Friday, April 19, 2013

Update: Progress on River Horse move to Ewing

Logo on floor, a little dusty now
For the folks at River Horse Brewing, the finish line for the brewery's ongoing move may include something bigger than making beer in a new location.

"It'll be time for a nap," says Chris Walsh, one of River Horse's co-owners. 

He's joking. 

Sort of. 

Moving the 17-year-old brewery from Lambertville, its founding location in the brick Original Trenton Cracker factory building beside the Delaware River and canal, to Ewing 14 miles south is no easy task and could never be accomplished over night.

Or in a month.

Or two.

Still quite difficult in three. Things move just so fast, and there's a number of modifications going on.

This is, after all, a move to meet current growth needs, plus those of the future. 

It can be exhausting overseeing the modifications and still running the brewery in the original location, paying a premium in rent there because you're out-of-lease (time is money), and pushing to wind down that location to get into the new one.

It's critical to keep your beers, like your very popular Summer Blonde Ale, flowing to draft and retail accounts and the beer fans who helped you outgrow the first home. 

For River Horse, the exit from Lambertville, a walk-around town in southern Hunterdon County that's  practically devoid of retail chain stores but laden with art galleries and antique shops, is an undertaking that got going in January. 

Back then, the hopes were that things would wrap up about now, or be wrapping up. The revised forecast is now the end of May/start of June. 

"I've accepted that," Chris says, allowing himself a laugh amid a sigh of resignation.

General floor plan of brewery space
That doesn't mean there hasn't been substantial progress at the Ewing location, 25,000 square feet on four acres at 2 Graphics Drive, around the corner from the town's police station. It just may not look like it, not like a brewery at the moment. But in fact, there's been plenty effort to that end – drains, concrete work, plumbing, company logos painted on the brick-red non-skid flooring ... 

At this point, River Horse is coming out of the backstretch and into a far turn. The homestretch is in sight, and so is the finish line. 

"The drains system is completely in; the floor is epoxied. So that part is done," Chris says. "The two internal rooms are built for the mill room and the mechanicals. The piping is probably 75 percent done; electrical is probably 35 to 40 percent done. We have to get it insulated, all tested, and a couple tweaks here and there. Then we're good. But that takes some time."

When it's ready, the 25-barrel brewhouse and some fermentation tanks will be brought down from Lambertville, connected to waiting support components and fired up. (Over time, the brewhouse will be replaced with one double the its size; larger fermentation and bright beer tanks will also be swapped in for the 40 barrel tanks that River Horse now has. Overall production is expected to increase 30 to 40 percent.)

"We've put in all the vital organs. They're already going to be here," Chris says. "There's going to be a new chiller, new boiler, new air compressor. We don't need to move any of that, so we can get going here ... So it's the brewhouse and some fermentation, and away we go.

However, it's a different story right now, Chris notes, for grain silos that will go outside. A tasting room is also on the back burner, a lower priority as far as immediate needs go. But the brewery expects to still conduct tours as it resolves that addition. 

"The silos ... we're still working on that. We may need to continue with bagged grain and a manual process of getting rid of spent grain and that kind of stuff for a short amount of time, just to get in here and get going," he says. "But that will eventually all go over to a spent-grain silo ...

Exterior of building
"The tasting room, we haven't even started. We want to continue to have tours and tastings, but what we'll probably do is something makeshift out here (on the brewery floor), with the tap system that we have now, put some wheels on it, bring it out here with some picnic tables, that kind of stuff. Then we'll start on a remodel, something more formal, more settled. We just don't have the resources now to take that on as well."

The tasting room, Chris says, needs to be developed with the brewery's current and future fans in mind.  The new home won't be like Lambertville, where a lot of people stopped by because they were already in town for something. It's also not a matter of just having dedicated space for brewery special events; tour visits of all walks need to be meaningful experiences.

"It's a concept we have to figure out, how we want to use it, what kind of theme we want to have," he says. "In Lambertville, we were a stop-by. We were still a destination for a lot of people, but a lot of it was, 'I can't take antique shopping any more,' or whatever it was, using the (canal) towpath, or whatever you were doing. 

