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Something old, something new....

Something Old, Something New . . .

The Clement Brewing Co. combines tricks of the past with today's technology.

In an industry where technology and equipment is changing faster than you can drink a pony bottle, the Clement Brewing Company of Vernon, NJ, looks to the past while striding toward the future.

Designed and built in 1984 by a German brewmaster who modeled the facility after a brewery near his hometown of Wiesbaden, Germany, Clement uses both centuries-old know-how and the brewing and management expertise of the 90s.

"Even though we have a very modern brewery," explains Clement's brewmaster Jay Misson, "we stick to the German standards--more so than other microbreweries. So, our products are more perfect than others."

The brewery's six beers, including a lite lager, a pilsner, a dark lager, a Vienna amber, a bock and a blond double bock, are brewed in the facility's custom, German-made 30-hectoliter brewing vessel. Currently, American malt is used in all of the recipes; however, brewery president, Peggy Dudinyak, noted that they would soon convert to German-produced malt, which would produce a better quality brew. Not wanting to waste a thing, the spent grain, Dudinyak continued, is then taken by a local farmer to be used as cattle feed.

Instead of hops pellets or extract, as are used by some brewers because of their longer shelf-life, Clement, New Jersey's only microbrewery, uses only the whole hop flower, which adds to the brews' character, Duinyak said.

Once the beer has been brewed, brewmaster Misson, who was a homebrewer before joining Clement two years ago, travels back in time in order to cool his product. Looking like a six-foot wall of piled pipes, the brewery's tower cooler literally creates a "beer waterfall" as warm wort cascades over cold-water-filled tubing.

"Not only does this method cool the wort," Dudninyak said of the 125-year-old method, "but it also gets aerated this way, creating a better product." According to Misson and Dudinyak, Clement's tower cooler is the only one in use in the United States.

Also unique to the brewery are its Austrian oak fermenting and aging casks. Beer is fermented in open vessels for five to seven days. From there the product moves to the huge lagering casks. These huge barrels, also Austrian oak and weighing over 1,000 pounds apiece, are re-pitched by hand each year, a method employed for centuries by European brewers, ensuring air-tight containers. During the aging process, the mammoth casks are turned to keep the beer quality uniform throughout the batch.

"The characteristics imparted by fermenting and aging in oak casks gives our beers a quality generally not found outside European brewing cities," Misson said. "No other brewery in America would probably go to this much trouble to make beer, but our continuing goal is to produce the finest beers possible."

Originally the Vernon Valley Brewing Co., the 6,000-square-foot double hexagon facility was purchased and renamed by James Clement early this year, becoming part of the Empire Brewing Company, Inc. One of the reasons Clement purchased the brewery was to supply beer to his two upstate New York brewpubs--Hungry Charlie's in Syracuse and The Chapter House in Ithaca. According to the Dudinyak, Clement supplies them with 90 percent of their beer.

"Business has been so good at our brewpubs," Clement said, "that we needed to secure an off-premise source of micro-brewed beers. The acquisition of the brewery, which produces German-style lagers, complements our brewpubs which produce only British-style ales." Plans to open two more brewpubs within the year are already in the works, Clement added.

Besides the brewpubs, Clement also distributes its products to the nearby Vernon Valley ski resort and amusement complex. Due to the reorganization, Dudinyak explained, the brewery hasn't reached optimum production, and therefore hasn't begun full-scale distribution of its beers. However, that goal is expected to be reached by June and several accounts, like Harrigan's in Hoboken, NJ, are already clamoring for micro-brewed beer.

Most demand to date has been for Clement's pilsner, which is unfiltered and unpasteurized, resulting in a somewhat cloudy brew. Nonetheless, the brewery's bock and Vienna amber are also big crowd pleasers, but because those products take so long to age, Misson said, "it is difficult to keep up with demand."

Though the 14,000-barrel-capacity brewery hasn't bottled to date, Dudinyak explained that the facility does have room for such an operation and bottle-packaging some of Clement's products could be in the forseeable future.

"At this point, though, we're trying to get things up to full speed," Dudinyak concluded. "It's a tough business, but it's a business that you really fall in love with."
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Title Annotation:1990 Microbrewery Report; Clement Brewing Co.
Author:Schutz, Glenn W.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:May 14, 1990
Previous Article:Double threat: Real Ale and an award-winning pilsener are a winning combination for Manhattan Brewing Co.
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