When Thomas Zubar lost his job at a software company, he didn’t go out and drown his sorrows with a few pints of beer. Instead, he decided to make the beer himself. Out of the unfortunate career event, Demented Brewing Company was born, an idea that had been in the back of Zubar’s head for awhile.
“I was juggling working full-time and building the brewery,” he said while drinking one of his beers. “Then when I got laid off I was like, ‘Well, looks like I’m doing this 100 percent of the time.'”
The Bayonne native was knee-deep in a computer science career as a software engineer when he discovered home brewing. “I’m a black and tan kind of guy: Guinness and Bass. Then a friend introduced me to IPAs,” he recalled. “That got me into brewing to see if I can make my own stouts and IPAs that I could appreciate more.”
That sparked a curiosity that led him to visiting breweries and collecting growlers. All the while, he was amassing data to figure out what kind of brewery he could open one day. Even when he thought it was a pipe dream, he saw that Cape May Brewing Company were making excellent beers on a small, 10-gallon system starting out. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial style and figure one day I’d own a business,” he explained. “When I finished my first batch of beer. I knew I had to open a brewery.”
Initial plans for a production facility in 2012 kept Zubar needing a full-time job. This gave him time to save money, do research on a bigger brewing system — and drink and make more beer. When he got laid off in 2014, he was already setting up shop in Middlesex in a building he found on Craigslist.
While trying to find a name that paid homage to New Jersey and the Jersey Devil legend, he was reading the classic ‘zine Weird NJ. The word “demented” popped out in an article, so he combined that with a red devil logo and the brewery was ready for action.
Inspired by Cape May Brewing Company’s constantly rotating selection, Zubar wants to debut a new beer every week that he develops on the same pilot system he used when he was home brewing. The focus is to make every style of beer possible. Their flagship beer? Scarlet Knight. The American Red Ale plays tribute to the nearby Rutgers Scarlet Knights with its deep ruby color and complex sweetness from the five-malt blend.
For the hop heads, they offer Dementia (6% ABV) and fan-favorite Double Dementia (8.5% ABV), an IPA and Imperial IPA for those who want something that’s easy-going, floral and drinkable and then something that’s more adventurous and juicy. In the summer, you can look for Hints of Dementia, their low-alcohol session IPA (4.5% ABV) .
To continue the winter into February and help get you into the mood for March and St. Patrick’s Day, Demented will release a stout series based on the seven deadly sins. Envy is a stout brewed with chicory, a medicinal root that’s found in New Orleans-style iced coffee. Appropriately, Lust is a sexy chocolate stout for all the lovers out there.
With all this beer swirling around, Zubar hasn’t lost touch with the programmer in him. He developed software that his sales staff uses to track orders efficiently, while creating an online map to show where drinkers can find their beer on tap or in store.
Before the taproom opened in August 2015, beers were already out in the market to create buzz. While the official ribbon-cutting occurred and fans were pouring in over poured pints, Zubar had already found satisfaction in a job well done. “I sat down at a bar a couple of months before we opened and ordered my own beer. That’s pretty cool,” he said.
The positive word of mouth for Demented helps an increasingly crowded craft beer scene in the state that’s nearing 70 breweries and a dozen brew pubs. Zubar agreed that the more breweries there are in the state, the more people will get turned onto craft beer and seek out taprooms in every part of the state. Eventually, the image of a craft beer drinker will be similar to a wine enthusiast where they compare tasting notes, discuss quality and debate vintages. Although, as Zubar pointed out, “I haven’t seen anymore wait three hours to buy a bottle of wine like they do for beer releases.”
After almost two years of operation, Zubar doesn’t have to order his own beer at a bar. He can just do it in his taproom where you’re greeted with a haunted mural that ties into the quirky style of their beer. In the end, he enjoys listening to people talk about his beer. “I know it sounds weird but I like watching people drink our product. It’s pretty rewarding.”
Name: Demented Brewing Company
Standout Beer: Scarlet Knight Red Ale
Know Before You Go: Tasting room provides pints, flights, growler fills, bottle releases and merchandise. Check Facebook for up-to-date hours, upcoming releases, events and tap list. Food is allowed in the tap room. No pets. First-time visitors must take tour of production facility
About the author: Chris Castellani writes about the NJ beer scene for BestofNJ.com. He also writes the travel blog Why Am I Not There?
- Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Chris Castellani