What happens when you decide to start a brewery in South Jersey? Well, you get about 20 resumes per day according to Becky Pederson, co-owner of the Turtle Stone Brewing Company in Vineland. “Everyone thinks it would be fun to make beer,” she adds. But the reality is very different. “It’s mostly cleaning, and brewing, and cleaning again,” says Ben Battiata, co-owner and brewer. Not exactly the glamour that people imagine.
Still, all the hard work is starting to pay off for Pederson and Battiata. At this year’s Atlantic City Beer Fest, Turtle Stone Brewing samples ran out at both sessions. “Restaurants are calling to have our beer on tap, and people want to know where they can buy our beer,” says Ben. The Old Oar House Restaurant and Pub in Millville commissioned Turtle Stone to create their House Ale which will be released on April 21st at a special food/beer pairing event. According to Battaita, the Red Rye Ale is a dry-hopped ale that is tempered by the use of sweet rye. “It’ll be great with steaks,” he adds.
Right now, Turtle Stone is a production brewery, meaning they make beer for sale, but they are unable to serve it like a restaurant or a bar. The plan is to offer tours at their Vineland brewery with beer tastings and to sell their products in six-packs, cases, and growlers. When their 15-barrel system is up and running, they will be able to brew several times per week. Enough to satisfy craft-brew lovers in South Jersey and beyond!
Before my tour of the brewery, I asked Becky a few questions about getting started as a brewer in South Jersey.
Ben and I both were born and raised here. We liked the idea of starting the company in our hometown. Vineland’s location in New Jersey was also appealing. We are pretty much half way between Philadelphia and the shore. Our location is right off of Route 55 and we felt that it would be a great place to stop by for anyone traveling back and forth.
It’s been a long road for Turtle Stone to get to the brewing stage. Tell me more about the process of opening a brewery in New Jersey.
It has been long! We started the process back in 2006. From 2006 to 2009 we did a lot of research. We traveled to different breweries. Talking to brewers at different places helped us get a better understanding of what direction we wanted to go. Ben also traveled out to Seibel Institute in Chicago and took some commercial brewery classes. It was during that time that we decided the size and setup we wanted. After that we started to look for equipment that matched our requirements and in 2009 we found a system. We then spent a solid 2 years looking for a location. It was surprisingly hard to find something in Vineland that was the right size, height and price. The wait paid off, we really are in the perfect location for us.
What kind of beer do you like? What kind of beer will you brew?
Our intention is to brew traditional ales with our own twist. The first beers we have fermenting are a Chocolate Milk Stout, Red Rye Ale and an American Stout. The Red Rye Ale will be on tap as the house beer at the Old Oar House in Millville. We hope to have 4 regular beers with a rotating seasonal.
How important is incorporating local ingredients in your brews?
Incorporating local ingredients as much as possible is very important to us. Two of our seasonal beers will feature local ingredients. One beer we are excited about is a Dandelion Saison. Since Vineland is the dandelion capital we wanted to incorporate that into something. We also have a sweet potato beer planned as our fall seasonal.
What inspires you to do this?
Our love for beer has been the main driving factor. We also always knew that we wanted to have our own business. Brewing really is a craft. Everyday we get to take all the regular ingredients of beer and turn it into something unique and interesting that is our own interpretation.
You are one of a handful of brewers starting up in South Jersey. What does the future hold for small breweries in the Garden State?
Back when we started to plan for the brewery in 2006 people would look at us like we were crazy. Barely anyone in this area had knowledge of craft beer. I think the growth we are seeing is good for the industry in New Jersey. The abundance of new breweries in the state has helped raise craft beer awareness. Hopefully we can all continue to grow and really turn New Jersey into a beer destination like many areas in the West.
Turtle Stone Brewery is located at 1940 South West Boulevard in Vineland. They are currently producing small batches of beer for The Old Oar House in Millville. Look for expanded production and availability of their craft brews this summer.
For more on the Altantic City Beer Fest, check out the Video Here.
Jennifer Malme is a full-time mother, sometime substitute teacher, avid locavore, and enthusiastic supporter of New Jersey wines. Her lifestyle blog, Down-Home South Jersey, explores ways to live simply and eat well in and around Cumberland County. When she is not blogging, she enjoys cooking, touring local wineries, and reading. She has never met a cheese that she doesn’t like, and she especially enjoys finding new, authentic ethnic restaurants in her area. Jennifer lives in Vineland with her husband, teenage son, and very smart Siamese cat.