Posted on | December 23, 2015
Written by | Kristen Wolfe Bieler
From Nano-Brewery to Micro-Brewery, New Jersey Beer Co. Finds its Stride.
Paul Silverman knew a lot about real estate development, trucking, warehousing and marketing when he purchased New Jersey Beer Company four years ago. What he didn’t know much about was making beer.
“I had always loved beer, and when I decided to get serious about opening my own brewery, I went to NJ Beer Co. to learn how it all worked,” he recalls. In bad financial shape, the brewery, founded in 2009, offered Silverman the opportunity to invest, but he was still determining if he would start his own operation from scratch. When a Today Show segment several weeks later featured All About Beer editor John Holl recommending NJ Beer Co. Garden State Stout as his top pick for St. Patrick’s Day, he made up his mind.
“I called them back the next day and said I was in,” says Silverman, who spent the next year upgrading the brewery with the goal of achieving more consistent quality (hiring a second brewer with a science background was a big help). He also secured a distribution deal with Allied Beverage across the state—“I like that Allied has only a few beers in their portfolio; it helps us stand out,” he notes.
Located in a North Bergen industrial strip in a converted warehouse within sight of midtown Manhattan, NJ Beer Co. has undoubtedly benefited from the boom in craft beer—there are currently over 30 breweries in the state of New Jersey with murmurs of close to 20 more in construction. (Interestingly, Hudson County was once packed with breweries; the nation’s first opened in Hoboken in 1642.) But it’s the phenomenal quality of the beer, as well as fierce customer loyalty, that explains why the company’s beers sell out immediately upon release.
With Jersey-themed names like Garden State Stout and Weehawken Wee Heavy, the beers have tapped a vein of local pride. Two years ago, NJ Beer Co. launched a Long Beach Island IPA—shortened to LBIPA, with the “I” pictured as a lighthouse—and donates proceeds to benefit the beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Today it’s their best seller.
Silverman expects to double production this year, which means NJ Beer Co. will produce a mere 2,000 barrels—half in bottle, half in kegs. One of the brewery’s biggest accounts is the Prudential Center in Newark where the New Jersey Devils play hockey. While he’d like to see his volume grow again next year, he never wants to exceed 4,000 barrels.
“What is the definition of craft? For me it’s when a brewer is really hands-on in making the beer, and tasting it daily,” he says. “You can’t do that when you are making tens of thousands of barrels. Large breweries make their beers with computers.” Budweiser operates a massive facility nearby, and Silverman jokes that they spill more beer in one night than NJ Beer Co. makes in a year.
He’s OK with running out of beer—which happens more often than not—and fine to not be in every market or every account. “We have a lot of demand outside New Jersey, certainly from New York, but it’s kind of fun to tell people they can’t get our beer unless they come to New Jersey.”