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Tuckahoe Brewing Company gets started on first commercial beer
OCEAN VIEW — Tim Hanna sees a good future for beer in Cape May County.
He and his friends Matt McDevitt, Chris Konicki and Jim McAfee founded Tuckahoe Brewing Company, the second local brewery to gain state approvals in Cape May County in 2011.
So far, the company has not sold a single pint. The business received its license in December; and work began on the first batch of beer, which the brewery owners said will be available on tap at several bars and taverns in northern Cape May County. The partners hope the first pints will be pulled this month.
McDevitt is the beer expert, say his three partners. He’s the one who’s been brewing the longest, and he’s the one who came up with the flavors and styles Tuckahoe Brewing will offer. He was also the one with another commitment when his business partners met with a reporter at their brewery on Stoney Court, in a building off Route 550 next to a coffee roaster and other businesses.
The other three partners put in some last minute work on the tanks at the site, and talked beer and beer business.
According to Hanna, a brewery needs to make a good beer, but that’s not the whole story. The first step is getting state and federal licensing, which is a long process that began months ago. There was a public notice published in the spring, and state inspectors checked out their site in December before giving clearance to begin commercial operations on Dec. 14.
They plan to offer four beers: a wheat style, a darker porter, an amber ale and a pale ale, each named for a local landmark, but they said the Dennis Creek (or DC) Pale Ale will be the flagship beer for the brewery.
There are still more licenses needed before the brewery can begin offering tastings on site, Hanna said, although the partners indicated that will not be as extensive a process.
Three of the partners are teachers at Mainland Regional High School, and McAfee is an architect. They all plan to keep their day jobs, and have each invested money and time in the business. There is a lot of planning and work that went into getting the brewery off the ground, Hanna said; enough that it makes the actual beer making look like the easy part. Or at least the fun part.
“It’s certainly not an overnight thing,” he said. “There’s a whole other side of it that has nothing to do with beer.”
He pointed to other breweries in the region, such as Blue Collar Brewery in Vineland, which made an excellent and well-respected beer, but ended up going out of business. In an earlier interview, Hanna said American beer drinkers used to all support their local breweries, and he sees a return to that kind of beer drinking. That would mean that a brewery would not need national or international distribution to make it, just dedicated local supporters.
The original plan was for the brewery to be something the friends would take up when they retired.
“Seven or eight years from now we would have all gotten it going, and I would have worked here full time,” Hanna said. “But for teachers, the landscape as far as retirements has changed.”
They decided not to wait, and to instead get the businesses under way ahead of schedule.
The brewery is in a single, large room overlooked by a loft, which includes the vintage vinyl records that provide the brewing soundtrack. A well-used longboard leans in the corner. Hanna jokes that the partners’ wives told them they could not put a couch in the brewery.
It also includes an area in the front, decorated with a mural showing local scenes, where the tastings will take place. They will be able to sell a small amount of beer on site, and plan to sell T-shirts and glasses – an important part of the business plan.
“It’s a little bit daunting, but at the same time it’s exciting,” Hanna said, adding that brewing thousands of gallons of beer will not be easy, but it should not be as difficult as the licensing process.
One project for the New Year the partners seem particularly excited about is a coffee stout planned with their neighbor, Harry & Beans Coffee, with proceeds to be donated to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. It’s to be called TBC Coffee Stout. Hanna, who is a surfer, said they are also working with Surfer Supplies in Ocean City on the beer in honor of the late George Gerlach, who founded the store and is a beloved figure in the surfing community both in the area and beyond.
Other plans include participating in the Atlantic City Beer Festival this spring and paying back some debts to the friends who helped renovate the brewery. The partners did much of the work themselves, building a platform for the stainless steel vats and laying pipe for the filtered water. They said many friends with construction experience helped, but they got the impression the friends thought the beer would already be flowing.
They are also working on a local source for malts grown in New Jersey, which would allow the brewery to include a Jersey Fresh label on their product.
Another brewery, Cape May Brewing Company, located at the Cape May County Airport in Lower Township, was a little ahead of the Tuckahoe Brewery for licenses. And that may not be the end of the story for Cape May County beer. Pinelands Brewing, founded by Atlantic County natives, is looking at sites in the northern Cape May County, Hanna said. The New Jersey beer blog “Beer stained letter” reported last month that the founders were looking at a site in Belleplain.