Tour guide is Brendan Flanagan
Two men at bar: From left is, Brendan Flanagan of Mt. Arlington, tour guide; and Keith Dorflinger of Bridgewater, Sample Room manager.
By Cheryl Conway
Tucked away on the back streets between Budd Lake and Hackettstown exists the freshest, coldest, pallet-watering, tastiest craft beer around.
Noted as the fifth largest craft brewery in the state, Jersey Girl Brewing Co. is located at 426 Sand Shore Rd, in the Hackettstown section of Mt. Olive. It is easy for some to just pass by and not realize that they can stop in during business hours to sample from the freshest barrels.
For those who enjoy drinking beer, this is not a bar, but a manufacturing brewing company open to the public to try a variety of styles of beer created from original recipes and poured straight from the tap. Guests are also invited inside to tour its facility to learn about the brewing process with its vessels, fermentation tanks and barrels creating lagers and ales.
“People two miles away don’t understand we’re open for production and for tasting,” says Charles “Chuck” Aaron of Flanders, president and CEO of Jersey Girl Brewing Co. He and his business partner, Mike Bigger of Budd Lake, established the company in 2014.
Since opening their doors two and half years ago, in April 2016, Jersey Girl Brewing Co. has grown and can now be found in every county in the state.
“We’ve expanded a lot,” says Aaron, adding that their craft beer is now distributed in all 21 counties, from Sussex County “all the way down to Cape May County,” wherever beer is sold so that includes restaurants, bars with beer on tap and even at retailers on a shelf or in a can.
Aaron says “Our goal is to be a Jersey brand- a craft brand when they’re out drinking. Jersey Girl, we are connected to our state.” Just like “no two Jersey girls are alike, no two craft beers are alike,” hence where they came up with the name for their brewing company.
“All of our beers are different,” says Aaron. “We like it that way.”
With 10,000 sq. ft. of space in a 30,000 sq. ft. facility, Jersey Girl Brewing has plenty of space for its craft brewing, 30 barrel, four vessel system, on its premises.
So now having 10 fermentation tanks, six can hold 15,000 pints of beer while the other four can hold 7,500 pints, he says.
According to Aaron, Jersey Girl beer is the “no. one selling beer at the Prudential Stadium,” and “We are at Yogi Bear Stadium.”
Working with distributors has helped grow the business.
“If we were self-distributing, we wouldn’t have grown as much,” says Aaron.
They work with three distributors, or partners, who take the beer to the accounts they manage in their territories, says Aaron. To grow their business even more, they recently added canning.
Says Aaron, “Canning increased our growth. Keg beer means you are on tap; there are only so many taps available. At retailers there is all those shelves’ space.”
“We are renting a canning company,” says Aaron. It connects its machine to large fermentation tank so the craft beer can be canned, labeled and capped.
Some volunteers, friends of the brewery, even come down “every time we can twice a month” for a canning run, Aaron calls it. This one retired woman, Margaret, “she flips cans, stands on the line and flips cans.”
Harry Browne, president of the Mt. Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, “came down last time,” says Aaron, who is a member of the chamber. “Beer is always connected to friendships. We bring friends; it’s a friendly environment. Many people come out and help can. It’s a fun day, it’s a long day.”
Aaron says in one month, 20,000 cans can be filled for distribution at Jersey Girl Brewing.
Currently, five different craft beers are available in cans, says Aaron, “which is a big leap from when we started.”
Available in can are four flagship beers and one seasonal. These include:
Rake Breaker which is a hazy New England style IPA with a tropical hops and grapefruit flavor.
Sun-Kissed Citra, also a New England style IPA, orange nosed with citra and tropical fruit flavor.
MO Pils- or Mt. Olive Pilsner is a traditional, German light lager, golden light body with little sweeteners, also known as the lawn-mower beer. “Perfect beer to drink while you are working hard,” describes Aaron.
King Gambrinis is a two-time award winning Belgian Tripel, strong and bold made from Belgian yeast, herbal, fruity with a smooth dry finish.
The seasonal is currently Oktoberfest, a Copper Hued Marzen, amber lager brewed medium bodied with touches of a sweet bread malt and dry finish, available until the end of October.
“We’re always drinking here,” says Aaron, but “we don’t chug here; need to taste them. It’s the nature of the business.”
Always on tap at its bar is 14 different varieties, says Aaron.
During the span of a year, though, Aaron says he and his staff create 50 to 60 different styles on average.
“We kind of get creative,” he says. “We think about the beers we like to drink. If I went out to drink, what would I like to have?” The intention is to “create recipes from that and hope everyone enjoys them as much as I do.”
In addition to being open to the public to sample the beers and tour the facility, Jersey Girl Brewing Co. also participates in non-profit charity events, like one for first responders and Budd Lake Rescue; and hosts functions such as book clubs, bridal showers, birthday parties, anniversaries, yoga, bingo, trivia night, live bands.
There is a separate space in the back of the brewery that is used for private events.
