While “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Thomas Edison, didn’t invent beer or the equipment used for making it, his spirit of innovation, inspiration and perseverance lives on in Edison, New Jersey’s craft brewery, Cypress Brewing Co. Now, these inventors of fine IPAs, stouts, browns and Belgian ales are shedding light on the state’s craft beer boom.
The bright idea to start a brewery in the place that Edison operated came from three guys who met in the world of homebrewing. Founders and local guys Bill Lutz, Jason Kijowski and Charles Backmann enjoyed brewing for themselves, but felt that they should share beyond their circle of friends and family. Kijowski and Backmann got their start in beer by brewing and managing at the popular brewpub in Woodbridge, J.J. Bitting.
When the three began collaborating on their own recipes, they packaged it up and shared their product with friends for feedback. Their beer-drinking friends told them that it stood up in quality to any beer available in stores or at the bar.
Lutz started things rolling by registering for an LLC. “I’ve always been attracted to non-mainstream beers and imports like Guinness and Harp, so what we make stems from that thinking,” said Lutz on an afternoon in Cypress’s taproom.
Over the next six months they laid out their business plan and settled on the name Cypress as an homage to the street Kijowski lived on. “We had a simple business plan, take over the world one beer at a time,” Lutz joked. “What was important to us was that at least people knew who we were in Edison.”
With IPAs all the rage, the three leaned more on darker styles like stouts, porters and brown ales. One of their original recipes from homebrewing that continues today is their double chocolate oatmeal stout.
The name? If you grew up in the mid-90s and watched Yo! MTV Raps, you know you can’t think of the word Cypress and not think of Cypress Hill and their hit, “Insane in the Brain.” Thus, the beer is named Loco en el Cocoa, a riff on the beginning lines of the tune.
Another original recipe the three concocted is one of their flagships. Northern English Nut Brown, a malty, pub-drinking style low-alcohol beer with a roasty, nutty flavor. For added flavor, they make a version adding coconut.
Their Belgian-inspired Abbey Dubbel is candy-sweet (due to the addition of golden raisins in the brewing process), but easily crushable at 6.4% ABV.
“We do like to experiment and make slight adjustments. The Abbey Dubbel has evolved and we also make versions with blood orange for the summer that gives it a unique spin,” he added. “We love customer feedback to see what they like and what isn’t resonating.”
Continuing on their forward-thinking beers, Cypress created a fun French Toast stout that tastes like Sunday brunch in a glass without waiting in line for an hour. With flavors of maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla beans, you’ll forget about ordering a mimosa next time you’re out for brunch.
With creative beers being made on a small 2-barrel system and a convenient Edison location within a small industrial park, Cypress began pouring in July 2015 with the town mayor performing a ribbon cutting.
They quickly realized that they had focused so much on the mechanics and quality in brewing that their tap room, with just a couple of bar stools, wouldn’t cut it.
“It was pretty funny that we put so much effort into the beer, that on opening day people were crowding into here with no place to move or sit,” said Lutz. Eventually, the crew created a roomy space that’s now open seven days a week.
“Within the first month, we knew that this was going to work, but in the beginning we just didn’t know,” explained Lutz. “We kept seeing the same people come in all the time and now we see new faces everyday.”
Fast forward to today, Cypress has completed their first expansion, which allows them to make 10 times the beer and offers space for canning. On the canning line? Insane in the Grain, another Cypress Hill riff. This double IPA (8.3% ABV) uses a copious amounts of Citra hops for that stinging bite craved for by hoppy beer heads. In the next few months, they’ll introduce a session IPA and a series of seasonal fruit beers.
Now that Cypress is fully ingrained in the New Jersey beer scene, Lutz recognizes the immense transition, but also that the 70+ breweries in the state all have a unique personality. “It’s an interesting cast of characters. Now, they are all a part of my life,” he said. “I don’t call them competition, I call it co-op-petition. Everyone wants everybody else to succeed.”
With beers quickly getting out the door, Cypress Brewing hopes New Jersey will be nationally known as a beer destination alongside Oregon, Washington, Colorado, North Carolina and Vermont.
For now, Lutz joking admits that having free beer at hand is the best thing about running a craft brewery. “In reality, it’s being a part of the Edison business community,” he said. “The three of us all grew up around here and we’re giving back to it. Also, we’ve created a little community of our own here. People come from all over and meet other craft beer fans here, so it’s something special.”
Missed the last installment of Brew Jersey? Read all about Flounder Brewing.
Name: Cypress Brewing Co.
Location: Edison, Middlesex County
Standout Beer: Northern England Nut Brown
Know Before You Go: Taproom open for pints, flights, growler fills, bottles and cans to-go and merchandise. Check Facebook or Untappd for tap lists, updated hours, bottle and can releases and upcoming events. Food and pets are allowed.
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?