Thursday, March 21, 2013

Have a taste for tours? Growlers, too?

Touring the brewery is a big part of craft beer culture; it has been from the start.

Thanks to the law changes in New Jersey, the tasting room is poised to become a breakout star for production brewers, much bigger than it had been in years past. Those brewers can now do more to receive their tour guests.

Think back, if you were old enough to drink then, to the bad old days of getting only a tiny sample pour and being told you could buy just two six-packs or a couple of growlers, and that was it.

It sucked, really.

Defied logic, too.

Was positively Jurassic.

Last fall, Trenton finally understood the point its craft beer industry had been making for years: It's time to join reality. Catch up to modern times. We're all adults here. (If you think the Garden State had some less-than-reasonable rules, take a look at Mississippi. It just finally made homebrewing legal. Not that that's a reason to move there.)

Now up and down New Jersey, production breweries are either refining their tasting room practices to better serve tour patrons or remodeling, adding some creature comforts (i.e. a place to sit for a few) or some swanky-looking bars to park a pint on and talk, or decide on a growler purchase and maybe some swag.

Life's good, and now you have more reasons to support your local breweries.


Polls are sort of passé, but what the hell? Here are a couple:

How frequently do you visit your favorite brewery's tasting room? free polls 

Growlers, growlers, growlers ... a staple of the brewery tour for some time now. When you visit, how many do you take home free polls 

Recipe trials at under-construction Blackthorn

General layout of Blackthorn

View through the taproom

Jason Goldstein puts the Tippy through some paces to work out the recipe for a brown ale that will be part of the ale lineup at Blackthorn Brewing in Toms River. In the bottom right photo Jason and Blackthorn owner Chip Town transfer a Scottish ale into a cornie keg to free up fermenter space for the brown. The Scottish ale and a blonde ale went through some recipe proving earlier this month.

Other Blackthorn news: The 25-barrel brewhouse is expected in about six weeks. Walls in the tasting room are up and more interior work is taking place.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shooting the bull with the Bolero Snort guys

Andrew offloads kegs
An annoying late-winter snow fell as Bob Olson and Andrew Maiorana rolled into High Point Brewing last Saturday with a load of empty half barrels, sixtels and 180 empty case boxes stacked five high in the rear of a box truck. 

After backing up to a loading bay, the two made quick work of their cargo, dropping off the empty kegs for a recharge at High Point, the Jersey craft brewery known for its flight of Ramstein beers. 

Bob and Andrew hired the Butler brewery to make their Bolero Snort beers while they scout a location for their own brewery and raise the money to pay for it. 

"It's fun trying to juggle the inventory, having two brands and only one tank to put it in," says Bob, standing far inside the brewery, beside a pallet now stacked with the empty case boxes.

Born from a 2010 partnership, Bolero Snort began brewing a High Point back in January, putting the beer in a fermenter installed to facilitate the contract brewing.

It's been about a month since Bolero Snort hit New Jersey's craft beer taps with a sessionable amber lager, Ragin' Bull (5% ABV), and the style-flouting, black IPA-cum-hoppy black lager, Blackhorn (6.5% ABV). The beers were initially previewed around mid-February, then were officially unveiled at a series of launch events across pockets of North Jersey that Bolero Snort has staked out for its distribution. 

Case boxes on the truck
Bob with a case box stack
This week, Bolero takes another step in the Garden State craft beer scene, with an inaugural bottling run of Blackhorn that will give the Bergen County company a presence in the take-home beer market to backstop the draft business that Bob, a construction consultant, and Andrew, a CPA, have been working in the margins of their day jobs.

The two took some time to talk about life up to now in the craft beer business and where they hope to go.

BSL: You launched at the end of February. How did things go with the rollout of Ragin' Bull and Blackhorn?

BO: It didn't kill us (laughs). It was a lot of fun. Turnout was just as good, if not better, than we expected. Each of the different bars were popping kegs pretty much every night. That was really fun, when you see it sputter. Fortunately, we brought backups to most of the nights, so if they underestimated, we were prepared for it.

Friday night, driving out to the event at The Shepherd & The Knucklehead (in Haledon), we were like "Why did we do five nights in a row of this?" But once you get in and start talking to people about the beer, it wakes you up a little bit.

BSL: And before that, you did a soft opening ...

BO: Andy's (Corner Bar) in Bogota got the beer a week ahead of the launch just because if our truck doesn't work again, we can literally carry the kegs to that place. 

BSL: So how did that go?