It’s “more about helping the community,” he says.
But with new regulations for microbreweries in N.J. recently considered by the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), there may be “limitations on what we can do,” says Aaron. Before, it was allowed to host as many events as possible but with the regulations will be limited to 25 public events and 52 private events per year, says Aaron.
They are going to have to “pick and choose what we can do,” with this change, he says.
“We do far more than that a year,” says Aaron. “We do three or four events on a weekend.”
The regulations were brought on from concerns from restaurants and bar associations. With breweries open as sampling rooms, they compete with bar businesses.
“We can sell our own beer,” which can take away business from bars and restaurants, he explains.
“All we can do is sell beer,” says Aaron. “We sample beer,” unlike restaurants which also sell food. At Jersey Girl Brewing Co., visitors are allowed to order from area restaurants to have food delivered or even bring in their own food while sampling the beer.
With the new regulations, if they go through, Jersey Girl Brewing will be allowed to sell snacks, says Aaron, but will be enforced to put away menus for people to order from area restaurants. Not providing these menus, however, “limits our partnerships” with these area restaurants, Aaron says.
“Not being able to promote local businesses breaks down what we can do,” he says. “We want to be partners with everybody.”
Customers can bring their own menus, though, and still bring in food, he explains.
Off Site Events
Jersey Girl Brewing Co. participates in a lot of off-site events too such as the Central Jersey Beer Fest on Saturday, Oct. 13.
On Friday, Oct. 26, it plans to have beer samplings at the Sussex County Brew Fest at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.
On October 30, it will be at the American Cancer Society Taste of Hope at the Essex County Country Club.
Jersey Girl Brewing Co. will be among other craft brewers in the state on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Westfield Hops beer festival at the Westfield Armory in Westfield.
It also brings its kegs and cans to the Morristown Wine Festival set for Saturday, Nov. 10.
“It’s all sampling,” says Aaron, “hot pouring full pints. You get a two ounce or four ounce sample of beer.” They typically bring at least two varieties of their craft beer selections to their events.
“It’s beer festival season now through November,” says Aaron, adding that every Saturday he is scheduled to talk about craft beer.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says Aaron. “I love customer interaction; very rewarding, it’s a lot of fun.”
Growth of Breweries
Since the laws on breweries changed in 2012 in N.J., allowing breweries to sell beer, 88 brewery companies have opened up throughout the state, says Aaron, with the establishment of 24 new ones “up and coming,” says Aaron. “It’s an emerging market.”
When the laws changed “It made it more realistic to open up a brewery in N.J.,” he says. “It’s a great business” with a lot of opportunity in the beer business right now. There’s some stability there when you have that revenue stream.
“We want to be part of that growth,” he says. “I’m going to make it available so they can go out and try it. We are a manufacturer; we are not a bar. Goal is to get it in the market so people can enjoy it.
“Taste what we have to offer and have fun with us,” says Aaron. “I’m trying to build a brand, have a good time, taste our beer. Then when they’re out try a Jersey Girl so they can share with their friends.”
The brewery is open to the public Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Anyone over the age of 21 is invited to taste the beer on tap in its Sampling Room, with a sampling menu of ten different brews at one time. Try a sample paddle with four small glasses; order a pint; packages to go; refill bottles of beer; or purchase cans and bottles on the premises.
Every hour while the brewery is open tours are given to those interested in learning how the craft beer is brewed. Families are even invited to join in the fun. Tours can last anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes depending on the crowd and questions that come up.
“We like people to come out to get to know how we make the beer,” he says.
Brendan Flanagan of Mt. Arlington, who has worked in the Jersey Girl Brewing Co. Tasting Room and as staff tour guide of the brewery for the past two years, has become quite an expert in the brewing process.
He starts off providing some history on the origin of the brewery.
“Not founded by a Jersey girl,” the owners, Aaron and Bigger are not even natives with one from Georgia and the other from Louisiana, but they both married Jersey girls, shares Flanagan, and have lived in Mt. Olive raising their families here.
“Chuck called Mike 11 o’clock at night and said I have a name,” says Flanagan. Jersey girls, they are all different. “Some say they are sweet, some say they are strong, some say they are bitter,” explains Flanagan about the meaning behind the brewing company’s name.
The brewery was founded in the fall of 2014 but didn’t open until 18 months later, April 15, 2016, in order to prepare the facility, come up recipes and develop its team, he says.
“Chuck built the bar himself,” he says.
Flanagan then walks the tourists through the beer making process explaining how all beer uses four main ingredients: Water, barley, hops and yeast.
“Beer is 90 percent water,” says Flanagan. “This does count as hydration,” he laughs. “Water is the main reason why we opened in Mt. Olive,” he says, as it “sits on one of the biggest aquifers in the state of N.J.”
