While former Tinton Falls mayor, and current co-owner and operator of Jughandle Brewing Co., Michael Skudera doesn’t wear a sash, he does wear a badge of honor. Skudera, along with partners Pete Artherholt and Chris Hanigan, created Jughandle out of a love of beer and community.
“Tinton Falls has the largest solar energy farm in New Jersey,” he proudly shared. This is one of his signature accomplishments from his time as mayor of the Monmouth County town.
A Small Setup
The three create beers of every style for any taste out of a strip mall conveniently located a half mile from exit 102 on the Garden State Parkway. And you don’t even need to take a jughandle to get there.
The journey from idea to jug started when the three Jersey natives met through attending each other kids’ parties. Artherholt and Hanigan were decades-long homebrewers. The three bounced around the idea of starting a craft brewery after noticing that the market was craving more of a local connection.
“We started getting serious when we came up with a business plan, crunched the numbers and found a great location,” Skudera said while drinking one of his brews.
Skudera knew the business landscape intimately when he was the town’s mayor from 2009 to 2013. His brief career in politics started in an unlikely place — the town’s condo association.
“The fees went way up with no explanation and I felt I needed to do something about it,” he recalled.
Eventually, he became condo association president, which led to being elected to the borough council, then becoming the borough council president and, finally, mayor.
“I saw issues in the town that needed to be addressed and solved them, like paving roads and public safety issues. We have a low tax rate, so it was definitely very rewarding.”
During Superstorm Sandy, Skudera drove up from Florida, where he was on vacation, to attend to the town.
When he decided not to seek re-election, it opened the door to pursue Jughandle with his partners. The three sifted through their favorite beer recipes to determine which would be crowd pleasers.
“We want to focus on variety because we want to appeal to a large audience. There are so many types of beer drinkers, from people who just drink IPAs to those who like drinking the whole spectrum,” he said. “The vision was to have a consistency of quality while being able to experiment with different styles. We’re always thinking, ‘What else can we brew and what haven’t we done before?'”
A Popular Brew
While you will find their beer in over 150 bars and restaurants throughout the state, the Mosaic Pale Ale tends to be the most requested title. The 5.2% ABV American-style ale has a strong smell and taste of grapefruit from the Mosaic hops while maintaining its drinkability.
Their other popular beer is their Baltic Porter which is a stronger, sweeter version of a traditional English porter at 8.1% ABV.
For the IPA seekers, their Ryes ‘n Shine utilizes Citra and Amarillo hops to create the strong floral noise and just the right amount of bitterness. For more of a local flavor, their Bee Sting saison incorporates local honey, lemon and lavender for a bright, refreshing taste.
Finally, for year-round backyard evenings, their Firepit Belgian-style witbier is a subtly hopped, low-alcohol ale (4.7%) with the perfect balance of spice and grain.
As a side note (if the thought of the aforementioned brews has you licking your lips), plan accordingly for Jughandle’s first Oktoberfest celebration, which will be held on October 12. They’ll be bringing out their kolsch, hefeweizen and other German-style beers alongside brats and giant pretzels.
How Jughandle Brewing Got Its Name
When it came time to name the brewery, it was Artherholt’s wife who came up with the clever, Jersey-centric moniker, which serves double duty as a beer reference, as well.
The three decided on the Tinton Falls Centre off Asbury Avenue because of the various food options in the strip mall, ample parking and proximity to the Garden State Parkway and the Jersey Shore Premium Outlets. You can also get a pint after a visit to the hair and nail salon.
As with all breweries that have opened in New Jersey, opening weekend in June 2016 saw lines stretched down the sidewalk.
“What was weird was that the place was empty for months while we were building and then all of sudden it was filled with people,” Skudera said. “It was a good feeling to complete the work, make quality beer and bring smiles to people’s faces.”
In the year since their grand opening, they’ve expanded their brewing operation with new equipment and possibly more on the way. Jughandle has also seen the rise of the beer traveler drawn to the area for Jughandle and its nearby breweries such as Kane, Dark City and Asbury Park Brewing, all of which are within a 12-minute drive.
“It’s definitely better to be near other breweries rather than be on your own,” he said.
With more fun beer on the way, for Skudera, running Jughandle has always been about the process.
“At it’s core, being able to experiment and see the beer through from planning to seeing it on tap,” he said. “We get to see the positive impact and how it makes people happy.”
Missed the last installment of Brew Jersey? Read all about Lone Eagle Brewing.
Name: Jughandle Brewing Co.
Location: Tinton Falls, Monmouth County
Standout Beer: Mosaic Pale Ale
Know Before You Go: Taproom open for pints, flights, growler & crowler fills and merchandise. Check Facebook for tap lists, updated hours, bottle releases and upcoming events. Outside food allowed. They do not allow pets. Brewery located in Tinton Falls Centre towards the back.
All Photos: © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