Big Man’s Brew: A Hoppy Tribute to Clarence Clemons

Big Man's Brew debut

I grew up on the Jersey shore, in Monmouth County, where it was almost mandatory to be a fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. We could sing along to any song, including the early stuff, without a karaoke prompt—although a couple of beers on the beach would help jog the memory. No one would dispute the fact that Bruce was the soul of that band. The heart, however, was the tenor sax of Clarence Clemons, the Big Man. For fans like me, his passing, in 2011, felt like the loss of an old friend. The sax solo on “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” will forever put a lump in my throat. That saxophone, in those big hands, defined the Jersey Shore sound which would be beloved across the globe.

Big Man’s Brew

The moment I found out about the Big Man’s Brew project I was hooked. The Big Man. In Jersey, we all know who that is. There’s beer involved? I’m in! From a conversation with Michael Beck, COO of the Big Man’s Brew project, I learned that the idea was spawned by none other than Nick Clemons, Clarence’s son. Allen “Doc” Rosen, a plastic surgeon with an entrepreneurial spirit who helped structure the company, told Clemons that he had a brand but no product. Barb Deitz-Caprioni, who handles publicity for the company, happened to come across a magazine article about the growth of craft beer in New Jersey and suggested to Clemons that this missing product just might be a beer. Craft beer evokes a feeling of creativity and independence that captures the free spirit of the Big Man and Clemons thinks it’s a great way to pay homage to his dad. Beer sales will also enable the continued support of various charities that have been associated with the Clemons family. “Sales of the heart” is how Rosen put it. The first beer will be an approachable, food-friendly IPA weighing in at 6.5% ABV. The recipe was formulated by Nick with the help of 902 Brewing (Hoboken), which will also be brewing the beer.

Brew Debut

While more styles are in the works, the IPA will make its debut at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch on May 15. The Brighton Bar has a long history as a music venue, so it seems only appropriate. (I can only hope that the Stone Pony will take the hint.) If you can’t make the opening night, Big Man IPA will be on tap there for a month. For South Jersey folks, it goes on tap at Chickie’s & Pete’s in Atlantic City, the following week. Of course, music will be featured at these and other roll-out events. Nick Clemons and his band will be making appearances as well. Also, starting on Memorial Day weekend and running through the month of June, check out the virtual pub crawl, as the beer is introduced around the state.

Boss Story

It seems like almost every Jersey Shore kid has a story about meeting Bruce. My story eluded me until that magical night when I met him at the urinal at the long-gone Tradewinds night club in Sea Bright. True story. Sadly, though, I never had the chance to meet Clarence. This beer will be the closest I’ll ever get to that so, all you little pretties, raise your glasses and toast the Big Man!

The Big Man, Clarence Clemons

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May 15, 7 p.m.: The Brighton Bar

Live music: anyone remember the Red Bank Rockers?

121 Brighton Ave
Long Branch, NJ 07740

May 20, 5 p.m.: Chickie’s & Pete’s at the Tropicana

More live music and the Big Man Brew crew!

2831 Boardwalk
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

Pictured at top, from left: Bill Spadea from 101.5, Michael Beck, Nick Clemons, and Barb Deitz-Caprioni