Jersey Indie Interview

Craftwerk Orange :: An Interview with Anthony Minervino & Roger Apollon Jr.

Roger Apollon Jr. and Anthony Minervino, co-founders, Craftwerk Orange Brewing Company

By Patricia Rogers

The Valley Arts District is small but filled with big characters.  That is what makes the Valley so cool, and Anthony Minervino and Roger Apollon are two of the coolest.  The multi-talented duo are the beer experts of the neighborhood, in addition to delving into music, art, food and more.  Learn more about Anthony and Roger who have started their own brewery, Craftwerk Orange, here in New Jersey’s Valley Arts District.

P.R.: How did Craftwerk Orange come to be?

Anthony Minervino & Roger Apollon:  Craftwerk Orange is in the early stages of fundraising/start up mode.  It is a progression of our beer tasting/event group called the Brew Council.  It started at homes doing bottle shares and tastings and graduated to food pairings, pizza/beer events, and restaurant exclusive tasting events.

What kind of beer is it, and how would you describe in three words?

Fresh, local, unfiltered.

Where do you hope to see Craftwerk Orange?

Craftwerk Orange plans to start with a 10BBL (barrel) brew house system with a taproom where people can come to sample and drink our “4 core” beers after getting a tour of the brew house and brief explanation of the brewing process.  We expect to acquire about 100 select, keg accounts in the area and do special can releases from the brewery.  As we increase production, in store can and bottle accounts will be sought through a distributor.  We will self-distribute in the beginning.

What are some interesting facts about breweries in Orange, New Jersey?

There have been a few successful breweries in Orange, NJ dating back into the early 1900’s.  In fact, someone brought in some historic Bloomfield Fire Dept memorabilia and “Orange Brewery” is one of the sponsors. They specialize in Pilsners, Porters, Ales, and Wurzburgers.  The brewery was built in 1901 for $350,000 and production ceased in 1920 during Prohibition.  After prohibition, it was reopened under the name Trommers until 1950 when it was sold to Liebmann Brewers which bottled Rheingold.  It was closed in 1977.

Talk about sister projects, Brew Council and Brews and Brushes.

Brews and Brushes was created by Krystle Lemonias and Naeema Campbell, and they approached us about matching beers with a monthly painting theme.  The most recent was the Black History Month installment where we featured Red Stripe, Brother Thelonius (North Coast Brewery featuring Jazz great Thelonius Monk), Bitches Brew by Dogfish Head with the label using the Bitches Brew label from Miles Davis’ album, and Defender from Brooklyn Brewery that features the Black Superhero Defender from Comic Con.

What beer would you compare Craftwerk Orange to?

We want Craftwerk Orange beers to emulate some of our favorite breweries in the Northeast like Hill Farmstead and Alchemist in Vermont, Other Half in Brooklyn and Kane Brewery and Carton Brewery in NJ.  Hill Farmstead makes amazing IPAs, stouts, saisons and sours while Other Half is the king of IPAs and Hoppy beers in NY.  Kane makes great beer and does a barrel aged stout series called “A Night to End All Dawns” that is released only once a year.  We plan on barrel aging our Stout early on to age it for release at our 1 Year Anniversary of our opening.  Carton is an extremely experimental brewery but their mainstays like “Boat Beer” and “077XX” are solid, hoppy IPAs that are very consistent.

Talk about the haters and the drama around your preview party.

Someone caught wind of our preview event we planned on throwing a couple of years ago and filed a complaint with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages.  All we wanted to do was have people come down to the Kelli Copeland Gallery space in Orange and hear about our ideas and taste the beers we brewed for the event.  We were only giving samples, but I guess the buzz got too big for someone and they snitched.  It could have been a bar or a future competitor, but we were forced to cancel the event.  We had merchandise and some cool Craftwerk Orange items to give away to the first 50 people.  OH well.  I guess that is how it goes.  We consulted with our legal team and they advised us to cancel for now.

Sometimes good things come out of negative turns. I heard you had an alternate preview party?

We got a phone call from the Essex House in West Orange offering to help relocate our original party.  Although, by law, we couldn't do that, we told everyone to meet there instead.  We had about 40-50 people show up!  Everyone, including the owners and managers of Essex House, was extremely supportive and encouraging!  We even had people who don't drink beer tell us that they would support our brewery.  In the end, it turned out to be a great night with great friends (even if we didn't drink our own beer).

Talk about past events/projects you’ve done in the Valley Arts District.

We did many events in the area but our favorite has been the Yeastie Boys: Check Your Bread events where we paired 4 different pizzas with 4 different beers.  Anthony made artisanal pizzas in a wood fire brick oven that exists in the community courtyard, and we served beer to coincide with each flavor.  There was Margherita with Saison Dupont, Slow roasted garlic and grape tomato with provolone piccante and hot pepper puree with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, pears, carmelized onions, goat cheese and balsamic glaze with Three Philosopers, which is a Belgian Quad by Ommegang.  Also, Nutella Pizza with mini marshmallows with Founders Breakfast Stout.  It was incredible.  Folks ate every scrap of pizza we could bake.  We made about 55 pizzas.  The following year was even bigger.  We did flight and food pairings at Hat City Kitchen and SuzyQues as well, where we chose menu items and matched them with great craft beers.

What is appealing about the Valley Arts District here in Orange?

The Valley Arts District is unique because it is a mixture of homes, industrial and commercial buildings.  It is basically where the city meets the suburbs, and there is a great art vibe going on.  From the previous events that we included beer, to the music events that Roger and I have performed at, the Valley has been a place that has a certain presence.  I’ve DJ’d at many parties as well, and I can’t not mention someone who has been instrumental in our existence in the area: Terry Boddie.  We collaborated on many projects from BlueHue at his Oualie Arts Gallery to Uncharted Territory and Sight Specific at the Harvard Press, which is still the most amazing event I’ve been involved in.  The entire first floor of the warehouse was filled with different exhibits and mixed media at every turn.  Our musical tastes and art seems to mesh well and that makes it work.  Blue Hue was a more somber, serious mood and it showed in the works and the musical accompaniment.

What do each of you bring to the table? How do you two compliment each other?

Roger is more of the front end of the business where he will handle beer accounts, marketing, social media presence, while I will be handling more of the brewhouse duties, working closely with the Head Brewery making sure production is met and the styles of beer are up to par.  We’ve settled into those roles it seems, even before our brick and mortar establishment is open.

Follow Craftwerk Orange on Facebook

And check out their website that is coming soon! 

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist.  Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna StageHat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @zine_editor (Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat).

TAP into West Orange

Local Men to Hold Sneak Peak into Start Up Craftwerk Orange Brewing Company--this Friday

 

Roger Apollon Jr.and Anthony Minervino of West Orange to hold public Preview Party for start up Craftwerk Orange Brewing Company at Kelly Copeland Studio in Orange this Fri.  Credits: provided by Roger Apollon Jr.

Roger Apollon Jr.and Anthony Minervino of West Orange to hold public Preview Party for start up Craftwerk Orange Brewing Company at Kelly Copeland Studio in Orange this ...Credits: provided by Roger Apollon Jr.

By JACKIE GOLDMAN-SCHATELL

February 17, 2016 at 9:52 PM

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Art comes in many forms. While it certainly comes on canvas, through dance and song—one form people don’t immediately think of as being a form of art is the creation of craft beer.

However, two local men, Anthony Minervino and Roger Apollon Jr., both of West Orange, plan to change that perception locally, with the soon to be opened Craftwerk Orange Brewing Company—most likely to find a home in the Valley Arts area on the border of West Orange and Orange.

“We like the artsy feeling of the Valley Arts area, and what we do is an art form that will go well with the vibe over there,” shared the men who are old friends, who share a love of West Orange and passion for craft beer.

“Imagine that among the art galleries, there is a vibrant tap room with fresh, craft beer in the community,” said Minervino.

Right now, they may just be narrowing down ideas for locations, but the anticipation for their grand opening is growing by the day. So, on Friday, Feb. 19, they are inviting the public to a Preview Party at the Kelly Copeland Studio in Orange, which is located at 400 South Jefferson Street in Orange, NJ, starting at 8:00 p.m. to sample their four core beers on tap: Sour Orange Pale Ale; Double India Pale Ale; Espresso Stout and Belgium Wit (wheat).

They plan to start their tap room with these four flavors, but will be supplementing with seasonal and one-off beers once they find a home for their business.

“Right now, we just want people to come and see what we are doing, feel the vibe, enjoy the deejay and swag giveaways,” said Minervino of the Feb. 19th event.

“We want to announce ourselves to the local community,” said Apollon. “People are excited and we are getting a lot of positive feedback that they are excited for this (the tap room) to happen.”

And, there is a method to their madness—in that they chose their core beers thoughtfully.

“There will be some later on that are seasonal, but these four will be on tap all the time,” said Minervino. “They go with different moods and seasons. Sometimes, you just crave a Wit, so we have the Belgium Wit, and when you have just eaten a chocolate chip cookie you may want Espresso Stout, or with pizza you might want a pale ale, and we have two to choose from depending on your mood.”

“Just like people eat fruit seasonally, according to farm co-ops, we are trying to match seasonal foods with seasonal beers,” explained Apollon. “And, many things tie in that way. In winter people want darker beers with higher alcohol content and in the summer, they want lighter ones with less.”

The men have been honing their craft for ten years—and what started as a small group of eclectic craft beer enthusiasts has grown into a group of over 250 members of what entrepreneurs call The Brew Council.

The process started modestly over the years at their homes, and developed into monthly beer tastings at the homes of eight-10 other like-minded pals—the first members of The Brew Council.

“We were getting together every month to drink craft beers,” said Apollon, “and before we knew it, we had 250 members.”

As the Brew Council grew, they had shirts made up with their logo and attended the local Brew at the Zoo event hosted at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange.

“A few years ago, we did our first to Brew at the Zoo, at Turtleback, and there was a buzz about us with our shirts and our passion. People felt the vibe and were really checking us out,” said Apollon.

Then they did a tasting at Suzy Ques and realized they had something “great that was growing organically.”

All the while, they were traveling to taste what was out there and hone their core flavors.

“There are so many kinds of beers out there said Apollon. “We have been to California, Florida, Vermont and Brooklyn to test the beers out there and we thought these (their core four) were the types that provide something for everyone that will appeal to all kinds of beer enthusiasts. They (the flavors) are not too crazy and later we will start to branch out to more experimental ones that will appeal to a lot of drinkers.”

Six months ago, the men did a pizza and beer pairing event at the Ironworks Gallery in the ValleyArts district. Minervino, who loves to cook, created artesian pizzas in a wood fired oven to match with carefully curated craft beers.

“The Craftwerk Orange Brewing Company was the logical next step in the progression,” said Apollon. “And now, we are going to create our own brew house for our shared passion of craft beer.”

But, they aren’t quitting their day jobs—just yet. Apollon has been teacher for over a decade at a charter high school in Newark; while Minervino is a firefighter in Bloomfield.

At the start, their brewery will just be a “labor of love and way to sustain and supply the current community.”

They don’t have aspirations of marketing the brand past local pubs and bars—at least not for now. Rather, they plan to have about 20-25 local Essex County accounts that will have their beer on tap and will create special can and bottle releases at the brewery. With interest in their brewery so high, there are a few restaurants in the area that are already asking about when their beer will be available for sale.

“But we will still have the tap room and offer takeout 32 and 64 oz. growlers for local patrons to carry home,” said Minervino. “We are super excited about the special can releases as they can reach far and wide for collectors and traders.”

The plan is for guests to come in to the tap room, get an immediate tour of the brew house, and then drink on premises, or take out growlers.

“They will get a feel for what happens here, where the beer is stored and fermented, so they can see the art and manufacturing brought to each batch, like what happened in the old hat factories,” said Apollon. “They will order flights—four small pours of three ounces of different beers so they can sample them in small quantities, and then get one of the four, or try something else—maybe get a pint.”

They plan to have cool music, a nice décor, offer a nice family-friendly environment, and said that the party on Friday will just be a taste of what it will be like when “we have our official grand opening.”

“We want to give back to the community and plan to do so by hiring local bands to play at the tap room and will support local concerts, festivals and the artists in the Valley,” said Apollon.

The men said they feel there is a real need and demand for something like what they are planning to create in the Valley

“We are excited to share what we are doing to get the beer culture started in this area,” said Minervino.

And, they are equally excited to be launching their business in the Oranges.

“We are proud of where we are from and want to represent all of the nearby Oranges,” said Minervino. “And the names of our beers will continue to reflect the area we live in.”

“We want to be local,” he said. “There is something good happening in the Oranges—in Essex County. We love how the Oranges are diverse and we feel we deserve our own beer here. We want people in NJ, and the county to know there is something special going on here in West Orange. Like Edison, we too want to tap into the invention happening right here in the Oranges.”

“This is going to grow organically—we don’t feel the need to conquer the world,” said Minervino.