Our guy Ryan Krill, CMB co-founder and president, was elected president of The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild — the voice of Jersey’s craft brewing industry since 1996 — last January. Under his leadership, the group’s spreading the good word: Jersey craft beer is primed to reach its tipping point.
Little known fact: the state used to be home to hundreds of breweries, including Kruger, the first in the world to can beer. Budweiser even had a satellite plant in Newark. And then came Prohibition and the death of Jersey beer distribution. Even after the government-mandated dry spell of the 1920s, the Garden State remained largely boozeless for over 70 years.
Now — thanks to sexy start-ups like the 32 breweries and 13 breweries-in-planning currently represented by the Guild, along with their four media and nine allied trade members — the pendulum is finally swinging the other way, and boy is it.
“I started getting really involved last year by founding a second Guild-sponsored beer festival called Brews by the Bay,” Ryan says. “Thanks to round-trip ferry passes, the event is the only bi-state beer festival in the nation, and it raised money needed by the Guild for more latitude with pursuing new ideas.”
Among these new ideas? Increasing communication between the association and Jersey’s thirsty residents, hiring an executive director, and adding yet another beer festival to generate excitement for an industry that’s creating jobs in a post-recession climate. As for just how many jobs, Cape May Brewing Company alone is up to 21 year-round employees after only four years in existence, and Ryan is busy putting together an economic impact report which details the importance of a sustainable craft beer culture state-wide.
To that end, he and his fellow board members are traversing the sometimes vicious intersection that is beer and legislation, finessing a Best Practices document to help new brewers navigate the current tasting room boom.
And they’re doing it all because it’s their job, yes, but also because it’s their passion.
“Brewing beer is part science and part art, and that resonates with people,” says Ryan. “I remember when Cape May first joined the Guild, and there were only a handful of people at the meetings; our last meeting had 40 people. I’m looking forward to injecting the group with even more energy, and taking it to the next level.”
Stay tuned for updates, beer fans.