What Do Unicorns Have to Do With Beer?
The Bradley Brew Project is a nanobrewery owned and operated by a dynamic husband and wife duo, in Bradley Beach. Their unique approach to recipe formation makes every customer visit a delight. So much so that they were voted "Best New Brewery" by NJBeer Reddit. We got a chance to sit down with Chelsey and Mike, and ask them all about their business-- How they brew their beers? What inspires their brews? What is with their affinity for unicorns? And, don't worry, we asked them a few Relish-inspired questions, too.
What got you into brewing beer?
Chelsey: I used to run a Craft Beer Bar in Jersey City where I had the opportunity to be exposed to many beer styles. The thing that I loved the most was interacting with the customers about craft brews and getting a sense of how each person uniquely interpreted each style. I loved sitting down after a long shift and analyzing the craft beers we had to offer. It would get me excited for the next day of “beer talk” with my customers.
Mike: I used to be a regular at that bar! About 10 years ago, I got a one gallon home-brew kit as a gift and brewed my first batch of beer on a stove-top in my small, Jersey City apartment...it tasted like nickels. After moving to Wall over six years ago, I got together with some friends and started brewing 5 gallon batches. Chels and I kept it going and over the years got better at designing and brewing our own recipes and approaches (a lot of which are now brewed at BBP).
Why’d you pick a spot along the Jersey Shore?
C: That was totally my idea! My brother was a lifeguard in Belmar where I spent a lot of time during the summer. I lived about 10 miles away and was there quite often. I’ve always had an affinity for the Jersey Shore because of its local community, laid back approach to life, and the ocean. It felt natural to find a location close to the water. BBP is six blocks away from the ocean.
M: After the first few places we looked at in Wall fell through, I was really down emotionally. It was tough. Chelsey suggested Bradley Beach because she knew it was an up and coming town with a strong community year-round. I thought it was a crazy and risky idea –starting a business in a town we didn’t know intimately. I was so wrong. Once she convinced me, I’ve was all-in for Bradley Beach. It is such an incredible town. The people (both year-round and summer residents) have been supportive since Day 1, and continue to spend time in our Tasting Room even on the coldest of days.
How has the focus on the community influenced how you do business?
C: We wanted a place where everyone felt welcome; no matter what walk of life you come from. But, we also wanted a place where we immersed ourselves into the local community and helped where we could. If we have the opportunity to help, we are going to do it. Our community focus has become our first thought when we do any type of event. We ask ourselves, what can we do to help local Bradley Beach? It’s made us feel like more than a brewery, and we love everything about that!
M: What Chelsey said! In the past two months, through our special events, we’ve raised over $500 for the BB Food Pantry and the BB First Aid Squad. And, we’re also planning a fundraiser for the Fire Department over Memorial Day weekend. As for the tasting room experience, we’ve always wanted to build a space where people of all ages, backgrounds, and stages in life can spend time enjoying locally brewed beer together. Because we’re young parents, we also focused on creating a space where parents felt comfortable to bring their kids and enjoy a beer or two. From the changing table in the bathroom to our chalk wall, we love seeing young families filling our space.
You use the term “nanobrewery” to describe how you ferment and produce beer. Could you go more in depth on the processes that it takes to reach the tapster?
Both: Beer consists of four main ingredients – malt, hops, yeast and water. Frequently, our recipes also call for various non-traditional additions like honey, spices, fruit puree, vanilla, coffee beans and many other flavor ingredients. We source most of our ingredients commercially and with the constantly expanding brewing industry in NJ, we have and will continue to source locally made ingredients like malt and hops for our brews. In the fall, our Oktoberfest used freshly picked hops from a “nanofarm” in Brick. By the way, the term “nanobrewery” is an informal but widely used sub-term within the “microbrewery” definition. It refers to any brewery that brews three barrels (93 gallons) or less of beer at a time. Our brewhouse at BBP is a two barrel system with various fermenters, including stainless steel tanks and wooden vessels (like barrels from our friends at Asbury Park Distilling and our gorgeous seven barrel American Oak Foeder that you can see right from our tasting room).
