Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How's Rinn Duin? A Chat with Jacqui Town

Jacqui Town/Rinn Duin Brewing
To answer the question posed in the title--pretty well, thank you very much.

As effervescent as one of her distinctive brews, Jacqui Town popped in to Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen on Monday. Her purpose was to allow Owner Chris Flynn (The Wizard of Brainy Boro) and Beerman Moshe "McMoe" Atzbi to sample some of Rinn Duin's beers for possible inclusion on Hailey's Tap Row.

Jacqui, who self-distributes the product from her three-month old brewery, was steeped in brewing at age 6, having watched her dad homebrew. Dad Chip, a mortgage banker, and Jacqui, in sales, had always talked about going into brewing their own beer, and an interesting, twist of fate set their plans into motion.

In the span of two weeks, both Jacqui and her dad lost their jobs. Undaunted, they looked at each other and said, "Well, it's now or never." And, after a sound business plan was presented to various banks, they were in business. Both are now fond of saying, "We were lucky enough to lose our jobs."

At TCNJ, she earned a B.A. in Marketing and Sales, an investment in skills that are certainly paying dividends now. But perhaps more importantly, she minored in Chemistry, and it was in the "alchemy" aspect of beer-making that she became immersed. So immersed, in fact, that the local water used to brew her beer is altered to taste like the various water supplies of London, Dublin and Edinborough which are used as bases for three of her UK-styled beers.

Camera-Shy Chris Flynn
In their 6500 square foot plant--5500 sq. ft. of which are occupied by the brewery operation--neither Jacqui or her dad "get their feet wet." They hired Brewer Jason Goldstein and two other employees to do that, and they handle the operational oversight, distribution and sales end.

Originally, the name of the brewery was supposed to have been Blackthorn, but that name might have caused issues with the UK's Blackthorn Cider. So Rinn Duin's name comes from a castle in Ireland where the Town family was the last to live off the land. The tap handles are finely crafted miniature shillelaghs that many wish to adapt for use as gear shifters. But you can't get Trinity (a peat-smoked Scottish ale), Sandpiper, St. John's Red, Pota Ciafe (Dry Irish Coffee Stout) or their upcoming seasonal, The River Toms (English IPA) from a car's gearbox. So let's leave the taphandles where they'll do the most good.

Interestingly, all of Rinn Duin's flagship beers fall into the session category, with Sandpiper having the highest ABV at just 5.1%. The River Toms will take home the honors at 6.8% when it appears. "We got a lot of compliments on our beers, but many of our fans started asking when we were going to 'push the envelope' a bit, so enter The River Toms," said Jacqui. "And many have said that our beer tastes 'old-fashioned,' which we take as a compliment." The brewery uses premium UK ingredients and Nottingham yeast, which will become a house strain eventually.

Moshe, Kevin and I welcome Jacqui to Hailey's
Jacqui's efforts have seen Rinn Duin grow rather quickly in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, and today was her second official foray into Middlesex County. Hailey's has already had her Sandpiper Brown Ale on tap and it sold out in two days. Chris Flynn, Moe and I agreed that her St. John's Irish Red and the Sandpiper would make fine additions to Hailey's already impressive tap list, making Hailey's the first pub in Middlesex County to acquire the brand.

I asked Jacqui where she'd like to see Rinn Duin in terms of growth in five years. She allowed that she'd like to see her beers become well known staples throughout New Jersey and begin to enter the Philly and NYC markets, and that she's currently distributing more than she expected.

Her biggest complaint about the business? "Not having much time to myself," she offered. "When you focus on high quality in product, service and distribution, that's the tradeoff." But she also admitted that she loves working with her dad, and her passion about what she does continues to grow.

She'll have to share a bit of that passion as she plans to be married in a year. Here's hoping she gets some time off for her honeymoon. Her future husband Tom jokes that he will likely assume the coveted role of "beer-slave."

So what does Jacqui enjoy beyond the Rinn Duin brew kettles? Her Jersey faves are Carton Boat, Kane Driftline and Flying Fish Octoberfish. Regionally, she likes Founders and Captain Lawrence beers. She also expressed an interest in attending an upcoming Hailey's Beer Senate session, so she, Chris and Moshe will put some plans together.

How a typical Hailey's Beer Senate--held the second Tuesday of every month-- will affect her remains to be seen. Most who attend emerge forever changed.

Cheers! The PubScout

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