For history buffs, Flemington holds historical significance as the location of the 1935 “Trial of the Century,” in which Bruno Richard Hauptmann was tried for murder in the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. What does this have to do with beer; don’t worry, we’re getting there. Take a 10-minute walk south of the Hunterdon County Courthouse and you’ll find Lone Eagle Brewing.
It just so happens that “Lone Eagle” was Lindbergh’s nickname after his solo transatlantic flight. Put two and two together and you get the perfect name for a brewery.
“We were originally called Conspiracy,” explained co-owner Todd Becker. “When we started, we had no idea what to name the brewery. We created a website where people could submit names and vote on their favorite. Conspiracy won out for the connection to the Lindbergh kidnapping and all the beers were going to be named after conspiracy theories.”
When it came time to file a trademark the brewery, another brewery had snuck in two weeks before to claim it. Thus, Becker went with the second place name, Lone Eagle.
Flights of Fancy
The aviation theme continues with Lone Eagle’s ever-expanding selection of IPAs, porters and saisons. Their flagship beer, Maiden Flight, recently won a gold medal at the Atlantic City Beer Festival.
The idea for Lone Eagle Brewing started with Becker. The Short Hills native and longtime Flemington resident spent a decade working for Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits and makers of Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan and Smirnoff to name a few.
A self-described “beer nut,” Becker started homebrewing when it was legalized in New Jersey with friend Bob King. Eventually, the two decided that starting a brewery would be a great business opportunity for themselves and for Flemington.
Using History to Change the Present
The original plan was to build the brewery in the town’s historic center in order to have high visibility.
“I had gone to about a two dozen breweries around New Jersey and saw that most of them were in warehouse spaces and were hard to find,” he said. “I wanted a tap room to be large and easily accessible.”
When that plan didn’t pan out, an empty building was available in the Liberty Village Outlets for general use, so Becker and King decided to build their beer project there alongside the Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger stores.
A few modifications here and there were made, while the top floor was converted into more tap room space and a rentable party room.
While homebrewing and larger scale beer production have similarities, the guys felt they needed to bring in an expert to create their line-up so they could focus on the business side. They drafted Alex Franko from Dogfish Head to make beer magic happen as their head brewer.
“He’s an all-star. He creates classic, recognizable beers,” Becker said. “I just get out of his way because what he’s been doing is phenomenal.”
The award-winning Maiden Flight is a West Coast-style IPA, which means it has a stronger hop bite from the Amarillo, Summit and Equinox hop strains and higher ABV (8.2%). The end result is an intense tropical fruit flavor with a bubble gum-like sweetness to balance out the hops.
With the summer fading away and cooler temperatures ahead, it’s the perfect time of year to reach for a Baltic porter. Lone Eagle’s has high notes of chocolate, roasted malt and figs, but drinks clean. Another fall-esque beverage is their Oktoberfest beer, My Favorite Märzen, a rich and bready-type ale that has a copper color and aroma of toasted rye bread.
For those clinging to the warmer weather, Lone Eagle has a few farmhouse saisons to keep you in the sunshine state of mind. The Saison Jubileum (Dutch for “anniversary”) was brewed to commemorate the brewery’s first birthday. The beer was aged in red-wine barrels and fermented with fresh peaches to give a dry, yet refreshing wine-like quality.
Lone Eagle’s other saison, Farmer’s Tan, uses freshly harvested hops from a nearby hop farm to create a seriously floral beer.
Since opening in July 2016, the demand for their beers has only increased, leading to canning Maiden Flight and the Thanksgiving-themed, Turkey Trot Porter. They’ve already installed more brewing equipment to increase output.
Within a year, construction will begin on an open lot next door to house a larger brewing and canning operation that could quadruple their output. This will make Lone Eagle a serious player in the New Jersey craft beer scene.
The brewery’s first year has seen a steady stream of locals, regulars and beer travelers looking to get in on the fun and check out Lone Eagle’s rotating works from local artists.
“It’s kind of like the first year of your child’s life. Before you know it, they are growing up so fast,” Becker said.
You Have to Love What You Do
Even though he and King have kept their day jobs, owning and operating a brewery doesn’t feel like extra work to Becker.
“This isn’t work for me,” he laughed. “This is too much fun to be considered a job. People take their craft beer very seriously. They take notes and write great reviews on Untappd, so that’s a pretty special feeling.”
Name: Lone Eagle Brewing
Location: Flemington, Hunterdon County
Standout Beer: Maiden Flight West Coast IPA
Know Before You Go: Taproom open for pints, flights, growler fills, cans and bottles to-go and merchandise. Check Facebook for tap lists, updated hours, bottle and can releases and upcoming events. Private room available for parties. Outside food and pets allowed. Brewery located behind the Liberty Village Outlets with plenty of parking.
All Photos: © Chris Castellani / Best of NJ