How do you come up with the names for each beer?
Both: This is our favorite story to tell. Our three daughters (twins Adi and Avery and baby Talula) are obviously a huge part of our life and an incredible inspiration to us. About three years ago, we bought the twins pink bikes and one of them said “I wish it was purple”. So we asked Adi what we could do about it. Without skipping a beat, she said “maybe we could do magic”. That’s when we started to write down all of the funny things they said, without knowing what to do with this list (that is now over 100 names long). When we started brewing and naming beer at BBP, we finally found a purpose for our list. Now, for the most part, our beer names are things that Adi and Avery have said – to this day we get a kick out of our customers ordering beers like “Cleaning, Doing Laundry or Making Beer”, “Don’t Make My Heart Broken”, “Girl, I Love You”, “Oh Snaps!”, “I’m Pretty Thirsty So I Want a Juicy” and “Pinky”.
What’s your favorite beer that you distribute?
C: Unicorn Girls all the way. This beer has been the introduction to our brewery for a lot of people. Unicorn Girls represents a starting point and a great story that emerges you into the world of BBP. This is my go-to beer if I’m ever unsure what I want to drink and it is always a delight.
M: Definitely Unicorn Girls for so many reasons--from its inception, to being scaled and adjusted by our brewers for our BBP system, to what it represents, to how many different customers enjoy it. That beer deserves its own interview as it embodies so much of the thread that weaves through our vision for BBP. Outside of UG, I’m seriously crushing on “Thinking About Ridiculous Places” which is a 5% German Kolsch-style beer – insanely crisp, bright and delicious, a welcomed departure from the heavy stouts and porters breweries typically focus on in the colder months.
You say your lagers and ales are “inspired”. What exactly inspired your most famous brews?
C: Our beers all started from an inspiration of someone or something around us. At first, it was just Mike and I being inspired with what kind of recipe we would develop next. Now, we have a team of brewers who are inspired constantly and bring those recipes to the table. (Literally, we have a meeting every other week… at a table).
M: A lot of the beers we brew are inspired by something or someone. We even have a line of beers called Influences with titles like 9:27, 9:29 and 1:46 which are the birth times of our daughters. Most of our beers have a little twist to it. In this case, a little of each of our daughters’ personalities personified in the brews ingredients. Those beers are truly inspired!
If you had to create a hot dog to go with your beer (and name it) what would be on it?
C: “You Are so Awesome” and I would put melted American cheese and BBQ sauce on it!
M: “Be Careful with Rapunzel's Sandals” (because I’m just waiting for us to use this name!) and it would be a huge all beef hot dog with ketchup mustard dash of Frank’s and pickles (not relish)!
Are you hot dog or sausage people?
M: Hot dog in the summer. Sausage in the winter.
C: HOT DOG…. Mike doesn't know what he's talking about
Is a hot dog a sandwich?
C: No way. It’s a hot dog.
If you had to pick only one condiment to use for the rest of your lives, what would it be?
C: Honey Mustard
M: Franks buffalo!
What hot dog topping best describes your life and why?
C: Ketchup- you can put me anywhere and I’m happy.
M: Pickles, not relish. I can literally eat them any time of the day, with anything doing anything.
And lastly, what is it with you and unicorns?
Both: Our twins Adi and Avery have been a huge inspiration for our business and are the original Unicorn Girls. We love that we’ve embraced this as our sort of mascot and it continues to remind us of them. It’s also a super fun, mystical creature that everyone can love!
A huge thank you to Chelsey and Mike for sharing with us! The Bradley Brew Project is located on Main Street in Bradley Beach. Be sure to stop by and do a flight so you can try a few of their great beers. For more information on the BBP, visit their website.