BO: It was a little nerve-wracking doing that because if people didn't receive it well, we might have undercut our entire launch week. They got 'em and hooked 'em up on a Tuesday night, and by Thursday and Friday they were gone. So it was a good way to start; those initial reactions were positive so it gave us a little more confidence that going into launch week that we'd be doing all right.

BSL: Talk a little about how, with limited resources as they are, you were able to get both beers ready for the launch. 

BO: We have the 30-barrel fermenter here. We brewed the Ragin' Bull into that, and then Greg (High Point owner Greg Zaccardi) let us use one of his 15's so that we could launch the two simultaneously. 

BSL: And going forward? 

BO: They're scheduled to brew the Ragin' Bull again on April 2, so we're rolling. 

AM: We'll have bottles available Saturday (March 23rd). It will be our first delivery of bottles. 

Carrying the empties into High Point
BO: Thursay (March 21st) they bottle it. We'll pick it up Saturday ...

AM: There's three or four local beer stores that will get them. 

BSL: Let's go back to January for a moment. What was it like for the first brew?

BO: We came up two weeks in a row for the Ragin' Bull first, and then the first brew of the Blackhorn, which they, I think, were really excited about. High Point does a lot of very traditional beers. The American black lager is definitely pushing the envelope for what they're used to here. So it was fun seeing how excited they got helping us brew it.

BSL: As homebrewers, you guys had a wide portfolio, reflecting a lot of creativity. Now with two beers in the market, and the process by which you do things, how do you stir some of that creativity into market presence?

AM: What we're doing is, we're adulterating some of the flagship versions with our one-off type spins that we would normally do. Whereas if we would brew a coffee beer, now we're just doing the Blackhorn with coffee or the Ragin' Bull with hazelnut, or something that's interesting for a specific night, like we did for the launch week. We had a special cask for each of the events that had something unique that we did to it that probably won't be available on a mass scale for a while.

You can't really produce more than your single styles that you're going to launch with in the market, because it's available once every 30 days and you're producing a thousand gallons at a time; it's also a big risk. On the homebrew scale we were able to experiment a lot more, but I think you will see more of that to come. 

BSL: As we get closer to warmer weather, do you see any flexibility to accommodate a seasonal, perhaps managing a third beer in there?

BO: I think what's more realistic is, as we expand our capacity – either adding another tank here or looking to expand production elsewhere – you'll see that. If we can get a second tank in here by the end of the summer, then we'll have what will eventually become a flagship, but it's just an easy-drinking sessionable porter that will be more of like a fall/winter seasonal the first time around. Then the fourth flagship is a rye beer, very basic, very easy-drinking, smooth ... The rye gives it a lot of character so that a craft enthusiast can really enjoy it, but the Bud Light drinkers of the world could pick it up and just crush through it on a warm summer day. 

You might see those introduced this fall and this spring, but it's going to depend on the demand of the initial two. We're not going to introduce new beers if we can't keep up with the production of the first two we have. 

Bolero Snort sixtels 
BSL: Even before your launch, you guys had a little bit of a fan following as homebrewers; there was some chatter about Bolero Snort. To now be able to answer that with beers in the market now, talk a little about that feeling, that satisfaction.

BO: I don't know if the full reality has set in, a least for me. I guess it's fun, although not much fun having to pay for our beers when we walk into a bar (laughs). But, you know, it was a long time coming. We had illusions very early on as to how long it would take. Once we really sat down and hammered out a plan, we got our federal approval in a week and a half last January (2012), got our state stuff (turned) in the beginning of March, and that just languished on and on and on. 

We got it in in March, and we're like, OK, three, maybe six months, end of the summer, beginning of the fall at the latest. It took until Dec. 17th to get licensed.

BSL: And you're licensed as a beer company, a distributor?

BO: The way it works in this state is, to contract brew you're licensed as a distributor. But the only beer we're distributing is ours. Our beer is brewed exclusively for us.

BSL: The same thing as Boaks, also brewed here at High Point, and Beach Haus (brewed by Genesee) ...

BO: For us, contracting was just kind of a way to grow that following we started as homebrewers, establish the brand in the market, build the name a little bit, and then hopefully at the end of this year start raising capital, and then hopefully January, February, spring at the latest, we'll settle on a permanent home and start building it out. I think, realistically, by the end of next year, you'll see beers coming out of our own facility. 

