By Cheryl Conway
For those who enjoy beer or want to learn about the craft, a brewery in town offers a tasting room with taps pouring many selections and free tours to the public.
In business for less than two years, Jersey Girl Brewing Co. in Hackettstown recently received its first business award as one of the fastest growing businesses in the state. It was recognized in early December by NJBIZ business publication as Emerging Business of 2017.
Two local business partners- Charles “Chuck” Aaron of Flanders and Mike Vigger of Budd Lake- opened their doors in April 2016, and since then have crafted up to 90 different styles of beer. Their creations are now being supplied in 15 counties throughout New Jersey in more than 500 locations including restaurants, retail shops and bars.
“The goal is to be in 21 counties by the end of the year,” says Aaron, president and CEO of Jersey Girl Brewing Co. “Our goal is to get it in as many retailers as possible.” Aaron would like to see more growth of his brand in South Jersey, “all the way down to Cape May.”
Located in a 10,000 sq. ft. space in a 30,000 sq. ft. facility on Sand Shore Road across from Budd Lake, Jersey Girl Brewing is a manufacturing company that produces craft beer, using a 30 barrel, four vessel system, on its site.
That is “900 gallons of beer every time we brew,” says Aaron.
With eight fermentation tanks, Aaron says they can ferment 13 gallons of beer at the same time.
“We create all of our own recipes here,” says Aaron, “as part of developing and building our brand. It’s like cooking. You try it in small scale; all starts with an idea; from that you create a recipe.
“We have a small pilot system,” says Aaron, with the new recipes sampled in the tap room “to see what people think of it.”
It is a “fun process to create the different flavors,” says Aaron, who works at the facility full time.
Vigger, his full-time partner and executive vice president, works full time at E Risk Services insurance in Flanders, but “he’s here as much time as he needs to be here.”
The two became good friends years ago as church members at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church in Randolph.
“The two of us really work well together,” says Aaron, a former executive vice president in the chemical industry, with experience in sales and marketing- all factors “in shaping the business.”
“I never realized it would be a brewery,” says Aaron, who left the corporate world in 2014. “Mike and I always talked about it; were trying different craft beers around N.J. I love craft beer.”
After Gov. Chris Christie changed some of the laws in 2010 regarding breweries, the two were able to design their business and incorporated in 2014.
As residents of Mt. Olive for atleast 13 years, Aaron says it made sense to open in town especially right near the lake.
“I like the water,” says Aaron, adding that they use the well water to help craft their beer. “Good water makes great beer,” he says.
The brewery is open 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.
“We are not a bar,” stresses Aaron, and do not serve food, but people can bring in food.
For those who want to learn how the beer is crafted, ongoing tours are offered throughout the day in either groups or privately “to get people excited about craft beer and educate them.”
Tours can last anywhere between 10 minutes to 30 minutes.
“We generally do a tour, take them in the back,” says Aaron. “You come here to learn about how beer is made, then you sample beers, special beers that are not sold. We do some unique beer here.”
Every beer crafted goes through a four step process and takes seven hours from beginning to end. The product of the brewing process is called a WORT and involves the conversion of yeast to sugar to alcohol, explain Aaron.
It can take three weeks to produce ale and eight weeks to produce a lager, he explains.
With a head, professional brewer on staff, “We aim at providing a great quality product,” says Aaron. “We try to keep variety there for sure. We experimented and learned on our own.”
Some of their varieties include the 4.2 percent Kolsch, lightest German style beer they call No Place Like Home; Mt. Olive Pilsner, a traditional style pilsner; Breakfast Stout featuring chocolate and coffee flavors; Aaron’s favorite, the strong and bold Belgian Tripel King Gambrinus; and some top taps- Rake Breaker, Gold Rush and Sun-Kissed Citra.
No matter the brew, each uses the finest in hops, wheat, barley, water.
“Those four ingredients make great craft beer,” says Aaron. “We don’t add a lot of other ingredients. You usually fall in love with one. The goal is to fall in love with N.J. craft beer.”
The facility is also used for fundraisers, birthday parties and “all kinds of activities that are fun to do at a brewery.”
Whatever the day brings, Aaron seems to enjoy his new company.
“I think it’s hard to have a bad day at work when you brew beer for a living,” says Aaron. “I’m learning every day. I’m a student of the craft of brewing beer. Everyday is a little bit different. End game is to make beer in the state of N.J. that everybody loves. This is the garden state after all. There are all kinds of flavors available that we could use.”
Find a favorite. “Stop at the brewery after hours, grab a sample and have fun.”
For more information, call 908-591-4186 or visit www.jerseygirlbrewing.com.