Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hill Street Brews

Kent "Flounder" Dorfman
Quite frankly, I don't see the resemblance between Kent Dorfman and Jeremy Lees--but apparently somebody did. The name stuck on Jeremy. And Jeremy stuck it on his start up brewery.

Not that it matters, because the beer that Flounder and his Animal House-Mates consumed at fabled Faber College bears no resemblance to what Lees is making at his Nano-University of Hillsborough, NJ.

Lees and company are living the dream of making their own  beer--and making it pretty darned well, if today's first public tasting was any indication. After signing up to be part of the very first public tour and tasting of Flounder Brewing, I made my way to Somerset County to investigate the operation and taste the product.

Flounder's Flagship beer is called Hill St. Honey Ale (named after the residence in Morristown where he concocted his recipe), made with lots of Orange Blossom Honey and lots more TLC by Lees in a 31 gallon system. That's "nano" by anyone's standards, and there are positives and negatives to that volume of production--or lack of it. The biggest positive, according to Lees, is that he and his mates can do what they love and make beer in small batches, keeping a careful eye on every step of the process. The biggest negative is that there is no way he can keep up with the demand his very drinkable session ale has generated.

Lees adds his signature ingredient (Photo courtesy of
Since introducing his ale at the Fox and Hound pub in the Lebanon Hotel --and going through eight kegs in one night--some weeks back, he has been swamped by requests from bars and franchises for his beer. But until the brewery expands, that's not an option.

"Right now, we're just making enough beer to pay the rent," said Lees. "Down the road, our five year plan is to get big enough to meet all of the demand."

The brewery itself is far from overcrowded at this stage. In fact, Lees shares space with Al Buck of the East Coast Yeast Co. If you've never heard of Al and his company, don't fret. Most beer nuts haven't. But many brewers have, and they know what kind of product he puts out.

"We're very fortunate Al has 'moved in' with us," Lees allowed. "He lives just a stone's throw from here, and having him in such close proximity is great for us." In nature, such a relationship is called "symbiosis;" in brewing, it's called "stepping in it" if the comments of two brewers on hand are any indication.

The product of two teachers, Lees and wife Melissa are also the parents of 16 month-old twins.

But brewing is not even his day gig. He makes tree stands for hunting on his day gig, and is part owner of the company. Such an arrangement gives him the time to follow his passion (beer) and pay the bills for his growing family.

L-R, William, Jeremy, Melissa, Richard and Maria

And speaking of family, his cousins William and Maria are lending useful hands at the brewery, with Maria confessing that until she signed on at the brewery, she never really drank beer. But she's looking forward to Lees' coming concoctions which include a beer made with blueberry honey. The Gingerbread Beer that's fermenting now might also get her attention.

Actually, Lees had three different samples to share on this day--an experimental saison ( tart, great nose and refreshing), a pumpkin ale (smooth and only very subtly spiced) and his Honey beer. "I don't feel that every beer I make needs to 'push the envelope' in terms of style or alcohol content. I want a beer I can sit back with and enjoy more than one."

He apparently thinks that other beer drinkers do as well. His Honey Ale will not produce fireworks on the first taste, but this unfiltered brew is definitely one that grows on you, not overly cloying with sweetness, but one that tastes better and better with each sip. In other words, the ideal session beer. Come to think of it, that's the way good love relationships work, too. And Lees loves his beer. Currently, Lees gets his honey from Fruitwood Orchards in South Jersey, but he's investigating other apiary sources as his experiments continue. "Still, I like the flavors that the Orange Blossoms impart, " he admits.

Until Flounder Brewing goes "big," the only way you can get the brew so far is to visit the brewery or hope that Lees' friends at the Fox and Hound have some on tap. Fortunately, Lees does plan to do "Meet the Brewer" nights at local pubs, which will allow his beer to receive wider exposure.

Finding this little brewery in that big complex of businesses is not easy, tucked away as it is way in the back of Building 8. But the reward is worth the trouble.

Though there are plans to do a lager somewhere down the road,
there are no plans at this time to include beer bottle holders on hunting tree stands.

The PubScout will keep you posted. More pics here.

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