And that's when you'll get to see us flex our brewing muscles. Our normal brewhouse will definitely have a pilot system in there. Those (recent) law changes in the state, that was really important for us in staying here. We could do those 1-barrel batches, put them on tap in the tasting room and see how they do, and use that as a way to gauge what we're going to scale up as either the next seasonal or full production batch. 

BSL: In terms of development, brand and actually brewery, how does the rest of calendar year 2013 shape up?

Ready for bottling
BO: Phase One was get the beer out. We finally accomplished that after a long, drawn-out paperwork process. Phase Two will be growing on a contracting level, either expanding here or looking to one of the bigger contracting sites for the flagship brands. While we're doing that, we'll hammer out the business plan for the next stage of things ... end of the summer, September, October start to raise the capital to take the next step.

I think establishing the brand – it's only something that's kind of recently come to us, we'll have an established brand – we'll be able to scout out a couple of potential locations and almost shop the brand, say "Hey, this is a growing industry; us being here is going to help the rest of the town, create some jobs, people are going to be able to hang out at the tasting room, then go to the restaurants or the shops. I'm hoping that being an established brand will help us on that front, so we don't deal with some of the hang-ups that other people (experienced) when they were trying to find their permanent home. 

AM: Not to say that there won't be, though.

BO: I'm sure there will. I'm knocking on wood (laughs).

BSL: Talk a little bit about the beers, the origins of them ... how did they come about?

AM: Blackhorn was the first one we had our mind set on. Originally, Bob had a regular pale IPA. We were out having a couple of beers one night, and we were like, "You know what? This black IPA style is really emerging; nobody's really doing it. There's a couple of them out there ... I really like dark beers. I think it has a promising future, so let's take that route. Let's be one of the pioneers, with an American-style black lager, or black ale (though) it turned out to be a lager. And it went from there.

BO: Even launching with two as a contracting brewery ... you see the Bronx guys over in New York have their one flagship. Juggling the two between the one tank right now is tough. Usually you see a normal flagship portfolio with something on the amber kind of side, something hoppy and something dark. We thought we could combine those (latter) two and go with the something light and expand from there.

BSL: You ended up using the High Point house yeast, which unlike a lot of places, is a lager yeast. But these two beers started out as ales, right?

AM: They started out as ales. We tested the recipes multiple times with a lager yeast. It tasted better. It tasted cleaner, and you know what? We trust the work they're doing here, that the beers are going to come out solid. I don't think that by (substituting) a lager yeast is taking away from any of the quality that this beer should be. I think it's totally open for interpretation. There's no such thing as a defined style, that this beer should be this ...

When people see that it's a lager, they're like, "Wow, I didn't know it's a lager, and I didn't know a lager could taste so good."

BSL: A lager can be more difficult to produce ...

AM: It's hard to do a lager, and I think if anybody's going to do good lager, it's going to be this brewery. 

BSL: When you get the chance to bring them in-house, will they continue to be lagers?

BO: I think you're not going to see these beers change. We're not going to change just because we're changing our house yeast. Having our own place and the plans for it, I wouldn't be surprised to have two or maybe three different (yeast) strains going at any given time, depending on how the portfolio of beers expands.

BSL: Your distribution is limited for now to North Jersey, for a clear reason. What are the prospects for widening it?

AM: This is the whole company, just us two. Deliveries are on top of our full-time jobs. We can't really go out that far, especially to try to keep a supply on for southern or more central locations because the deliveries are what take the most time. So our focus is mostly on North Jersey right now, with the capacity that we have. 

BO: We don't have enough beer to go down south right now. Once we get some added capacity, we'll start to broaden our range. It's terrible from a delivery standpoint, but we really kind of cherry-picked which areas we wanted to be in up here. It sucks to be driving 15 or 20 (minutes) or a half hour between our different accounts right now. But we didn't want to have three acounts in one spot and three accounts in another and then be done. 

Now that we have bottles, we're trying to find a bottle shop close to each draft account. We model a lot of the business about how we were as consumers, especially in New Jersey, you drink in a bar – I go buy a six-pack and drink at home if it's something I like. So we wanted to make sure that places where it's doing well on draft people always have a place to go and pick it up. 

AM: As time progresses, I think you'll see more Bolero beers at varying locations. Our aim, of course, is to be south and to be everywhere. But right now, it's just not really realistic with the amount that we're producing. We really have a tight, tight limit as to how much we can make, so North Jersey right now is really what works for us.

Bolero Snort fermenter at High Point

BSL: It's nice to have a buzz about your name, but sometimes the back side to that is when you want to be able to grow you may have to stay within your constraints a little while longer.