"But here it will be more of a destination, so it has to be more accommodating ... Friday tours, how are we going to get people here? When they walk in the door, what's the experience going to be like?"

Maybe a good rest, that nap, will yield some ideas on that.

But for now, River Horse has a few more miles to go before anyone sleeps.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Find the January post on River Horse's move here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Millville production brewery in development

Cumberland County is in line for a second craft brewery, and the Delaware River & Bay Authority could be getting its second brewery tenant.

Glasstown Brewing is a project in early development by Justin Arenberg and Paul Simmons, two homebrewers looking to turn commercial with plans for a 3- to 7-barrel production brewery and tasting room to go into a 2,800-square-foot hangar on the grounds of the Millville airport. 

The hangar, located a bottle cap's throw from the Millville Army Air Field Museum, was home to P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes during World War II. Most recently it has been used to store a Korean War-era Army ambulance and a restored 2 1/2-ton World War II Army transport truck.

The property itself is owned the Delaware River & Bay Authority, which also operates the airport and owns the Cape May airport property in Lower Township, where Cape May Brewing calls home. 

Glasstown would join Turtle Stone Brewing, located about eight miles north in Vineland, as the second Cumberland County craft brewery. Turtle Stone became the county's successor to Blue Collar Brewing, known for its Hopalong Pale Ale (among other brews) before it closed nearly 10 years ago. Turtle Stone, by the way, marked its first anniversary in business last month.

Glasstown Brewing's name salutes the industrial history of Millville. South Jersey was once the center of U.S. glass manufacturing. Millville – and the city's economy – were long synonymous with the Wheaton Industries glassworks. 

These days, Gerresheimer, a global company based in Germany, is the big-name player you'll find in the Millville glass business. 

Heeding Millville's glass tradition, Justin and Paul hope to source growlers and other bottles directly from the company. (Gerresheimer supplies growlers for companies like Grandstand, which markets custom-logo jugs to bars and breweries.) The two say their planned brewery also could become the first to use a quart-size growler that Gerresheimer intends to produce. 

Beers planned for the Glasstown lineup include an American stout, red and pale ales, a brown ale, and other brews that would make use of South Jersey cranberries, blueberries and beach plums. 

Justin and Paul also want to celebrate the city's military history with a beer brewed to evoke the spirit of the P-47. The Army Air Forces, forerunner to today's U.S. Air Force, used the Millville airfield to train pilots to fly P-47s, which first saw combat over Europe in 1943 and also served as fighter escorts to the B-17 bombers that flew sorties over Germany. (P-47s were also used in the Pacific Theater.)

Glasstown Brewing just received the blessing of Milllville officials. The next step is to work out the lease with the DRBA, file licensing and tax paperwork with state and federal regulators, and pursue financing, such as micro loans through the city and Cumberland County business-development programs. Glasstown's production size is contingent on the financing that can be secured.

How quickly the brewery can get up and running, of course, depends on how quickly those matters are wrapped up. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Exit Casey: From Flying Fish to Florida

Well, this certainly counts as big news:

After 10 years at Flying Fish Brewing, head brewer Casey Hughes plans to pull up stakes and head to Florida, where he will start his own brewery, Coppertail Brewing Company in Tampa.

Casey has held the longest tenure as the top brewer at Flying Fish, New Jersey's largest craft brewery, and counts as some of his milestones and achievements the launch of the successful Exit Series.

Add to that a gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival for Exit 4, an American take on the Belgian triple style. Exit 4 was inaugural brew of the series and eventually became a part of the brewery's regular beer lineup.

In that 10 years, Flying Fish has grown in size to the point where the brewery's founding location in Cherry Hill became much too small, and new digs in Somerdale were taken up.

If you've been to the Somerdale location, then you may know the layout design for the brewhouse and packaging are Casey's handiwork.

His talents as a brewer in New Jersey will be missed but will undeniably be welcomed by the craft beer drinkers of Florida.

Cheers and good luck, Casey.

ADDENDUM: Facebook page went up Friday (4/19) for the Florida brewery