BY JOHN HOLL
Like so many others before him, Matt Steinberg came to New Jersey via New York City seeking a lower rent. He settled in North Bergen, a Hudson County town with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.
The 32-year-old Steinberg, who has a degree in computer science and works as an IT consultant, has long held a fondness for craft beer, something forged in college. Back then, he and his buddies would gather up a few extra dollars and pick of a case of Saranac Lager, as opposed to the usual cheap college beer.
"I've been interested in alcohol long before I was old enough to be legally interested," he said during a recent interview at a Jersey City beer garden.He also has an entrepreneurial spirit and a fondness for home brewing. So when that little voice in the back of his head grew louder, urging him on to open a business, he thought about a few options, including opening up a bar or restaurant.
Steinberg decided, instead, to open a brewery.
New Jersey is already home to some 20 breweries and brewpubs. But, with a few exceptions, few admit that they come from the Garden State.
There will be no mistake with Steinberg's aptly named New Jersey Beer Company.
Right now, the brewing equipment is on a carrier ship making its way to New Jersey. From there the 20 barrel system and bottling line will be installed in a 5,000 square foot space inside a warehouse that is also home to a construction company and other businesses, said Steinberg.
He's met with lawyers, gotten initial state approval and is in discussions with distributors and said that he is "chomping at the bit" to get brewing. Their progress can be tracked on their website.
New Jersey Beer Co. plans three initial offerings: Hudson Pale Ale, Garden State Stout and 1787 Abbey Single, a Belgium-style session beer.
The brewery also plans to release a number of big beers, high in alcohol content and stretching the creative boundaries of beer. Knowing his limited brewing experience could hinder a successful launch Steinberg hired Matt Westfall, who worked most recently at the New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, Conn.
In addition to the brewer, Steinberg has three other employees; friends who have a design firm in Brooklyn designed the beer labels.
Listening to Steinberg, as he stands on the launch of New Jersey's latest brewery, it is easy to hear the hope, excitement, stress and promise shared by so many American craft brewers who have come before him.
"I want to have session beers, I want to have 14 percent imperials," said Steinberg. "You can't appease everyone, but the three we will launch with should meet a lot of tastes."
Right now, the brewery is a mess of pipes and wires. If all goes according to plan Steinberg hopes to start brewing in a few weeks and have his beers on the shelves and on tap several weeks after that. His ambitious goal has the brewery producing about 1,500 barrels in 2010.
"I'm proud to be in New Jersey," he said. "A lot of great beers come from here and we're hoping to join that."