Thursday, January 20, 2011

Update: Kane Brewing moving along

Interior work progresses at Kane Brewing's site in Monmouth County.

Owner/founder Michael Kane is busy getting his 7,000-square-foot facility in Ocean Township ready for delivery of the brewhouse next month from Diversified Metal Engineering of Canada.

Sitting in a conference room adorned with blueprints and brewing-gear schematics on Wednesday, Kane took some time to provide an update on the Belgian-style and American ales brewery he's bringing to the New Jersey craft beer scene.

His site is just a bottle cap's throw from where Tom Baker built a cult following with Heavyweight Brewing, before Baker opted to pull up stakes five years ago and open Earth-Bread + Brewery brewpub in Philadelphia.

"Best-case scenario, middle of April; worst-case scenario, end of May," Kane says of his eponymous brewery's projected launch. "Delivery of the brewhouse should be middle of February, and then depending on what phase we are in building out the facility here – plumbing, electrical and steam – it will take a couple of weeks to get that installed and up and running. (We) should be in a position to start brewing the beginning of March."

For those anticipating another Jersey brewery, here's what you need to know: Kane brews will, at least initially, be draft-only in half barrels and sixtels, with self-distribution in Monmouth County and northern Ocean County, then points northward. However, with the Belgian styles, some bottle-conditioned brews packaged in 750-milliliter bottles are likely. You can also expect tours and the accompanying allowed samples.

A homebrewer turning commercial, Kane's vision of going pro began picking up some momentum late last year, after a planned site in Manasquan fell through. Undaunted by the setback, Kane pressed on and ended up signing a lease last August on the Ocean Township site tucked in an industrial park just west of Route 35.

Nearly six months later, he finds himself with plenty to do, besides an expected February installation the brewhouse, three accompanying 40-barrel fermenters, 40-barrel bright beer tank and 40-barrel hot liquor tank. There's also bringing a brewer on board, and of course, getting the green light from state and federal regulators, as well as having local officials give their blessing to the brewery, too.

On that last point, walking a trail blazed by Heavyweight offers some advantages (the Manasquan site was hampered by some misgivings on the part of locals about what goes on at breweries).

"The town was familiar with the process a little bit – what it is we'll be doing over here – so that helped out a little bit," says Kane, who counts himself among those who enjoyed Heavyweight brews like Perkuno's Hammer and Lunacy Golden Ale.

So would Kane like for Tom Baker to help christen his brewery with the first mash?

"We were down at his place about six months ago. It's a great restaurant, great beer. He's a great brewer, would love to have him come up if he's interested. He's welcome to come up here any time he wants," Kane says.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New deadline for Tun homebrew challenge

There's a deadline extension for the homebrew contest sponsored by the Tun Tavern brewpub and The Press of Atlantic City's At The Shore entertainment guide.

Homebrewers now have until Monday, Feb. 14 to drop off their entries at the Tun in Atlantic City.

Remember, the winner's circle includes a chance to scale up your recipe and brew it on the Tun's 10-barrel system under the guidance of brewer Tim Kelly, plus admission to the Atlantic City beer festival, April 1-2, at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The finished beer will be served at the festival and will be on tap at the Tun.

More details:

  • Entrants must submit six bottles of their homebrew (or the equivalent of 72 ounces).
  • All bottles must be clearly labeled with the homebrewer's contact information (name, phone number and email) and the style of beer.
  • Entries must be dropped off at the Tun Tavern by Feb. 14. (The Tun is located in same building as the Sheraton hotel, across from the convention center. The phone number is 609-347-7800)
  • Judging will take place Thursday, Feb. 17.

Cans, new brew & marketing for Hometown

Hometown Beverages, the company behind New Jersey Lager, will look to retool its marketing approach in the Garden State in 2011, as it begins its third year in the region's beer industry.

The Manasquan-based contract brewer entered the beer scene in late 2008 with a trio of state-named lighter lagers – New Jersey Lager, New York Lager and Pennsylvania Lager. The latter two have outpaced the brew named for the state that founders Bob Selsky and Chris Curylo call home.

But nurturing growth for New Jersey Lager is only part of the picture for Hometown, Selsky says. Plans call for packaging the company's flagship lagers in cans this year and introducing another brew to their lineup.

