Thursday, March 15, 2012

Great Blue opts not to renew license

Another casualty among New Jersey's craft brewing enterprises.

Great Blue, a 2-barrel brewery on the Suydam Farm in Franklin Township, Somerset County, opted to let its licensing and bonding run out.

Ryck Suydam, one of the principals in the brewery that was licensed early last year, says the decision to idle the family-owned brewery resulted from not having a person available to run it.

"My son was my brewmaster, and he works for another brewer full time and just couldn't do both. I didn't have anybody in the wings, and I couldn't do it with my schedule," says Ryck, who also runs the 300-acre family farm and is a partner in Suydam Insurance Agency. "So, the brewery is in mothballs for the time-being. The entity still exists, but the license has non-renewed."

Known for wide range of produce and commodities, including eggs, pork, hay, vegetables, melons, berries and flowers, Suydam Farm also grows hops. Ryck says some hop varieties will be cultivated this growing season, but not to the degree of past years. (The farm has grown hops since the 1990s.)

"It's just not cost-effective compared to the other things we do grow on the farm," he says.

For craft brewery start-ups in New Jersey, 2011 was a hot year, with five brewing enterprises being licensed by state and federal regulators. Great Blue, named for the herons that feed at a pond on the farm, led the pack, getting licensed Feb. 28, 2011. (In chronological order, last year's class of new breweries goes like this: Great Blue, Cape May Brewing, Kane Brewing, Carton Brewing and Tuckahoe Brewing.)

With a brewhouse that once produced beers for the now-defunct Cedar Creek brewpub in Egg Harbor City, Great Blue had planned to target its beers made with its own Jersey-grown hops for markets near the farm, a take on the concept of farm to fork, in this case, farm to glass.

The brewery led off with a red ale nearly a year ago, a beer made as much to work out the brewing processes on its equipment as much as anything. But the matter of who would tend the kettle proved to be an early problem, and with all of the competing interests and time constraints of the owners, finding a brewer proved to be something that was not easily resolved.

Great Blue's exit/hiatus from the Garden State's craft brewing scene follows the shuttering of Port 44 Brew Pub in Newark, which closed last summer.

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