For Jamie Queli of Forgotten Boardwalk, it was thoselast two put together. As she readied her brewery for its late 2014 launch in the former Cherry Hill home of Flying Fish, the Jersey Shore native got into a tiff with her head brewer, David Bronstein. He badly wanted to make a cream ale as one of his first offerings; Queli was not down with it.
“It’s not a very popular style, and I doubted it would be a high-selling beer,” Queli says. She told Bronstein that if he could figure out a way to ensure its popularity, she’d give in to his cream ale dreams. His answer was to brew it with real vanilla beans and lactose for extra body, but the kicker was the name: Funnel Cake. Sure enough, it was an immediate sensation. Funnel Cake started selling like, well, hotcakes, and hasn’t stopped. Forty-one percent of the beer Queli sells is Funnel Cake.
That’s right about in line with Weyerbacher’s best-seller, Merry Monks. Founder Dan Weirback says it makesup 40 percent of the brewery’s sales and he credits Merry Monks with boosting his brewery’s profile – albeit a decade-and-a-half prior. In early 2000, Weirback took a trip to Belgium and fell for the rich, sweet, bottle-conditioned ales omnipresent in Belgium. Inspired, he returned to his Easton, PA brew house, determined to create one of his own. Merry Monks was introduced that winter as a seasonal. Demand was so great that by 2002 it was a year-rounder.
“People love it because it’s every bit as good as a Belgian,” Weirback says, “but not nearly as pricey.” The buzz-inducing 9.3 percent ABV tripel is now the brewery’s best seller.
“Balanced” isn’t exactly a word that could be applied to Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – and that’s entirely by design. When Dogfish first started making it back
in 1999, “there weren’t any other Imperial IPAs that I knew of,” says president and founder Sam Calagione. To create its intense, pungent hoppiness without accompanying bitterness, he rigged a DIY-hopping machine out of a perforated bucket, duct tape and a vibrating hand-held football game.
“It looked goofy teetering over our boil kettle,” Calagione says, “but it worked.” The brewery is now known throughout the world for its unique continual-hopping style, and it all started with 90 Minute IPA.
What’s considered high in alcohol has evolved quite a bit. When Philadelphia’s Dock Street Brewing introduced Illuminator Dopplebock in the late ‘90s, its 7.5 percent ABV was “unheard of,” says co-founder Rosemarie Certo. She points to the dark lager as a memorable career point, but there’s another Dock Street beer she
credits for inscribing her name into beer history: Bohemian Pilsner.
“I am most proud to have been involved with creating a pilsner that was one of Michael Jackson’s favorites,” she says, quoting the late beer author and luminary’s description: “As soft and aromatic as the best from Bohemia.”
Bohemian Pilsner was Dock Street’s second commercially available beer, and Certo loves everything about it, from the beautiful woman on the label to the time and care it takes to create. “A good pilsner is clean, complex and balanced, without blemish,” she explains. “You might say that applies to all styles, but for pilsners there is nowhere to hide an imperfection. There is no single, over powering ingredient… you see and smell and taste everything that is present, good or bad. A pilsner takes time and pampering.”
Quality and consistency are what Cape May Brewing Co. founder Ryan Krill credits with making his five-year-old venture at the southern tip of New Jersey into a beer-lover’s travel destination. He thinks the wide selection of stand-up offerings is the main draw, but if he has to pick one that really helped him stand out
from the crowd, he goes with the IPA.
“Cape May IPA is what made my career,” Krill says. “Balanced and zippy, it always nudges you for one more.”
For Trevor Hayward and Luke Bowen of Evil Genius, Purple Monkey Dishwasher marked the start of their brewery’s fast rise.The press release touting the new recipe generated the most website traffic the young outfit had ever seen – and that was before anyone had even tasted the beer. A roasty porter infused with real chocolate and peanut butter, PMD (as the partners refer to it) is polarizing, but that’s part of what makes it popular.
“It seems to be a flavor people either decide to love or hate, but either way, they want to try the beer to reinforce their own expectations,” Hayward says, adding, “We almost always bring it to festivals now, regardless of the weather – even when it’s 80 degrees out, we’ll kick the whole keg.”