A TWEAK in New Jersey beer regs is paying immediate dividends for Garden State beer drinkers.
Under longstanding rules, breweries had been prevented from selling beer for consumption on their own premises. That meant no tasting rooms, which are a significant source of revenue for breweries in practically every other state.
The law was changed last year, however, to allow breweries to sell pints to those who tour their facilities. As a result, small brewers are opening what amount to quasi-brewpubs that sell only house beer (no food).
That may not sound like a big deal, but those direct sales provide just enough revenue to give small startups a running start in their efforts to establish themselves.
The result has been stunning: Less than a year after the new law's enactment, at least 15 new breweries will open throughout New Jersey by next summer.
Here's a look some of the fresh, new beer we'll be enjoying just a short ride from Philadelphia.
Status: Build-out nearly complete, equipment on site, awaiting final lease and licensing. Hoping for mid-November opening.
Brewhouse: Half-barrel system with tasting room. (One barrel equals about 14 cases of 12-ounce bottles, or almost 250 pints.)
Brewer: Paul Simmons.
About: Simmons, a longtime homebrewer, and his wife, Jenifer, will open in a former maintenance building at Millville Airport. Their tiny brewery's name is a nod to Millville's history as a glassmaking capital.
Beer: The initial lineup includes American stout, German wheat beer, American pale ale, India pale ale, amber ale and a California red ale, available on-site and in local bars.
GARDEN STATE BEER
Location: Egg Harbor City.
Status: State, federal licensing under review; expected opening, early 2014.
Brewhouse: One-barrel system with hopes to expand to two barrels before opening.
Brewers: Shawn Grigus and Jason Stairs.
About: Located in a garage just down the street from Grigus's Tap It Homebrew shop, the tiny brewery will feature a tasting room. Kegs will be distributed to one or two bars in the vicinity.
Beer: "We have so many recipes, but our mission is to make beer for everyone," Grigus said. "So we'll make easier-drinking ales and lagers in the 4.5 to 6 percent range, plus a rotating tap with special stuff."
Status: Construction complete, awaiting licensing. Expected opening in early 2014.
Brewhouse: Four barrels with tasting room.
Brewers: Jay Macrina, Mike Lees, Ricky Lees, Ed Gledhill.
About: The four friends have been homebrewing for years and, said Gledhill, "we had an IPA we were really proud of . . . We figured, we have to take a shot and run with it." They'll pour drafts and growlers from their tasting room and distribute kegs in bars throughout South Jersey.
Beer: "We want an IPA that ranks right up there with Green Flash and Stone Brewing," Gledhill said. "After that, we'll focus on basics - porter, stout and pilsner - plus small batches of others."
Location: Mount Holly.
Status: Obtained building lease; opening in spring 2014.
Brewhouse: 20-barrel brewhouse production brewery with tasting room.
Brewers: John Companick, Mike Oliver, Scott Reading.
About: The three partners describe themselves as "avid homebrewers" with backgrounds in marketing, mechanics and engineering. "We're total beer geeks," said Companick. Referring to Tampa's cult favorite, he said, "We're hoping to be the Cigar City of the north."
Beer: Initially an IPA and a porter, in kegs and cans.
VILLAGE IDIOT BREWING
Location: Mount Holly.
Status: Federally licensed, awaiting build-out of facility. Opening in 2014.
Brewhouse: 1.5 barrels with tasting room.
Brewers: Vince Masciandaro and Rich Palmay.
About: Located in downtown Mount Holly in the former Bridgetown Pub, the brewery will take advantage of the new state regs allowing the sale of pints and growlers at small breweries. Masciandaro, who, along with Palmay, is a member of the local Barley Legal homebrew club, was the winner in Philly Beer Week's 2011 Belgian collaboration contest.
Beer: Very small batches, available primarily at the brewery.
FORGOTTEN BOARDWALK BREWING
Location: Cherry Hill.
Status: Initial construction, no licensing; "on target" for May 2014 opening.
Brewhouse: 30-barrel brewhouse, with tasting room.
About: Former investment banker Jamie Queli is taking over the space formerly used by Flying Fish Brewing before its move to nearby Somerdale. She said, "It's been a slow process - we're only doing minor work right now."
Beer: No real details, yet, but Quell said that she's hoping for an "old-time" Jersey Shore atmosphere for the brewery, with nostalgic Boardwalk games.
Still others on the horizon in South Jersey:
- Rinn Duin, Toms River. The Irish-themed father-daughter brewery is expected to open later this fall with a fairly large, 25-barrel brewhouse.
- River Horse, Ewing Township. The longstanding Jersey brewer moved out of Lambertville to new digs, with a tasting room that opens Saturday.
- Lower Forge, Medford Village. Other than a logo and website, there are no solid details. Earlier reported plans called for a three-barrel brewhouse.
- Pinelands Brewing, Little Egg Harbor. A three-barrel brewhouse was slated to open by August, but the brewery's Facebook page has been decidedly silent.
"Joe Sixpack" is by Don Russell, director of Philly Beer Week. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly email update at joesixpack.net. Email: email@example.com.