It’s interesting to think that before 2015, there weren’t any breweries in Bergen County and now within only a few years, there are about to be four. The rise of microbreweries is an exciting trend for Bergen County and means good things for the local communities in which they inhabit.
The following are the stories of Bergen County’s (soon-to-be) four breweries and how they plan to put it on the map as a craft beer destination.
Brix City Brewing
4 Alsan Way, Little Ferry
As owners of the first official brewery in Bergen County, Joe Delcalzo and Pete Reuther conceived the idea for Brix City Brewing in 2010. After spending time home brewing and feeling unfulfilled in their past careers, they were frustrated with the fact that they couldn’t reach a brewery without travelling a 30-minute distance. Between getting town approval and a lot of paperwork, it took them about four years to finally open in May 2015.
Joe and Pete faced some pretty big challenges when two towns prior to Little Ferry prohibited them from opening, but they’ve also tackled other industry challenges as well.
“You don’t want to be following trends in the industry, but at the same time you need to be putting out certain beers to get people in. That’s why we’re a little IPA heavy, but at the same time you’ll never come in here and only find that on tap,” said Joe.
Brix City currently has nine draft lines in a taproom that’s opened seven days a week. Due to a busy taproom, they’re producing to capacity and are looking to expand their brew house within the next six months. This will hopefully allow them to distribute to other parts of New Jersey and New York.
As they approach their three-year anniversary, Joe and Pete are currently spending a lot of time and attention on their barrel-aging program, which includes wild ales and sour beers. As something that they initially planned on developing when they opened, they’re eager to see it come to fruition.
Ultimately, Joe and Pete are proud of the reputation they have.
“We like the idea of being thought of a brewery that’s well-rounded. We can brew any style of beer to style and well,” said Joe.
58 Voorhis Lane, Hackensack
Owners Michael Roosevelt and Blake Crawford were on a ski trip to Vermont when they got the idea to open a brewery in Bergen County. Having travelled to different cities throughout the country, they found it hard to believe that a brewery hadn’t existed in this area yet. With Blake’s background as a chemical engineer designing brew houses, Michael’s PHD in microbiology and, naturally, a love for craft beer, the pair was up for the challenge. The only thing standing in their way was finding a property. After a year and a half of looking for properties, they began construction on their location in Hackensack by mid 2015.
Now coming up on their second anniversary in April, the Alementary always has eight beers on tap. Four of them are flagship beers and four rotate depending on the season. Though they do have a taproom opened Thursday through Sunday, only about 25 percent of their business is from direct taproom sales. The remaining 75 percent comes from distribution to a total of 190 different locations, still within a 15-mile radius. Despite that statistic, it’s the enthusiasm in which Blake described the lively taproom that best explains the Alementary’s presence in Bergen County.
“You can come in here on a Friday afternoon and see groups of coworkers at happy hour, a couple of professors from Fairleigh Dickinson [University] grading their papers, families, and customers that come in individually. Craft is defining itself as a very welcoming environment,” said Blake.
The Alementary has definitely created a community centered on craft beer, or, if anything, enriched the one it currently resides in. They even hold brewery yoga on Sundays and their brewery dog, Marjorie, is almost always present.
When asked what he wants Alementary to be known for, Blake quickly answered, “quality.” Explaining that Alementary is a community brewery first and foremost, he says, “our primary mission is to build a highly reliable, high quality experience no matter where you are.”
65 Railroad Ave, Ridgefield Park
Similar to Joe and Pete of Brix City Brewing, Bob Olson got into the addictive hobby of home brewing. By the winter of 2013, Bolero Snort began putting beer on the market and now covers the whole state in distribution. Bolero Snort is slightly different than the others on this list, however. As a gypsy brewery, their beer is brewed elsewhere, at breweries as far as 2-4 hours away. This requires them to rely heaving on their host sites, as well as eliminates the opportunity to have a taproom and interact with customers. Though they try to remain active in the community at beer fests and taproom takeovers.
While it’s been fun brewing with different people, Bob admitted, “You want to be in charge of your own destiny. No one will ever take care of your beer the same way you will.”
Luckily, he has plans to open a brick and mortar by early 2019, and, naturally, the instinct is to stay within Bergen County.
When asked about the value in local breweries, Bob said, “You can’t get it any fresher. We take pride in what we do and how we operate and the quality in how its presented. The general mindset is supporting local, shopping local and educating the consumer to know the difference.”
Hackensack Brewing Company
78 Johnson Ave., Hackensack
Soon-to-be owner of Hackensack Brewing Company Mike Jones takes full pride in his decision to open the fourth brewery in Bergen County. Several years ago, he purchased the domain name HackensackBrewing.com almost as a challenge to himself, and last January, he finally established an LLC. With a recent approval from the planning board, Hackensack Brewing Co. is hoping to make its debut in April.
Mike admits the quality of his beer increased when he started to take the technical aspects of brewing more seriously, and he still considers himself fascinated by the process. He also takes great pride in the city of Hackensack and wouldn’t think to open a brewery elsewhere.
When asked what’s going to set him apart from the already established breweries, he believes it’s the beer. Mike explained that he likes to think outside of the box when brewing, using what he describes as “one-off” ingredients and beer styles that aren’t as mainstream in comparison to what people are used to. He will also be enforcing a seasonal dimension to the beer, ensuring heavier beers in the winter and refreshing beers for warmer weather. But that’s not the only thing that’s going to be different.
“I think there’s also going to be a hyperlocal character to our taproom that will set us apart. There’s a lot of development going on in town and a vibrant, uniquely Hackensack taproom can be a force of cultural stability in the face of potential gentrification,” he said.
One thing everyone can agree on is that they are extremely excited for the increase in microbreweries in Bergen County. Not one person mentioned a concern for competition, rather they took the approach: the more, the merrier.
Bob of Bolero Snort did refer to New Jersey as being in its infancy when it comes to craft beer, but he believes that Bergen County is on its way to becoming a destination. Both Mike of Hackensack Brewing Co. and Joe of Brix City also suggested that the area is slowly becoming a tourist destination, considering each brewery will be within a 5-mile radius of each other. And, Blake agreed that nothing could be better than having two breweries within walking distance, when referring to the opening of Hackensack Brewing Co.
Not only is there diversity in the gender, ages and lifestyles of craft beer drinkers, but Mike and Blake also referred to their consumers as people who are interested in things that are “artisanal, local and authentic.”
More importantly, they emphasized that the value in local breweries ultimately comes down to the quality of the beer. There’s no better way to explain it than, fresher is better.
By Natalie Zisa