BO: I think you'll see us down south before you see us hopping into another state. If we can grow the business and just continue to be closer and closer together in our accounts, I'd be happy never selling a drop outside this state. At least for the foreseeable future, we'll just be in Jersey, and we'll worry about getting broad coverage of the state before we go dealing with anymore paperwork ...

BSL: But you're still going to tease the beer at the Atlantic City beer festival (April 5-6)?

BO: Well, we figure that, if nothing else, it's a way of getting (the beer) down south for one event, get people excited ... Anywhere between 24,000 and 30,000 people show up for that ... people are coming from all over the state, other states as well.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Craft beer posts more gains, BA says

Flying Fish's automated kegger
The trade group that represents the US craft brewing industry has released statistics for 2012 that show continued double-digit growth in beer volume, the number of breweries and retail sales.

Honestly, such numbers make you ask where the leveling off point may be and how close to the peak it will land.

Nonetheless, ahead of next week's Craft Brewers Conference, the Brewers Association says in a statement put out Monday that production volume (13,235,917 barrels) for US craft brewers jumped 15% last year to claim 6.5% of the total US beer market volume (craft brewing was 5.7% of the market in 2011).

That took place, the BA says, while the overall US beer market grew by just 1%.

Craft beer's dollar share of the overall $99 billion US beer market edged past 10% percent last year on retail sales of an estimated $10.2 billion, a jump from $8.7 billion in 2011.

Brewhouse display at Flying Fish
The number of US craft breweries – 2,347 – closed in on a 20% increase from 2011 to 2012. That's translates to 409 brewery openings, with 43 closings.

(Breakdown: 1,132 brewpubs and 1,118 production breweries.)

On the jobs front, craft breweries generated 4,857 more jobs, according to BA estimates.

(Stats: 108,440 craft brewery workers in 2012 versus 103,583 in 2011.)

“On average, we are seeing slightly more than one craft brewery per day opening somewhere in the US," says BA director Paul Gatza, "and we anticipate even more in the coming year. These small breweries are doing great things for their local communities, the greater community of craft brewers, our food arts culture and the overall economy."

Carton sixtel stack
Garden State outlook
Creating industry growth and generating jobs were among the points the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild cited when it successfully urged lawmakers and the governor last year to update the regulations under which the state's craft brewing industry had been operating since 1995.

Growth is indeed playing out across the state, last year as a continued reflection of national interest in craft beer, both from a business standpoint and from the consumer point of view.

Changes to the state regulations are bolstering growth this year and giving brewers already in the market a reason to be optimistic.

Year-to-year snapshot in New Jersey
Two craft brewers were licensed in New Jersey last year – Turtle Stone in Vineland and Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough. (Flounder would continue with a buildout and begin actual brewing a year later.)

Kegs and cases for Bolero Snort
Only Great Blue, a 2-barrel brewery in Franklin Township in Somerset County, decided to let its license lapse following a year that essentially saw only a single batch of beer made.

Great Blue was among the five new breweries that launched in 2011 (rounding out the list: Cape May, Kane, Carton and Tuckahoe).

It's also worth noting that capacity increases were a big factor in 2012.

Flying Fish went about the business of tripling in size with move from its founding location of Cherry Hill to Somerdale. Cape May, Carton and Cricket Hill also added brewing capacity to keep up with demand. (Cape May went through another capacity boost by adding a 15-barrel brewhouse last month.)

Measuring for new tank placement at Carton
This year, Iron Hill brewpub will double its footprint in New Jersey. A location forecast to open this July in Voorhees will be the 10th for the chain that's spread among Delaware, Pennsylvania and the Garden State. (Iron Hill's first New Jersey restaurant-brewery opened in Maple Shade over the summer of 2009 and quickly became the company's busiest.)

On top of that, there are at least four license applications pending with the state, with existing bars looking to convert into brewpubs making up the bulk of those. (One of the applications is for a planned project in Burlington County that was filed nearly a year ago.) 

Brewing at Tuckahoe
However, that's really only part of the growth picture.

River Horse is leaving his founding location of Lambertville for nearby Ewing, a shift that will enable the 17-year-old brewery to bring its lager back into production and boost production by about 40 percent over time. Tuckahoe Brewing is also looking for a larger site.

Blackthorn Brewing has a buildout under way in Toms River, while East Coast Beer Company in Point Pleasant Beach, which has its Beach Haus beers contracted-brewed in upstate New York, is scouting sites to open a brewery in New Jersey.

