 1996, when craft brewing was still getting established in New Jersey.

Turtle Stone founder Ben Battiata (that's Ben above on the right, talking to Mark Haynie of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News) took some time last week to talk about the progress with his brewery, the first in Cumberland County since Blue Collar Brewing ceased operations in Vineland seven years ago.

BSL: You had your 15-barrel brewhouse and fermenters in storage for a while. Where are they now?
BB: Right now they're in our brewery facility. The next step is getting our floor done and we'll be able to get the equipment set up ... I've got to do some electrical and plumbing work, set up my cold room, set up my tanks. Then we'll be set to go.

BSL: The regulators with the state, they're telling you early December?
BB: They've reassured us – as long as our equipment is set up to their satisfaction when they come out and do their inspections – we'll be approved by December.

BSL: You're so close you can taste it?
BB: I'm getting very anxious. It's really close.

BSL: You also redid the company logo ...
BB: We did. We ran a contest online through a graphic arts website. I think there was 120 different designs to choose from and we did select a design. It actually turned out nice. I like it a lot and we got a lot of good feedback on it.

BSL: Has anything changed with the beers that you want to enter the market with?
BB: Not really. We still want to go with the jasmine green tea blond (ale), and we still want to do the American stout. They're probably going to be the two first beers we put out there. I'd like to work in a winter seasonal beer; that's in the works right now. One of the first seasonals, or specialty beers, we're going to do is – Vineland is considered the dandelion capital of the world – so we're going to make a saison using dandelions and lemongrass. It's going to be like a nice spring seasonal beer.

BSL: You're a big supporter of locally produced commodities. What are your thoughts on that, and who out there in the wider world that is your neighborhood of South Jersey can assist you with that?
BB: Being located in South Jersey, we have quite a bit of farmers just in the town we're in alone. I know a lot of beekeepers. Our honey jasmine green tea beer is going to use local honey. If I could get any other locally grown products to put into that I will. It's difficult to get as much barley that we need locally, so I don't know if that's going to be the case. With the dandelion beer, I have some growers right now who are going to grow the dandelions for me for that particular beer.

BSL: Besides the honey and dandelions, what are some other possible commodities?
BB: What I plan on doing for our fall beer, rather than a pumpkin ale, as an alternative, we plan to use local sweet potatoes, maple syrup and some additional spices. It's actually based on a sweet potato casserole recipe that I make every year. So I'm making a liquid version of that.

BSL: You're raising money, via a website, for packaging equipment. The $30,000 goal isn't a deal breaker, is it?
BB: No, no. The Kickerstarter thing is a campaign we decided to do. It's based on more creative-minded ideas. We actually had to apply and get approved – our idea actually had to get approved by this particular company. It's money to assist towards probably our bottling system. Initially we're going to start with kegging. But the money itself is going help to purchase our packaging equipment, which we've yet to purchase.

BSL: Have you looked into getting financial assistance through that program backed by Boston Beer?
BB: We did actually look into it. Our county is too far south. They do actually approve certain areas of New Jersey (where) they will process these loans. For us, we're too far south.

BSL: These days, no one gets into the craft brewing game without doing some serious back-channel work – outreach to places like bars, the places that can push the product. How have you networked?
BB: Our area is a little deprived of craft beer (bars). We're going to push the local idea. That's actually good enough for a lot of these bars that don't really carry craft beers. They want to carry something that people have some connection to, whether it's the town that they live in that the beer's coming from, or the neighboring town. That's something that I think is going to help us a lot. Everybody is welcoming to the idea. We've gotten such good reception.

As long as we've been planning this – which has been over five years at least – a lot of people have been anticipating, have been waiting, so there's also that aspect. I think once we're out in the market, they're going to be jumping for it.

No comments: