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.
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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 Stage, Hat 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).