Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve

Starting out New Year's Eve with our latest batch; an IPA brewed with all Citra hops. Hope you're drinking something crafty tonight. Have a safe and happy holiday.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas At The Brewery

The brewery received its first gift this week.  A handcrafted wooden sign.  We think it came out great.  Thanks for the support.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Great Defrost

Following an extended visit from old man winter, we spent the last couple days waiting for a visit from Mr. Plow.  We put the time to good use and got our Facebook page up, so check it out if that's your thing.  

Also, our website is coming along least that's what our designer is telling us.  More updates to come soon.  Stay warm.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Before

The building that will house our brewery is located in the Sunset Industrial Park in Ocean, NJ—less than three miles east of the beaches and boardwalk of beautiful Asbury Park.  We will occupy about 7,000 square feet of the 11,000 square feet that we share with two other businesses.   

Our space is really broken into two sections; the front offices and the back warehouse.  The office space is accessible from the large front parking lot through a shared lobby.   There is about 1,000 square feet of low end office space broken into two office or conference rooms, a large storage closet and a bathroom.  In this space we plan to keep the smaller of the two rooms as office space and turn the larger of the two rooms and the closet into retail space. 

The retail space leads to the 6,000 square feet warehouse that will be the heart of the brewery.  While the office space up front was an added bonus, the selling point of this space was the warehouse area.  

The back warehouse is about 5,500 square feet of clear span space with 18-20 foot ceilings, concrete slab flooring, two overhead doors and access to three phase power, natural gas, city water and sewer. 

There is also a 500 square foot temperature controlled back room that we plan to use to bottle condition some of our beers. 

It a little more space than we planned on taking but we really like the location and the lay out of the building and hope we can grow into it over the coming years.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Home Grown

Part of our brewing philosophy is to try to incorporate as many locally grown and / or sourced ingredients into our beers as possible.  It’s something that I did as a home brewer and plan to continue to do at the brewery.  I began growing my own hops three years ago to experiment with using wet hops in my beers. 

Wet hops are hops that are used fresh shortly after being picked from the bines (as a side note, a bine is a climbing plant that differs from a vine, in short, in how it attaches itself to and climbs around its support).  Unlike the majority of hops grown, they do not undergo any drying or processing after they are harvested.  They are extremely perishable and will only last a few days. 

Wet hops add a distinct flavor and aroma to beer and wet hopped beers are unique because they can only be made following harvest.  Traditionally most breweries that make wet hop beers have arrangements with hop growers to ship the freshly picked hops straight to the brewery for use.  These days a small number of craft breweries are growing their own hops for these unique beers.    

Over the past three seasons I have added and changed some of the hop varieties in my yard based on growth patterns and personal preference.  This year I added Columbus which brought my total to two planters each of Cascade, Chinook, Nugget, and Columbus hop varieties.  In early September I harvested about ten pounds of these four varieties.    

Since my maximum batch size is only ten gallons and I didn’t want to dry any of them, I decided to shoe-horn all the hops into two different American-style IPA recipes.

This season's results on both the yields and the beers were our best yet and we're pretty excited to see what we can do next season on a larger scale.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hard To Find

One thing I was certain about when I began thinking about the brewery was that I wanted it to be located on the coast of New Jersey.  I grew up in the area and my wife and I had a small place near the beach in Ocean County to move to while we got the business off the ground.  We love the area and the people and we realized this was where we wanted to live and run a business.   

Having spent a lot of time in some of the smaller beach side towns in Ocean County and after speaking with some local zoning officials, I knew there would be challenges (such as getting municipal approval for a brewery and the high costs of commercial real estate) to opening a brewery in this area, so I began my search in southern Monmouth County.  I started with about five business-friendly towns that I thought had a good combination of industrial-type buildings and proximity to the coast.  I was searching for around 5,000 square feet of clear span warehouse space that was industrial or commercially zoned.  I wanted 16 to 20 foot ceilings, overhead door(s), three phase electrical, gas, and city water and sewer. 

I started in Asbury Park in the summer of 2009.  There is a great history to the town and despite several failed “revitalizations”, there is a lot going on there.  I spoke to several local leaders and the town seemed open to the idea of a brewery and very business friendly. 

Commercial real estate in New Jersey has cooled considerably and I thought I would be able to find something relatively easily.  Unfortunately, landlords in Asbury did not seem to be aware of the market conditions and I was unable to find anything close to affordable that didn’t need serious work.  It didn’t take long to realize it was time to move on. 

