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.