#102 – River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ

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(1) OUR EXPERIENCE

We visited River Horse Brewing Company in NJ on National Beer Day, however they were not open to the public so we were given a private look at the inside of the brewery while the staff told us all about what makes River Horse unique. It was obvious that they work hard to make a great product rather than get wrapped up in the glamorous media side of brewing. The head brewer Chris said: “It’s fun and it’s great; I love it. There’s nothing else I ever want to do or plan to do, but we’re working in a factory. We’re not ‘too cool’ for anything, ya know?” All of the beer we sampled was straight forward, clean, & well-done, all of the staff were great to talk to and humble, and the facility has plenty of room for expansion. Gotta love the art on their walls.

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(2) VITAL INFORMATION

Date of our visit: Monday, 04/07/2014
Open since: 1996
Approx. Barrel (bbl) Output 2013: 9,000 bbl
Projected bbl Output 2014: 13,000 bbl
Brewhouse Size: 25 bbl
Owner(s): Chris Walsh & Ben Bernabeo
Head Brewer: Chris Rakow
Packaging: Bottles/ Kegs
Distribution: NJ, NY, PA, CT

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Other things we learned:
* Purchased by current owners from Bryan brothers in 2007
* Moved to current facility in July 2013, after maxing out the capacity of the previous location
* 13 fermenters at the time of our visit
* Looking to use mobile canning in future
* Everything is unfiltered, for now
* Artwork and recipes were changed under the new ownership
* Spray paint tags done by Green Villain from Jersey City
* 75% cases of bottles / 25% kegs
* Bottling line does 50 – 60 bottles per minute
* Have jockey boxes placed throughout warehouse, so they can refill beer samples during tours

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(3) BEERS WE TASTED DURING OUR VISIT

* Summer Blonde
* Brews Reserve Pilsner
* Hop-a-lot-amus
* Brewers Reserve Coffee Oatmeal Milk Stout
* Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tripel Horse
* Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale
* Complete list of beers

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Other notes about their beer:

* 4 Seasonals

* 4-6 in Brewer’s Reserve Series each year

* Had a double IPA called hop-a-lot-amus, put that to the side since they don’t filter and therefore couldn’t dry hop, purchased a filter specifically for IPA, going to be dry-hopping and filtering an IPA which will come out later this year as a year-round release, then will bring double IPA back as a dry-hopped/ filtered version.

* Brewed an Oatmeal Milk Stout, threw some into bourbon barrels to age and sold as one version, put locally roasted coffee beans in some to make second version, mixed the two with 5 bourbon to 1 coffee ratio in bombers as a special hand-bottled release

* Currently on the 16th recipe in their Brewers Reserve series; haven’t repeated any of them. Next one is a Berliner Weisse

* Summer Blonde is a 4.5% sessionable beer that was just released on April 1st; numbers for launch day were bigger than the numbers for all of last summer

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(4) EXPANSION PLANS

* Getting a few new 100 & 150 bbl fermenters and brite tanks this year, full expansion will be to eventually have twenty 150bbl fermenters and four 150 bbl brite tanks

* Will be using the 25bbl brewhouse until they get to around 30,000 bbl/year then will purchase a 50 bbl brewhouse

(5) BACKGROUND OF PEOPLE WE SPOKE TO

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[Haggis, Me, Sara, Casey, Chris]

Name: Chris Rakow
Title: Head Brewer
Been with company since: 2009
Previous Brewing Experience: Harpoon in VT
Previous Occupation(s): Electrical Engineer
Favorite Superhero: Spider-man

Name: Casey Cramer
Title: Brewery Manager
Been with company since: 2010
Previous Brewing Experience: Weyerbacher in PA
Previous Occupation(s): Commercial Carpenter
Favorite Superhero: Lobo

Name: Sara Cifelli
Title: Office Manager
Been with company since: 2013
Previous Brewing Experience: n/a
Previous Occupation(s): College Student, General Business Administration
Favorite Superhero: The Hulk (Ed Norton version)

(6) MORE LINKS ABOUT BREWERY

Main website
Info about tours
Upcoming events

(7) You can find the rest of our photos here

Author: Michael Roberts

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