Pinelands Brewing settled on a location in Little Egg Harbor (Ocean County) for a 1-barrel brewery.

Meanwhile, Bolero Snort entered the market with a brace of lagers contract-brewed at High Point in Butler, a move aimed it getting the Bergen County company rolling while it sites a location for its own brewery.

And that, of course, doesn't include projects quietly in development.

For the full BA release, go here.

Consumer preference ... oh, and maibock

Tasting room lineup
High Point Brewing is reliably a maker of German-style beers. But that's more of a footprint and less of an identity in a craft beer landscape that continues to evolve with styles, driven, of course, by the preferences of the people who drink beer. 

It's sort of like art answering life that explains how a brewery known for well-received bocks, märzens and wheat beers would stir a sour ale into the mix.

On the heels on the brewery's annual maibock release, founder Greg Zaccardi talks about such marketplace responses; how his brewery in Butler, on the northern edge of Morris County, has embraced new state rules that finally nurture New Jersey's 18-year-old craft beer industry; and how High Point, as a contract brewer, has given a helpful lift to another emerging brand.

BSL: This is the first big event you've held since regulations that had hemmed in New Jersey craft brewers were lifted last fall. Regulars to your annual maibock release would certainly notice a big difference. For instance, tour guests could buy your beer by the glass, and even before this event, a specific beer release – your maibock release – you had taken advantage of that greater outreach to the public. Can you talk a little about how that has served High Point as a craft brewery?

GZ: Governor Christie finally made it reasonable to run a brewery in New Jersey. Customers want more than just a few-ounce sample in a plastic cup. When I was a homebrewer and would seek out all of these great breweries and go to them, it was disheartening if you got a plastic shot glass. I never liked doing that, (but) that was really all we could do.

Being able to sell beer by the glass is not only good for us, it not only generates a little bit of a revenue stream, it helps us continue along in our journey toward growing our brewery. It also gives the consumer an enjoyable experience.

We still give free samples, and if they like what they're drinking, they can actually get a full glass, hang out – we're here for three hours – they can listen to me explain the art and science of brewing beer. Or they can just hang out with their friends in a brewery environment, listen to the fermenters bubble away, and just experience the vibe of being in a brewery.

So it's a great thing: It's sustainable for the business end, and I think it's great to be able to offer that experience to people who care about our beer.

Tour at 2013 maibock release
BSL: At your brewery, where the focus is German-style beer, lagers and wheat, you recently featured a cherry chocolate sour, a Belgian style, back during the Christmas holidays. Beer styles nowadays are ever-evolving, and beer enthusiasts are quite intrepid, with a taste for exploring. Craft brewers embrace that, and their taprooms support that sort of laboratory experience, creating those one-off beers that grab the attention of beer fans. How does the new business climate support that end?  

GZ: The other thing this new law allows is to host events. And it helps us run our non-tour weekends better. We can afford to do special one-off brewery exclusives, like our Belgian holiday ale, which was very different for us, as somebody said, a bit of a step outside our comfort zone. You need to do that every once in a while, and we're looking forward to doing more stuff like that. If all you do is make one type of beer day after day, it starts to get to a yawn factor.

We've really tried hard to be as efficient as we can with our brewing practices here so they run in a predictable way. That's good, but the flipside of it is you become dangerously complacent, and it can get boring. We have some young brewers (head brewer Alexis Bacon and assistant brewer Thomas Maroulakos) here that enjoy all sorts of wild beers. Both of them went up to Vermont recently, toured some breweries small and large in Vermont. It's great to see their enthusiasm. I know I wouldn't do that anymore. But these are guys who are excited about craft beer, and that comes with the responsibility of being creative. If you don't offer an opportunity to be creative, you're going to wind up with people getting very bored. 

Doing these one-offs benefits the brewery, and it certainly benefits the growing demand for the consumer. 

BSL: But to be clear, that's not the first time you've done a Belgian style. You've contract-brewed those for other people (including Boaks). 

GZ: We did a Chimay clone which we were really proud of ...

BSL: That was Chimay red.

GZ: Chimay red, right, and we even had people who sell Chimay come and tell us that they liked it better than Chimay.

BSL: Freshness factor ...