Possibly launching at the Atlantic City beer festival April 1-2, the new Hometown Lager will become the fifth label brewed by the Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based Lion Brewery for Hometown Beverage, which added Hometown Light to its flight of beers in 2009 and began canning that brew last fall for sale in 24-packs.

Hometown Lager will initially be available as a draft product and will keep to the company's business model of easy-drinking lagers that Selsky says are more defined by the shorthand session beer than any other modifier.

"We're not craft beer. We're not overbearing, with all the hops like some of those can be. There's a lot of flavor and you can drink a lot of ours," he says. "We're session beers."

Selsky expects the lagers that launched Hometown in '08 to go into cans this spring and sold in 24-packs like Hometown Light. The brews will still be available in bottle and draft. The attraction of cans, Selsky says, is they have a go-anywhere quality to them. They're lighter in weight, more portable by the case than bottles and easier to dispose of the empties.

With New Jersey Lager's distribution, the company ended its ties with its Garden State wholesalers over the last three months. Moving forward, Selsky says, Hometown wants to find a distributor more attuned to the company's marketing strategy of establishing a presence in package stores with smaller commitment of beer for the retailer, then Hometown following that up with sampling at those stores.

Selsky says he's sympathetic to wholesalers' inclination to throw more support behind core and top-selling brands. "That's what pays their salaries, their bonuses," he says. But that situation can come at the expense of smaller brands, he says.

Despite plans to retool New Jersey Lager's marketing, Hometown has had success getting its other labels out before the beer-drinking public, with company's brews, for example, being poured at the major sports venues in Philadelphia (Citizens Bank Park), Pittsburgh (Heinz Field, PNC Park) and New York (Citifield).

Getting into those places has come with a steady flow of consumer outreach, Selsky says. He and partner Curylo do a dozen or so events weekly and hit about 45 beer festivals in the tri-state region last year.

And there's plenty more to come this year, Selsky says.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cape May County brewery in the works

New Jersey's craft beer industry entered 2011 with four applications* for production brewer licenses pending before state regulators, among them a venture picking up some steam in Cape May County.

Ryan Krill, his father Robert Krill, and Chris Henke, a friend from Ryan's college days at Villanova University, say they're in the process of leasing a site in Lower Township for their Cape May Brewing Company, an enterprise they want to become a beer supplier in the South Jersey shore market and beyond.

"Our bread and butter is going to be local draft distribution," says Ryan. (Pictured from left to right: Robert, Ryan and Chris.)

Cape May, as a part of the business name, represents more than just a potential market. The region is also the shore destination that the three, as Pennsylvania residents, have a long had an association with. Coincidentally enough, their Pennsylvania haunts – West Chester, where the Krills hail from, and North Wales, where Chris has an address – are home to two Iron Hill brewpub locations. And for the record, Ryan now calls Avalon home.

Aside from being craft beer enthusiasts, the trio's passion for better beer is buoyed by their seven combined years involved in homebrewing, a typical springboard into commercial beer-making (the majority of the Garden State's craft brewers entered the business via this path). But their entrepreneurial sense rests upon 30 years in the pharmaceutical business for Robert, 65; work in finance for Ryan, 28; and engineering for Chris, also 28.

There's a "keener interest in craft beers. The quality is definitely better, and people are asking for local beers," says Robert.

Right now, the three are focused on the lease for their site adjacent to the Cape May County Airport (the property is owned by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which runs the Cape May-Lewes, Delaware, ferry and the airport). After that, they'll turn their attention to installing their brewing equipment and securing their federal and state licenses. (They hope to have an initial 10-gallon brewing set-up installed around April, and then a three-barrel system.)

The trio would like to see Cape May Brewing up and running by Memorial Day, but they're also realistic that much needs to happen beforehand. (An April opening is noted on their Web page, but they say that will most likely get pushed back.)

In the meantime, they're also pounding the pavement to establish accounts for Cape May Brewing Company, which could launch with an IPA (Jump the Jetty IPA is a working name), followed up with wheat beer that makes use of Jersey-grown cranberries, plus seasonal brews.

"We're taking our time. We're not running into the market. It's easy to talk about starting a brewery," Ryan says.

*More on the other three soon.