When you walk into Fort Nonsense Brewing Co.‘s taproom, you instantly get a sense of what the Aslanian brothers value most. Visitors can expect beer, history and a bit of whimsy from the three brothers – Andrew, Thomas and James. With a year of serving stouts, ales and porters under their belt, the guys are settling into their place in the New Jersey craft beer scene.
The Aslanian brothers all grew up in Rockaway (nearby their Denville brewery location) and attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Even with the bevy of bars in a college town, it wasn’t until afterwards that the craft beer world opened up for them.
Catching the Craft Beer Bug
“I think the first real craft beer I had was Troegs Troegenator,” said Andrew, the youngest brother and Fort Nonsense’s head brewer.
Speaking of the beer scene surrounding Rutgers, Andrew shared, “World of Beer was there at the time (now Hub City Brewhouse), so that kind of pushed me into craft beer. I was always more of a Stuff Yer Face guy.”
“Around 2008, I was in a liquor store and I saw an IPA called Hoptimus Prime and just thought that was awesome. Name alone, I had to buy that beer,” said Thomas, the oldest brother who maintains the brewery equipment.
With their interest in IPA’s piqued, the brothers decided to gift their chemist father with a homebrewing kit for Father’s Day.
“It was something we could all do together. We do one batch, then another and then it just spiraled from there,” recalled Thomas. “The first pass was…ummm…beer, but then we kept on trying. I kind of fell out of practice, but Andrew was always brewing, so when craft beer was becoming more of a thing, I jumped back in.”
Andrew explained, “I got bored following recipes, so I thought of my own. I was cooking in restaurants so I didn’t want to follow a formula all the time.”
Fort Nonsense Gets its Start
While Thomas enjoyed the process of measuring out grains, monitoring the boil temperature and knowing when to add the hops, Andrew enjoyed brewing as a relaxing activity to do alone after a long day in the kitchen.
It was Andrew who got the ball rolling on what would become Fort Nonsense. He first went to Joe Fisher, owner and brewer at Man Skirt Brewing in Hackettstown, to seek advice and shadow him as he brewed on a larger scale.
“It was awesome and from there it was all I could think about. I really pushed myself to start this,” he shared.
“I took more convincing,” recalled Thomas, who works full-time as an engineer. “‘You want to start a brewery?’ Uhhhhhhhhh, let’s look at it a little bit more.”
As the brothers were coming up with a business plan, they saw that the Denville, Dover and Morristown areas of Morris County were lacking a craft brewery.
They settled on Deville and, in an effort to tie the brewery to the area, chose the name Fort Nonsense. (As legend has it, George Washington built a fort in Denville to keep troops occupied and out of trouble during the Revolutionary War).
When it came to the beer, the three brothers had all developed recipes to scale up. Now, those beers are on rotation in the taproom with a few one-off or experimental beers thrown in.
The Benedict Amber Traitor Ale, a copper-hued red ale with pleasing, malt-forward flavor, has an easy-drinking British pub feel.
Their other tavern-style ales include their Arnold’s Tavern Porter, which will be their next beer to can, and their Drumthwacket Brown Ale, which is roasty and nutty all at once.
Another flagship is the Great Falls IPA, a light-body American-style IPA that clocks in at 6% ABV. For more of a danky, hazy hop kick, slide into their three times dry-hopped Mandarin New England IPA, part of their Regolith series.
Also part of the Regolith series is a Bavarian Cream Ale. This milkshake-style IPA is a new trend in the beer world. It’s hoppy like an IPA, but sweet like a milkshake from the added lactose.
All in the Family
With three brothers working together running a business, sibling rivalry does arise on occasion. Especially due to the fact that each brother has a beer they created on tap.
“We all have different tastes so we’ll point people towards our own style. Thomas made the IPA, I make the porter, but they all sell pretty well,” Andrew said.
As for their father, whose beer kit started this all, the brothers laugh when asked what he thinks of their endeavor.
“He was against it the whole time. He doesn’t like taking risks,” said James.
“Our parents are super supportive now. They built the tables, benches, chairs and bar stools. Our dad will hopefully build us a testing lab,” said Andrew.
Coming up on their first anniversary, the brothers have different views of the past year.
“Some days it feels like five years, others five weeks,” answered Andrew. “I think seeing cans of Benedict Amber where I buy beer is crazy and surreal.”
“On some days, I don’t even know what to feel,” responded Thomas. “I do feel the need to always improve on something. There’s so much more ahead of us, but we all have a great sense of pride in making beer.”
Name: Fort Nonsense Brewing Co.
Location: Denville, Morris County (3432, 3118 NJ-10)
Standout Beer: Benedict Amber Traitor Ale
Know Before You Go: Taproom is open for pints, flights, growler fills and merchandise. Parking lot available behind brewery. Outside food is allowed. No pets. Check Facebook and Untappd for updated tap lists and events.
All Photos: © Chris Castellani