TJ began his brewing career like most people do: by drinking. He has always enjoyed craft beer, but it was after a trip to Belgium where he visited the famed sour brewery, Cantillion, that he decided to dedicate his life to the art of brewing.
He started his career working as a Distilleryman at a small Rum and Whiskey distillery in New Jersey, while also working at two different breweries simultaneously. He did the majority of his training at Flying Fish Brewing Co in Somerdale, where he worked first pouring beer, then packaging beer as their Kegger, and finally as their Third Shift Brewer. While at Flying Fish he also attained a formal brewing education from the Siebel Institute in Chicago.
TJ loves both classic and cutting edge styles, with a focus on simple, drinkable beer made the proper way with the right intent. You can find him “living the dream” in our basement brewery, and on the rare occasion he’s away from work, he’s probably still talking some poor soul’s ear off about beer.
Q&A WITH TJ
What got you interested in brewing?
I had always had a strong interest in beer and the brewing process, but it was a trip to Brussels when I was 21 that opened my eyes to what truly great beer was out there lurking in all the corners of the world. The Belgian people treat beer with a reverence that makes it clear that beer is not just a drink to them, it’s an artistic expression in a glass worthy of respect. That’s always struck a chord with me.
How did you get your start in the microbrew scene?
I was initially hired on over at Flying Fish Brewing Company as a Beertender, pouring beer and talking about it all day long with whoever was willing to listen. I eventually worked my way up the ranks through the pacakaging line and onto the brew side as a 3rd Shift Brewer.
What is an average day like for you?
Varied, which is what I like. The brewery is largely a one man show so on any given day I can be brewing, kegging, doing cellarwork, or cleaning draft lines. But to be honest most of my time is spent cleaning. You wouldn’t believe how fast a basement brewery gets messy.
What’s your favorite style of beer? Why?
I have to say that the more I drink and the more I brew, the more I crave simplicity, which always leads back to classic German styles. There’s nothing in the world like a well executed lager or wheat beer.
What are your favorite beers on tap at the brewpub right now?
While it’s hard to choose any one of my children as my favorite, I’d have to say the Full Nelson is my beer of choice for what’s on tap right now. Sometimes single hop beers can lack dimension, but Nelson Sauvin is such a wonderful and complex hop that it really made this beer shine all on its own.
Where do you draw the inspiration from for your recipes?
Inspiration comes in equal parts from looking to classic beer styles for guidance, and the constant conversations I have with all of the wonderful beer people that roam our fair city. I spent a lot of time on the other side of the bar talking to people about what I want in a beer and what they want to realize that the best ideas come as a result of collaboration.
What’s the weirdest ingredient you put in a beer?
I once put 4 Large Dunkin’ Donut’s Iced Coffee’s straight into a Cream Ale, which generated some weird looks at the time.
Is there an ingredient out there that you really want to work with that you haven’t yet?
I have yet to play with harvesting my own yeast from the wild yet, but I plan on collecting and propagating some to use in a Saison this springtime, which will also be brewed with local hops and malt as well.
What’s your impression of the Philly brewing scene?
I think that Philly has long been recognized as one of the great beer cities, and the time is finally right for us to come into our own as a great brewing city as well. There are so many stellar breweries in the area doing so many different and interesting things, I’m proud to be in such great company and be able to offer our own take on what we think Philly beer should be.