The term “all in” gets thrown around when people are dedicated to achieving their goal, dreams or big ideas. For Paul Simmons and his wife Jenifer of Glasstown Brewing Co., they were “all in” and then some. “When we opened, we had maxed out a few credit cards and had $600 to our names,” Paul explained. “I didn’t have a job, we worked countless hours on building this and we had no backup plan.”
Four years later, not only does the Simmons’ beer venture make them veterans of the New Jersey craft beer scene, they are producing highly sought after beers that bring in beer travelers far and wide.
And far and wide is the only way to get to Glasstown Brewing in Cumberland County. Located in the Millville Army Air Field (which was used heavily during World War II), it’s the only brewery for 20 miles in any direction. In the same facility is a flight training school, a runway for private planes to land and refuel, an aviation museum, a diner, a distillery and a scattering of hangers, vintage planes and buildings.
“It means a lot to us when anybody comes in for the first time. We’re a little out of the way,” laughed Jenifer.
The long road (or runway in this case) to IPAs, pale ales and porters starts in Cape May County, where both of them grew up. Paul received his education in beer as a longtime bartender, where he saw the evolution of traditional American beer to more locally-produced brews.
“I remember when we put on Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA and people were flipping out,” remembered Paul. “I had no idea what the fuss was until I tried it and it was something special.”
After graduating from Penn State, Paul bounced around South Jersey working in environmental science. When not analyzing the wetlands, Paul and Jenifer would homebrew together as a couple’s activity. After New Jersey brewing laws changed in 2012 to allow for more breweries and tap rooms, it gave them the idea to create a brewery on their own.
The plan, which they hashed out on their honeymoon, was to start small and use the profits to slowly build up the business. As for the beer, they were all in on the IPAs.
“We realize quickly that not everybody are hop junkies like us,” said Paul. “People were asking for darker beers and more variety to choose from, so we shifted gears to stouts and porters. Now, I love brewing those.”
What was not in the plan was Paul being fired from his environmental job when they discovered that he was spending his free time brewing beer and planning a new brewery as a second job.
“I remember the day clearly, April 4, 2014. We had our zoning board hearing in Millville. We got cleared to operate,” recalled Paul. “That Sunday it was in the local paper. My boss’s secretary saw it. She put it on my boss’s desk. I was fired on Friday.”
“It was definitely a blessing in disguise,” said Jenifer. “It gave us more time to get the brewery up and running at a quicker pace. It also forced us to be creative and thrifty.”
Case in point, they bought used brewery equipment from Double Wing Brewing in Ohio and used the airport’s old mechanics shop for their beer operation. On that secondhand system, they planned the beers that they would brew for friends and family. When people kept on asking for more, they knew they had something to build upon.
What they were asking for was the Founders Ale, a 7% ABV amber beer with a deep copper color and rich malty, bready flavors that utilizes British hops.
To satisfy their hops craving, they took their original IPA recipe and created their 609 IPA, which is their best seller and can be found in cans where fine craft beer is poured and sold in the 609 area code. This hazy IPA has a prickly hop bite, a sizeable floral nose and finishes on high notes of citrus with a piney aftertaste. For those who want something more sessionable for everyday drinking, they make a Danky Jr. IPA and a Lunch Pale Ale (both at 5.5% ABV).
When the people wanted dark beer, the Simmons’ went with a Jersey diner breakfast in a glass concept, Big Breakfast Coffee Maple Porter. The smooth maple aroma prepares you for the robust chocolate malts and strong coffee taste.
For those who still want to kick it up a notch, A Stout With No Name clocks in at 9% APV. If you need a beer that can ease you into your sleep, their Nightcap Belgian Blonde will satisfy with warming spiced notes.
While they were up and running and pouring beer in 2014, the pair thought that they were late to the craft beer party after Cape May Brewing Co. and Tuckahoe were already gathering steam. As it turns out, they got in early while dozens of other breweries have opened up in South Jersey since then.
Taking their name from the Millville’s original nickname as a glass manufacturing hub, Glasstown started out strong, almost too strong.
“We were down to one keg soon after opening and with two beers on tap. I told friends from Cape May not to come because we were out of beer,” said Jenifer as she shows pictures of their grand opening. “It’s been a crazy ride since then.”
“We had tears of joys coming home after our first weekend,” said Paul. “We had gone through so much to get this place going and a few town people told us we were crazy for opening up a brewery at the airport, but we knew that we had started something special.”
The Glasstown story doesn’t end at an airfield in a remote part of Cumberland County. The Simmonses next big idea is to buy a farm, put in a brewery, add some farm animals and turn it into a family destination. While that dream is still a few years down the road, they sum up the reason why they enjoy running a brewery with one word, “Freedom!”
Name: Glasstown Brewing Company
Location: Millville, Cumberland County
Standout Beer: 609 IPA
Know Before You Go: Taproom open for pints, flights, growler fills, merchandise and cans to go. Check Facebook for tap lists, updated hours, can releases and upcoming events. Outside food allowed. No pets allowed indoors, but allowed in outside area. Parking lot located behind brewery.
Don’t forget to check out the entire Brew Jersey series here.
- Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