That fall I had found what I thought would be an ideal location.  It was an old foundry building in an industrial strip next to the coast train line in Manasquan.  The building had been empty for years and the owner had recently decided to invest some money in the building and find a commercial tenant.   For those of you who don’t know, Manasquan is a quaint beach-side town with a sizable year round population.  It seemed like the perfect combination of location and building. 

Based on my earlier comments I knew there may be some issues with getting this approved, but because it was an industrial building next to a railroad track I thought it might work.  I was told the town was business friendly and before I proceeded I spoke to the mayor and several members of the planning board and the town council to gauge reaction. 

In those early conversations I did not hear any objection to opening a brewery in Manasquan from any of the local leaders.  I was advised to speak to a local attorney who had been practicing in town for years and knew the local zoning codes.  The attorney said some variances would be needed but believed he could get it done and agreed to take the application.  We were scheduled to appear before the board in March.   

Since you already know we are opening in Ocean and not Manasquan you can surmise how the meeting went.  The next few months were an interesting insight into local politics and very eye opening.  By early June I decided it was in my best interest to withdraw our application and move forward in a new direction.  Maybe at some point I will get into the Manasquan Experience, but not in this post.  Let’s just say that it set us back about four to six months and about $15,000—not a great start. 

After the Manasquan Experience I resigned myself to the fact that we were most likely going to end up in a cookie-cutter warehouse-type building in some industrial park, despite my best efforts to find a space with some character.  I decided to shift the focus to buildings that were zoned properly in commercial or industrial areas that would not require a trip in front of any local boards. The industrial parks of Eatontown seemed to fit the bill.

I had never really been interested in an industrial park before, but once I realized the amount of (vacant) commercial space they had I thought I would have no problem finding a building.   What I began to realize once I started talking to landlords and brokers was that we were looking for a relatively small amount of space.   Apparently 5,000 square foot subdivisions in 150,000 square foot buildings are not that common. 

I was able to find a few that suited us but then we ran into another problem—we were a start-up.  Most of the large industrial buildings in these types of parks are owned by investment groups or larger real estate companies who were not all that interested in renting to a start-up.  I found a perfect space in the back of a mixed commercial / industrial building and spent weeks negotiating with the owner.  When we finally came to terms I thought we could both live with, he bailed on the deal when we went to sign the papers.  Another month wasted.

After that I decided the Ocean Industrial Park off Route 35 was worth another look.  I was familiar with the  area around the industrial park because it was where Heavyweight Brewing Company was located before it closed.  (On a side note, the owners of Heavyweight have since opened Earth Bread + Brewery in Mt. Airy, PA; it’s worth a trip if you’ve never been.)    There were several new buildings that had come open and the last place I looked at was an old casket shop that had recently moved to another location. 

It had about 1,000 square feet of office space up front and 6,000 square feet of warehouse space in the back—clear span, high ceilings, industrial utilities, overhead doors, etc.; everything we needed.  As I later found out it was also zoned specifically for brewing and distributing beer.  All that was left was to negotiate terms and sign a lease.  Finally, on August 6, 2010 after about 18 months of searching the coast line we officially had a location for Kane Brewing Company. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

NYC Beer Event

In honor of its 30th anniversary, Sierra Nevada is Taking Over the Taps at Rattle N Hum tomorrow afternoon.  According to the Rattle N Hum blog, they will have 40 taps and four casks of Sierra Nevada, including some pretty rare stuff available.  It appears as though the line-up even includes Golden Ticket Baltic Porter, the beer that was made at my Beer Camp in 2009.        

If you’ve never been, Rattle N Hum is one of the best beer bars in the city and worth checking out.  They do a fantastic job of bring in new beers and organizing interesting events.  More importantly they handle and serve casks properly.  Before moving out of the Manhattan, we were lucky enough to live around the corner from this place since it opened a few years back—it’s sorely missed now that we’re gone.  Hope to see you there.     

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who We Are & How We Got Here

I was fortunate enough to spend some time during college traveling around different parts of Europe with some friends.  We spent a good amount of that time in local pubs, bars and beer gardens and it was there that I developed an appreciation for beer styles and drinking cultures that were vastly different from what I had experienced in the U.S. 

