Belford is a tiny enclave on the north shore of New Jersey best known for being a fishing village and ferry harbor to New York City. With around 1,700 residents, it’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” town nestled within Middletown Township.
It’s also where brothers Kevin and Mike Enny have lived all their lives.
“Me and my six brothers and sisters were born here and raised here,” Kevin explained. “I see no reason to leave.”
“My four children were raised here and went to the same middle school and high school I went to. They all went to Rutgers. We’re loyal,” added Mike.
“It’s safe. We love all the parks. The beach is ten minutes away. A ferry ride to New York, 90 minutes to Philly. We have everything we want.”
Now, Belford can add a brewery of their own to that list. Located in a small storefront, Belford Brewing is beloved in this small town where everyone knows everyone. A pint can be enjoyed alongside neighbors, friends and even the family dog.
Since opening in 2014, the nano-brewery has churned out a diverse variety of signature recipes honed over decades of homebrewing by Kevin. It has also doubled in size since its more humble beginnings.
When you walk into the original taproom, you’ll be reminded of your favorite uncle’s basement with the antique bar, vintage sailing and fishing bric-a-brac and beer paraphernalia. It’s also where you’ll find the Enny family serving their wares.
“I really got into English-style pub beers in the 90s. There was an old brewery in New York called New Amsterdam that I loved,” recalled Kevin.
“I went into a homebrewing shop in Red Bank and wanted to make these types of beers myself. I loved smelling all the ingredients and crafting something yourself. Then at the end, you can share it with your friends.”
With the brothers enjoying careers in technology and telecommunications, the idea of starting a small brewery never came into the picture. Mike explored opening a local bar, but after doing his research and crunching the numbers with his wife, he felt it would have been over his head.
Kevin thought it would be cool to have a German-styled biergarten in town as a place to hang out with friends. Since he already had two decades of homebrewing experience to work with, the idea morphed into starting a brewery.
Unbeknownst to Kevin, the craft beer scene in New Jersey was taking shape. Next to Belford is Atlantic Highlands, home to one of the seminal craft breweries in the state, Carton.
It was owner Augie Carton who encouraged the brothers and guided them through the process.
“It’s cheaper to start a small brewery than a full bar, so the numbers work out that if didn’t work, it would not be that much of a financial hardship,” said Kevin. “It was worth taking a chance.”
“What I remember is you calling me and saying, ‘I want to brew beer.’ And I said back, ‘I want to brew beer, too,'” Mike said to Kevin.
To prepare, Kevin churned out a few of his beers and served it to friends to get honest opinions.
After several tasting parties, they settled on their core line-up which included their most popular brew, the Lobster Pot Nutbrown Ale. While the beer reflects Kevin’s appreciation for British styles, the name refers to the large pot that homebrewers often use to brew beers. It’s a malty, nutty, unfussy ale that matches the color of the vintage wooden bar.
Another British-style ale, their Crowweed Stout, pours velvety black with a creamy head. The Red Hill Rye has a rich copper color and honey sweet finish.
Since man cannot survive on British beer alone, their Pro Multis Belgian tripel is their take on trappist beers like Chimay and Westmalle. It’s 9.4% ABV and candy sweetness is indicative of what those kooky monks brew in secret.
Rounding out their core selection are two brew with a common theme. The light-drinking Striper Belgium Wit goes great with freshly-caught fish and Wares Creek American Pale Ale pays tribute to a small creek in Belford.
Also, be on the lookout for a tart Cherry Tree Wit and an Irish Red made for the Atlantic City Beer Fest.
With beer recipes ready for mass consumption, they were determined to keep it in Belford and name the brewery after their hometown.
“We begged the landlord to let us take the empty storefront, because he was sceptical. We had to talk him out of making it a dance studio,” said Mike.
“A couple of years after we started, he begged us to take the storefront next door because we brought in so much traffic.”
Even though they’ve expanded their output to 200 barrels last year (one of the smallest in the state) and doubled the tap room size, Belford Brewing is still a local meeting place where fishermen come after a day at sea.
With trivia and comedy nights, it’s more rec room than watering hole.
“Early on, people were lingering too long so I would play ‘Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)’ as a joke,” Mike said. “Now, I just ring a bell.”
Unlike other breweries in the state, running their shop is more of a night job for the brothers. Mike is enjoying retirement while Kevin keeps his day job.
“We like to keep things small because it creates less problems for us,” said Kevin. “Our main job is just keeping up with demand and making sure we have their favorites flowing.”
As lifelong Belford residents, the Enny brothers take pride in being part of the community and giving back to a town that’s raised them and their children.
“In the end, it’s about beer,” Mike said with a hearty laugh while finishing their nut brown ale.
Name: Belford Brewing Co.
Location: Belford, Monmouth County
Standout Beer: Lobster Pot Nutbrown Ale
Know Before You Go: Taproom is open for pints, flights, growler fills, cans to-go and merchandise. Parking located behind the brewery, on the street or next to the Rite Aid parking lot. Check Facebook for updated tap lists and upcoming events. Food and pets are allowed.
- Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Chris Castellani