There are hundreds of aspects that go into running a successful brewery. From the big picture, such as making the best beer possible, to the little details, like pouring the perfect pint, there are some responsibilities that are decidedly more fun than others. For the owners of ManaFirkin Brewing Co., the best part, besides drinking the beer, is naming it.
Co-owners Donn Hoosack and Todd Hunt haven’t met a beer pun they didn’t like. Like the name of the brewery itself, which is a cross between their location in Manahawkin and firkin (a small beer cask), their beer monikers are just as fun as what they’re brewing.
“We talk. We hear something and then we turn to each other and say, ‘That’s our next beer!'” said Hoosack.
ManaFirkin’s beer roster includes Cobra Kai PA (from the Karate Kid), Caramel Toe dark ale, Hazy Hops And Humid IPA, Commodore 64 California Common, Quat’s Going On sour ale (brewed with kumquats) and Oh Dear Gourd pumpkin beer.
ManaFirkin Gets its Start
Hoosack and Hunt met via mutual friends over pints at nearby Backward Flag Brewing Co. in Forked River. They struck up a friendship and quickly had the idea to start a brewery together. A year and half later, ManaFirkin opened its doors, a relatively quick turn around considering all the red tape and planning that goes into opening a craft brewery in New Jersey.
Hoosack went to college near the Yuengling Brewery in Pennsylvania and gravitated towards their traditional lagers and porters. It was Red Hook Long Jammer IPA that really piqued Hoosack’s interest..
“I took a swig and I was offended by it,” he said on a Friday night in their brew house. “I said to myself, ‘What did I get myself into?’ I just had to build up a tolerance for hoppy beers.”
This discovery led to a decade-long homebrewing hobby.
“I just like the purity of it,” he explained. “There’s nothing artificial about it. Everything is real. It’s just nature and a chemical reaction that creates beer.”
When Hoosack met Hunt, he gave him his Ice TeaPA, a more palatable, not so hoppy beer.
“I’m a stout and porter guy, but his brew turned me into a fan. I’m thinking if it wasn’t good we wouldn’t be here today,” Hunt said with a laugh.
ManaFirkin Finds a Home in Manahawkin
Their homebrewing hobby soon grew to the point that they began looking for a warehouse to brew in.
When they found a small space set back from the street in Manahawkin, they figured it would not only be a great place to set-up a 3-barrel system, but to also make a business out of it.
“We’ve been to enough breweries, so we saw how we could lay things out,” Hunt said. “The look of this place just guided the look and feel of what we were going for.”
Beer wise, they wanted a variety of brews that would appeal to beer fans as well as the pedestrian beer drinker.
“We opened with ten beers and the end goal was that we wanted somebody to love one beer so much that they wanted to take a growler home to share,” said Hoosack. “I know IPAs sell, but I really wanted some overlooked styles like an extra special bitter, a California common, Scotch ale or a sour.”
Their “game changing” beer is their Kalsch Kölsch, which gets its name from their World War II veteran landlord. Their version of the traditional German-style beer is heavier in ABV than normal (7.4%), which leads to a richer flavor.
“He was so nice to us that we had to name a beer after him,” Hoosack shared.
Wake the Firk Up! is a coffee oatmeal stout (7.8%) that gives a wake-up call with every sip. Also giving you a little pep to your step is their sweet, banana-esque Belgian tripel, Trippin Monkey (9.1% ABV).
In the next couple of months, look for some barrel-aged offerings, some blended sours and a beer made with curry.
“It’s going to be banging, I know it,” said Hoosack. “We like to push the envelope a little but, but it’s not too crazy.”
To Hoosack and Hunt, the best thing about their business venture are the customers who want to talk to them about their beer.
“We have nights when it’s packed, people are having a good time.They come up to you and say how awesome the beer is. Their eating from a food truck and drinking beer and we say to each other, ‘We did this!'” said Hoosack.
Name: ManaFirkin Brewing Company
Location: Manahawkin, Ocean County (450 E Bay Ave.)
Standout Beer: Kalsch Kolsch
Know Before You Go: Taproom is open for pints, flights, growler and crowler fills and merchandise. Ample parking available. Outside food and pets allowed. Check Facebook and Untappd for updated tap lists and events.
All Photos: © Chris Castellani / BestofNJ.com