Flanagan talked about the four vessel system, process of fermentation and the six different stages involved in creating the craft beer. Part of the process involves milling their own grains in the gristmill and harvesting the sugars. Other steps include the mash tunnel which creates a secret liquid called the Wort; the lauder which separates the mash; the brew kettle which involves the hops; and the last element which involves yeast and fermentation tanks to create stout ales and lagers.
The creators need to decide what kind of beer they are making before putting the type of grain in, he says, as one may use oats, another may use wheat or more water.
The fermentation system involves 30 barrels, with one barrel equaling 31 gallons.
The cool hoppy wort goes to fermentation tanks that make the carbohydrate drinks called beer, he explains. These air-tight tanks, called Brite tanks, release the Co2, that involved bubbling away “like blowing bubbles in milk,” he says.
The process in making ale can take three to four weeks, and a minimum of six weeks to make a lager. Brewing continues Monday through Friday.
“We tend to see more ales than lagers,” he says, since they require less time to make.
Distributors then come in to deliver the Jersey Girl beer to 700 accounts in every county in N.J, says Flanagan’ and a contracted mobile canning unit comes in to hook up to the Brite tank to get beer in cans.
During the tour, eight different beers were brewing at one time, he says, with the new Schwarz Bier just being created that night for the fall and winter season.
For each new brew, a tipsy system is used for creating and sampling to “decide how we might want to tweak the recipe.” Every brew is born using this system he says, that way “if we mess it up” 21 gallons can be discarded verses 300 gallons.
Flanagan, who works full time as an English teacher at a private school in Northern N.J., even gets to help create some of the beer, such as the St. Patrick’s Day beer called Everybody’s Irish, “an Irish ale which was delicious,” he says. “It was a very big hit.”
Other teachers work at the brewery as well, and with that, they came up with their own beer called Ultimate Side Gig.
Also on the tour he pointed out the barrel age beer and explains how the wood picks up liquor as its porous and absorbs. Beer in those barrels sit inside for seven to 10 months, he says.
Cleaning the tanks after each new beer is made is also an important part of the process, he explains.
“Brewing is 80 percent cleaning or you will really throw off brewing,” he says. The tanks are cleaned “with water and scrubbing.”
Regulars And First-Timers Enjoy Friday Night
Inside the tasting room, 75 gusts can sit comfortably at the bar and four pub style tables made out of barrels, and three leather couches.
Kevin and Melony Bishop of Long Valley have been regulars for the past three weeks. While on a pub crawl charity event to support the Highlands earlier this year, at another nearby brewery, they learned about Jersey Girl Brewing Co.
They usually order in some food and relax while sampling the beer.
“It’s so clean and fresh,” says Melony Bishop. “Their décor is clean and well done.”
Living in the next town over, Kevin Bishop says “it’s very close for us. We bring take out here, pick it up, bring it here.” That night they had their son drop them off and then return to bring them home so they could linger a bit longer and enjoy the beer.
The new Schwartz beer and Wake Up And Smell The Coffee were their favorites that night.
“They have good beer,” says Melony Bishop.
“The beer is better here,” says Kevin Bishop. “Sometimes I don’t want to be served; it’s not about the food,” he says, but more about “just to get out. Can bring my own stuff in” for an “hour or two get-aways.”
Harry Browne, another regular, stopped in as he often visits the other area breweries. As the chamber of commerce president he likes to make his rounds at Man Skirt Brewing and Czig Meister Brewing, both in Hackettstown, and Jersey Girl.
“I help them out,” says Browne, especially when they have the canning events, with 20,000 coming off the line and placed in cases, as well as with trade shows and pouring beer.
Besides being a friend and a consultant to the brewery, Browne says he likes Jersey Girl Brewing.
“I like the tasting room,” says Browne. It “has a traditional bar,” and is part of the neighborhood. “It’s a production brewery, they make more beer than the other two combined. They went the distributor route,” he says, while the other two area breweries “are more direct sales.”
As far as a favorite, Browne says “They’re all very good.” His top picks are the MO Pils and the Schwartz beer.
“For people who enjoy well-made craft beer, with three breweries, you can make a beautiful afternoon out of it,” says Browne. “You can go anywhere for a Miller Lite, here you can try craft beer, see where it’s made, meet the brew master. This is Mt. Olive’s brewery, no one else in town quite like it.”
In their first visit to the brewery, two sisters who are alumni of Mt Olive High School sat around one of the pub tables talking and trying the beer with one of their friends.
“We just wanted a low key night, local place to hang out,” explains Maria Schreiber, while enjoying the Oktoberfest sample.
Her sister, Aliza Schreiber, was enjoying the Gold Rush. “It’s a great transition to summer to fall,” she says.
Their friend, Maread Schneider of Budd Lake, visited one time before and says she wanted to come “to socialize with the locals. This has character” and it’s a good place for “fun and to have good conversation.”
There’s “so much in craft beer to offer in flavor and style,” concludes Aaron. More need to know “how much fun craft beer can be.”
For more information, call 908-591-4186 or visit www.jerseygirlbrewing.com.