Monday, February 6, 2012

NJ Beer Co. to brew Abbey Brown for Boaks

Boaks Beer has cut a deal for New Jersey Beer Company to be its second contract brewing location, and founder Brian Boak says making beer at the Hudson County brewery is on pace to start toward the end of February.

"They have a deposit for the first batch of beer. The grain's been ordered, so I would expect in the next two weeks we're going to brew a batch of Abbey Brown," Brian said as he staffed his booth at the International Beer Expo in Secaucus on Saturday. (Brian is pictured fourth on the right.)

Matt Steinberg, founder of New Jersey Beer Company, says his North Bergen brewery will try out the arrangement and stay with it so long as it's mutually beneficial.

Headquartered in Pompton Lakes, the Boaks brand launched four years ago with High Point as its contract brewer, producing a Russian imperial stout, Monster Mash (10% ABV), and a lineup of Belgian-style ales, including Abbey Brown (7% ABV), and lately a specialized version of that beer, Wooden Beanie, which has been aged on vanilla beans in whiskey barrels. This year is forecast to add a new label to the lineup, Jan's Porter, a beer that was supposed to come to market last year.

New beers aside, the immediate goal is to deal with keeping the pipeline full and flowing. An order for 50 new sixtels is expected to to help free up some tank space and keep inventory moving.

Craft beer's surging popularity has left capacity at a premium for a lot of breweries, including High Point. Keeping up with demand under such circumstances has been a challenge. So imagine an at-capacity brewery with contract clients, and those contract clients likewise seeing a spike in demand for beer.

That's why Boaks, with the help of High Point, began shopping around many months ago for an additional brewer with capacity for hire. Even with New Jersey Beer Company taking on a Boaks brew, Brian says he's looking to line up a third contractor.

"There's two large breweries being built at the moment, both 50 barrel brewhouses, state-of-the-art facilities. I'm trying to get into one of them," he says. "One is Susquehanna Brewing Company. I have no arrangement with them or anything ... They said they've been inundated with contract brewing requests. If I can get in there, that would be wonderful because that would allow me to have enough production where I could actually make this a full-time venture."

All of this isn't being viewed as a sign that Boaks should be siting a brewery location and shifting its business model to a full production brewery. Brian prefers to keep Boaks a contract beer company and points to some big names in craft beer that have taken advantage of that route for much of their existence.

"I'm going to be the gypsy brewer," he says. "Look at Brooklyn Brewery. Look at Sam Adams. I don't think it's a bad model."

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