Friday, March 9, 2012

Brewery takes name from Jersey shore town

A  Pennsylvania craft brewery in development pays homage to a New Jersey beach town.

Robert Zarko and his brother, Tom, are longtime summer vacationers on Long Beach Island.

Robert, who has taken the title head brewer, says their Ship Bottom Brewery will produce some big stouts, well-hopped pale ales and a hefeweizen.

Like so many before him, Robert, 43, a computer consultant, took the homebrewer arc to commercial craft brewing. He traces his start to 1995 and a homebrew kit given a tryout at his in-laws' oceanside home in Ship Bottom, Long Beach Island's gateway town (the Route 72 causeway over Barnegat Bay ends at Ship Bottom) and home to the world-renowned Ron Jon Surf Shop's founding location.

The Zarko brothers still spend summers on the island – Robert in Ship Bottom, Tom in Surf City, the next town north.

"I've been homebrewing for 15 years, and in the last two years, I decided to go with a business," Robert says. "I got a real push from family and friends, did some local events; people said they really loved the beers."

Some of the brews, like the sessional Shoobie Pale Ale and Beach Patrol Hefe (5.4% and 4.8% ABV, respectively), take their moniker from the familiar Jersey Shore lexicon; others, Barnacle Bottom Stout (8.7% ABV) for instance, are straight-up nautical in name. An imperial IPA, at 11.8% ABV, is the biggest beer in Ship Bottom's lineup, while a seasonal pumpkin ale (9.7% ABV) and a black IPA (9.2% ABV) aren't far behind.

"We do pretty much anything," Robert says. "We have 10 flagship beers, from double IPAs, pumpkin ales and hefeweizens."

Their brewery, based in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was founded in May 2011, and is in the process of obtaining licensing from federal and state regulators. Robert says he hopes to have that settled sometime this spring, barring any hitches. The Zarkos hope to enter the New Jersey and Delaware markets sometime after they're up and running in Pennsylvania.

In the meantime, like many a budding brewing enterprise, Robert and his brother have been working to create a buzz about their brand, doing meet-the-brewer events around their local bar scene.

Dilapidated house near Ship Bottom
Earlier this month, the two poured a brewer's reserve version (bacon and maple syrup) of Barnacle Bottom Stout  at the Philly Craft Beer Festival, plus a quadruple dry-hopped pale ale.

"I actually want to do a beer that pays tribute to the little house on Cedar Bonnet Island, the one that's falling down on the side of (Route 72). I just have to figure out a good name for that," Robert says. "I'm a big surfer, so I want to do some of the surf spots."

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