The crew at Last Wave Brewing Co. in Point Pleasant Beach wakes up each morning with one question on their minds: “Do we surf or do we brew?”
For owners Nick Jiorle and (husband and wife duo) Bert and Dani Roling, the answer depends on whether or not their brewing is on schedule.
“Hey man, we’re just jammin’ most days – putting out five barrels out a time,” shared Jiorle. “The surf is always there.”
Located in the shore community famous for Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, Last Wave Brewing, which celebrated their one-year anniversary in June, dishes out a steady flow of A Frame IPAs, 5/4 Coffee Stout and Layback Pale Ale.
The journey to Last Wave Brewing began with high school pals Nick and Bert meeting a long way from the ocean in Phillipsburg. Dani came on the scene after meeting Bert at Stockton University.
Jiorle, who attended Rowan University, used beer culture and brewing as a basis for his writing in college as a Journalism and Advertising major.
“I turned 21 and the craft beer scene was just getting some traction so I started writing about what was happening in Jersey,” he said.
“I really started to get a sense of how breweries operated and the brewing process from the inside from people like Gene Muller at Flying Fish.”
Surfing Leads to Last Wave Brewing
Having grown up skiing and snowboarding, transitioning to surfing was a natural progression for the group. And when it comes outdoor activities, beer usually follows. Especially with the great beer scenes in Colorado, Oregon and San Diego.
Having surfed on summer weekends in Long Beach Island, Jiorle became entrenched in the surf and craft beer culture while living in San Diego and working at Mission Brewery. Meanwhile, Bert became an adventure guide in Oregon.
“Surfing is like an addiction. You get hooked. We’d wake up at 4am to get out there,” Jiorle said.
Jiorle went up and down the West Coast looking for killer waves and killer beers.
“It pretty much influenced everything we do here,” explained Jiorle. “We do West Coast IPAs that are piney, floral and bitter. Gotta love a hop bomb.”
“Last Wave combined the two things we love the most – surfing and beer,” said Bert. “A lot of the people who helped us along the way come from the surf and beer communities.”
After college and bouncing around the West Coast, the group found themselves back in Jersey.
When the surf was down, they brewed. They knew so much about beer and had enjoyed the finest American craft beers in their travels, brewing their own was a no-brainer.
The Brewing Begins
They got home brewing equipment and initial guidance from Shawn Grigus of TomFoolery Brewing. Later on, when they were starting to become serious brewers, they learned advanced techniques from Gretchen Schmidhausler of Little Dog.
“Not only did I enjoy the science aspect of homebrewing, it was understanding ‘why’ the science is done a certain way that made us better brewers,” observed Bert.
“Oils in certain hops, flakes vs. pellets, sanitation, temperature of the fermentation – it all went into our learning process.”
“Surfing is the same way. We’re good at it, but when you want to be better, you learn from others and understand different techniques,” said Jiorle. “That’s why you go back everyday. There’s a lot of motivation there.”
After years entrenched in two worlds, beer and surfing, it was Dani who pushed them to start developing their own brewery.
“I told them that they are spending all this money and obsessing over making beer, it was time to commit,” she said. “S— or get off the pot. Stop talking about it.”
The three determined that they wanted to run a brewery tied to surf culture. It would explore different flavors and have the laid back atmosphere of beach life.
“Tying it to surf culture was important to us because that’s who we are. We’re people who love the beach, surfing and drinking beer,” said Jiorle.
Last Wave’s Faves
A Frame is the beer that reflects their West Coast state of mind. It’s a wheat-based IPA named after a class of wave that has a strong bitterness, a foamy head and a grassy aroma indicative of the style.
The best piece of advice they were given is to make any beer you want, just make it well and do it over and over. That’s why Red Sky (“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning”) became a year-long staple with its rich amber hue and malty backbone.
Layback is a their traditional pale ale that’s unfussy, uncomplicated and oh-so-good from the Amarillo hops. Like the surfing move it’s named after, it makes you feel triumphant.
With shore life comes the fresh salt air. Why not put that salt to good use? Dawn Patrol Gose (pronounced goz-ah) is a light, fruity and slightly funky sour beer that utilizes sea salt to balance the sweet and sour.
“I got pregnant shortly after we opened and people would ask what’s good and I would say, ‘The gose…I think,'” joked Dani, who gave birth to a son in the spring.
While IPAs and pale ales rule during the summer, their year-round 5/4 Chocolate Coffee Stout (named for a wetsuit term) is one of the best in the state. The flavor rush of roasted barley and creamy coffee is too amazing and craveworthy to limit to the off-season months.
Making a Home in Point Pleasant
The group settled in Point Pleasant Beach because Bert’s grandparents grew up there. It was a low-key, family-oriented community, and (at the time) a town that didn’t have any breweries.
Then, during the construction process, they found out Frye Brewing was opening up across town and vice versa. Both opened within weeks of each other and have been supportive friends that collaborate on speciality brews.
“We feel blessed to be here in Point Pleasant because the town is supportive and everyday people come in from Frye or they leave here to go to Frye and make a day of it even in the off-season,” said Bert.
“A lot of locals come here because they feel comfortable and they can socialize here,” shared Dani.
“It’s one of those community aspects of running a business that you don’t realize – being a part of people’s everyday lives.”
The crew has a few new brews up their sleeves that are awaiting surf-oriented names. In the meantime, Jiorle and the Rolings are riding the craft beer wave and enjoying the best of both worlds. So far, Last Wave Brewing looks like it’s sticking around for awhile.
“People assume that we’re living the dream of owning your brewery and being able to surf all the time, but there’s a lot of sweat and swearing going into it,” said Bert while holding his 10-week old son.
“The best part is when a beer is fresh off the fermentor and we just look at each other and nod. Then somebody else has the same feeling. That’s what we work for.”
Name: Last Wave Brewing Co.
Location: Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean County (601 Bay Avenue)
Standout Beer: A Frame Wheat IPA
Know Before You Go: Taproom is open for pints, flights, growler and crowler fills and merchandise. Street parking available. Outside food and pets allowed. Check Facebook for updated tap lists and events.
All Photos: © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