GZ: Absolutely. Freshness is huge. People tell me how much they love our beers, which is very flattering and I'm very grateful for it. They'll go, "It tastes better than the beer I got from Germany ..." But you know what? If the role were reversed, if we were exporting Ramstein from Butler to Bavaria, I don't think it would hold up as well. I can't expect it to be a fair fight there. Beer is best consumed closest to the brewery, for a lot of reasons. It really does taste great when it's fresh from the tap, especially when it's a seasonal, especially when it's a limited brewery offering. You're just hitting pure gold on those things. 

BSL: Speaking of seasonals, let's talk about the maibock. It's a marquee beer for you; it's a big event that you've always built things around, and this is the first time you've done it with that greater flexibility courtesy of the state. How would you say things went?

GZ: We were packed. 

BSL: High Point traditionally did monthly tours from March to December. How have you redesigned those open houses? 

GZ: We have a new format to our tours. We're only doing four instead of 10; we're opening the brewery to more events throughout the year, not just limiting it to 10. (Maibock day) you saw a wooden barrel tapping of the maibock; you could buy beer by the glass; you could fill growlers; you could buy hot sauce and pickles (by the bottle and jar from vendors); there's an artisanal wood stove pizza-maker outside (independent of the brewery) making pulled pork and Margherita pizza ... 

The good thing about the maibock is we made a decent amount of it. It's draft-only; it's wonderful this year and it's still 100-point rated on Ratebeer. 

BSL: How far will you have distribution on it, since you now have distribution to parts of South Jersey that you didn't have in the past? Are you able, for instance, to get sixtels to a Canal's or Spirits (Unlimited) stores in those areas?

GZ: At this point, we're just doing full kegs through our southern New Jersey distributor. But we should be able to reach some of the South Jersey communities that really appreciate good craft beer. We're there in bottles now (with Ramstein Classic and Blonde). Geographically, it's going to be in Pennsylvania, up to Reading; that would be the farthest point from the brewery that the beer will be available. It's going to be available essentially in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. But this is the first time ever (Ramstein) maibock will get beyond Princeton. 

BSL: What was maibock production like for this year, how is it in relation to your overall brewing?

GZ: Our brewing schedule has gone up by 30 percent this year. We've got another fermenter in here. We're doing four to five brews a week. We're doing exclusively draft of the maibock. There's (only) so much we can do. We've got to start to be able to provide some consistency on our Double Platinum Blonde (weiss beer). That seems to be really taking off for us, with the expanded distribution through Ritchie & Page.

You can see the line (points to a map of New Jersey) ... It used to be right in the middle, by Raritan Bay. Now we're all the way down. It's almost a 50 percent, in geographical increase, in the size of the market. 

BSL: Two-thirds of the state covered ...

GZ: Yeah, and before that we were in a little less than half. Fortunately, they're patient with us. We never overpromise them volume. By the same token, I don't want to neglect the rest of my home state. That part of the state is growing with craft beers. There are breweries, and with breweries there, the bars are going to pop up. There are festivals held down there ...

BSL: Taking a glimpse at the state industry overall, for a moment, High Point has been brewing Boaks Beer on contract for five years, and now you've taken on Bolero Snort as contract while owners Bob Olson and Andrew Maiorana plan their brewery. High Point is sort of the beneficent brewery that is enabling other people to get into the business.

GZ: I never thought of myself as an enabler (laughs). With the guys from Bolero, we were impressed with their real focus – dedication – to making their brewery happen. I think we turned them down (initially) because of capacity issues. But there's a new fermenter here for them because of them. That's being filled by their beers, and they're making great beers. 

They're great guys to deal with. They've really invested a lot in their operation. We're happy to do it. At the end of the day, the building is here, our overhead exists whether we have the lights off or the lights on. It still costs us the same amount of money every hour. 

BSL: But there are some people who might not want to do that, because you could potentially be putting a tap handle out there that competes with you. In another respect, it's the essence of this industry, rising tide lifting boats, being more communal. Plus early on in craft brewing, Bud and Miller did what they could to keep the small guy out of business.

GZ: I've never been afraid of competition. I know that sounds a bit arrogant. But here's an Italian guy in northern New Jersey making southern Germany wheat beers, fighting against breweries like Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Hofbrauhaus, which is funded by the state of Bavaria. Our competition has been steep from Day One.

There will always be competition out there. (With Bolero) it's not like were making them a proprietary recipe from Ramstein. They're seeing some really good success with their black India pale (lager). For us, we have to make the very best beer we can make. The rest of it is up to the consumer. If the consumer wants a Belgian chocolate cherry sour ale, we're going to make it for them. If they want a black India pale lager, which is the Bolero Snort beer, we'll make it for them. So long as it's good.