Once back at school in Connecticut, I continued to explore new beer styles and different imports that were available in the Northeast, but what fascinated me the most was the small but growing craft beer market in the U.S.  At the time there were several new breweries in my area, but Vermont seemed to be where it was at.  A number of small but interesting breweries had opened in the state over the past decade creating a have a thriving craft beer scene.  These beers weren’t distributed much outside Vermont at that point, but I was able to try some of their beers each winter when I was up their snowboarding.

Each trip up would include a stop at a different local brewery.  What I learned during a tour at one of the new breweries was a lot of the brewers had started out by making beer at home.  After returning from the at trip, I found a guy selling some home brew equipment out of his liquor store, got a few books and went to work.  Before my first batch had finished fermenting, I think I knew I would one day open a brewery.

That was over 10 years ago…so what took so long.  Besides being young and broke, I thought this venture would be better served getting some business experience while I continued to learn how to brew at home.  So I got a career in New York City as a litigation consultant and continued to brew beer and research the industry on weekends. 

After four years as a consultant and brewing beer in a tiny East Village apartment I shared with a college roommate, I headed back to business school.  Although I didn’t get to brew that much over those two years because of exams, projects, etc., I did mange to land a sweet summer internship in the Netherlands.  

I spent my weekends visiting fantastic beer destinations like Antwerp, Cologne, Brussels, Düsseldorf and more out of the way locations like the Trappist breweries in the country side of Belgium—all of which were just a short train (and/or bus) ride away.  

I also got a chance to revisit places like Copenhagen, Dublin, London and Munich and I spent a little bit of time in Amsterdam…which is always a good time. 

After business school I was back in a suit in NYC.  I ended up working in Mergers & Acquisitions at an investment bank and brewing in a different, even smaller apartment.  Seems like another unusual decision for someone interested in opening a brewery, but I felt that it was a great place to learn practical skills needed to pull together a business plan, run a business and most importantly save some money. 

If you know nothing about the life of an investment banker, the key take away is that the hours are crazy—weeks routinely exceed 80 hours and often reach close to 100.  A fair amount of that time is spent waiting, so I used that downtime to do research, build models, speak to people in the industry and complete the business plan.  It took close to three years but when you have to pull it together on your limited amount of free time that’s what it takes. 

The one benefit though was that travel was sometimes a large part of that job so I was able to squeeze in visits to a lot of breweries that I would never been able to see otherwise and extend some of my work trips with my limited vacation time to attend events like the Craft Brewers Conferences or to take brewing classes at University of California at Davis. 

With the plan mostly complete, I started looking for a building in the summer of 2009.  I wanted to find a place that fall and leave my job after the New Year.  I grossly overestimated the time it would it take to find a suitable building for the brewery, which I will get to in a later posts, but as of March 2010 I pushed forward without a location and became the first, and only full-time employee of the Kane Brewing Company. 

A lot has been accomplished since March of 2010.  I plan to fill in the details in later posts, but I wanted to introduce myself and let you know how we got here.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Celebrating Thanksgiving 2010 with our 2009 Belgian-style strong made with maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, fresh orange zest and loads of roasted butternut squash.  Enjoy a safe and happy holiday. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Beginning

Here on the coast today it was close to 80° in late October.  Way outside the average temperature for this time of year, but a perfect excuse to walk up the street and work on getting this site up and running from the beach.

We wanted to start this site to both track the process of opening a small craft brewery on the coast of New Jersey for ourselves, but also to keep family and friends updated on our progress during the start-up phase.  We also wanted to use this site to share what we have planned for the brewery and keep everyone informed once we’re opened.    

There also seems to be a fair amount of interest in the process of opening of brewery.  We’ve been working on this project for some time now and have had a great deal of help from people both inside and outside the industry.  We hope we can pass along some of the information we’ve learned along the way to others working on similar projects so that they can avoid some of the mistakes we’ve already made and the ones that are in front of us.

As for the most important part, the brewery, and where we are in the process.  Kane Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Ocean Township in Monmouth County, New Jersey, specializing in American and Belgian-style ales.  Our beers will be (mostly) draft-only and served in local bars and restaurants in central and northern New Jersey.   

The current timeline has us opening in spring of 2011.  This, of course, is basically a guess and subject to change as we’re finding this process to be very unpredictable and mostly beyond our control.  That’s it for now—just a basic introduction to the site, our plans for the brewery and where we currently stand.  We plan to fill in more details regarding what’s already been accomplished, what we need to get done and of course, much more about our beers.