“There’s a lotta love for the Little Dog,” quips Gretchen Schmidhausler, owner of Little Dog Brewing Co., in Neptune, NJ. The brewery celebrates its third anniversary this weekend. On Saturday, November 18, and into Sunday, November 19, Little Dog will hold a mini-cask festival with pints and flights of casked versions of Schmidhausler’s favorite beers, including a bourbon stout, Nipper (a Habanero pale ale), and more.
Growth of the Brewery Scene
While Schmidhausler is taking the time to celebrate the brewery’s past success, she’s also keeping an eye on the future. Breweries are popping up all over the state and she’s seen a number of them open in the Monmouth and northern Ocean County area during the short time Little Dog has occupied its tiny storefront on Steiner Avenue. “In the three years I’ve been open, four breweries have opened in the immediate area—with more to come,” she said. There is a dynamic relationship between all of these breweries, which has created a rising tide of beer tourism that lifts all boats. To a point.
All of these new breweries also mean increasing competition for tap handles at the local bars and restaurants. Like many small breweries around the state, Little Dog faces a pivotal point in its existence. Schmidhausler points out, “At three years old, Little Dog is holding its own—paying the bills, making good beer, servicing 25 to 30 accounts, and keeping people happy in the Tasting Room.” Unlike other breweries, Schmidhausler sees her tasting room as more of a marketing tool and less as a wholesale outlet. Her goal for 2018 is to have more off-premise accounts.
On the Horizon
As much as she enjoys visiting accounts and delivering her beer to the owner or bartender who will be serving it, Schmidhausler knows establishing a more robust sales strategy will require some help. The idea of hiring that help might not be as daunting as it would be for other breweries. “I’m fortunate that my overhead is relatively low compared to other breweries—and that was by design.”
It sounds like Little Dog is poised to get a little less little in 2018. If you make it to the cask festival, try the Gesundheit German style altbier spiced with Star Anise. That’s one of my favorites!
Little Dog Brewing Co.
141 Steiner Avenue
Neptune City, NJ
Hours (subject to change):
Friday: 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 12 to 6 p.m.
Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m.