Brewery opens on Route 94

| 31 May 2017 | 11:50

By Laurie Gordon
— One of the driving reasons that Jay Mena got into the brewery business was because of the culture. “The brewery industry is like an artist colony,” he said, “Breweries share ingredients and recipes and everybody wants everybody to succeed.” Buck Hill Restaurant opened on June 11, 2016 and on Thursday, its brewery officially followed suit. Head a few miles out of Newton down Route 94 to Blairstown and experience the area's newest brewery.
The restaurant draws customers and foodies eager to try its farm-to-plate selections from all over Sussex, Warren and Morris counties and the pending opening of the brewery was quite the buzz on sites such as On Tap and various other beer connoisseur driven apps and social media. “When a new brewery or beer comes around, it's all the buzz on these sites and beer lovers will travel great distances to try a new beer,” Mena said.
The comradeship among breweries is evident. For instance, Buck Hill's Brew Master, Bud Usinowicz, has been an assistant Brew Master at Krogh's, in Sparta, for the past 10 years. He still works at both establishments and the owners are planning a pub crawl for the end of the summer leading into fall which will include Buck Hill, Krogh's and several other breweries.
The opening of the brewery rests on the the laurels of the highly successful Buck Hill restaurant. “We incorporate locally grown food and keep the menu changing with the seasons,” Mena said. Usinowicz added, “With the opening of the brewery, we are looking forward to having Beer Pairing events and additionally when a customer orders, the servers will be able to recommend what beers and foods work well together.”
“Exclusively brewing with hop varietals full of personality and flavor contributes to the distinction of uniqueness of Buck Hill Brewery,” Mena said. “From light to bold, our brew master creates top noch ales, lagers, porters, pilsners, IPAs and seasonally specialty beers.
BEER 101
We've all seen beer before, but what's it really made of? Beer’s basic ingredients are water, malt, hops and yeast. What makes beers different is the type of yeast used for the fermentation. There are two categories of beers: Ale and Lager, with each category subdivided into styles based on the type of grain and yeast, as well as the variety of hops. Buck Hill describes Ale as, “Top-fermenting ale yeasts are kept at higher temperatures, usually ferment quickly, and produce by-products, called esters, which give ales their characteristic flowery, fruity flavors. Larger is, “Fermented at lower temperatures (think cold, dark fermentation) for longer periods of time, these beers have the aroma of hops and a sweet malt flavor.” Style names come from geographic regions, specific color or specific type of grain, such as stouts, pale ales and hefeweizens (ales) or pilsners, bocks and helles (lagers).
Let's start with Bud's Suds (so named for Buck Hill's brew master). This is a “pre-prohibition lager that pays tribute to American brewers from the days before Prohibition made it illegal to produce, sell, purchase or consume alcohol in the U.S.Brewed with malted barley, flaked corn and Cluster hops, the oldest cultivated hops variety in the U.S.” Then there's Jay’s Spare Tire. This is, “An American Amber Ale with toasty malt, gentle sweetness and a flash of fresh hop bitterness. Named for Buck Hill’s owner/managing partner Jay Mena, who favors a smooth, drinkable, flavorful beer.” Hitchin Post IPA is, “A West Coast IPA with an unapologetic abundance of citrusy hop character.” Booty Chaser Double IPA is described as, “If some hop character is good, more is better. This is Double IPA is Hitchin’ Post’s big brother. Its assertive citrus/grapefruit notes are attributed to the West Coast hop varieties.”
Cliff's Red Ale is named for Buck Hill Brewer Nick's Red Husky “Clifford.” Buck Hill says, “This beer is a malt showcase of caramel/toffee flavors with a mild, soft floral hop aroma that comes from the classic English hops. Nutty Professor is “A Nut Brown Ale with a fruity caramel flavor; a mild, slightly spicy hop character; and an aroma of toasty, chocolaty notes. Named in homage to Buck Hill brewer Bud, whom we affectionately call the Nutty Professor. Saddle Sore Stout is, “An Oatmeal Milk Stout with velvety smoothness from toasted oats and a slight sweetness from milk sugars that blends with its chocolaty, roasty malt base.” Then there's Whitetail Wit. “This light, effervescent thirst quencher with hints of coriander and orange is a Belgian Wit, known for their light, fluffy body and tart finish. The malted wheat is what gives it the traditional pale white color.” Saison le Hop is described as, “A beer style traditionally brewed in French farmhouses to quench field hands’ thirst during the hot summer months. Some call it '[Farmhands' Gatorade”. Buck Hill’s interpretation of the style uses a unique yeast strain for a spicy character and an added dose of hop character.” Drop Tine Tripel is a Belgian Triple. “It is a strong golden ale with fruity aromas contributed by Belgian yeast. It has a surprisingly light body and a malty sweetness. Truth Serum is, “An English-Style Pale Ale that is ESB or “extra special bitter,” a style known for its balance and the interplay between malt sweetness and hop bitterness. This English Pale Ale displays earthy, herbal English-variety hop character, and is brewed with premium malts.”
Buck Hill plans to change the beers it offers often while maintaining several popular staples. “If you love beer and come here and try our flavors, the next time you come, you're going to want to sample something new,” Mana said. “That's our philosophy. Keep different types rolling out with the change of seasons and just in general.”
“Combining traditional ingredients with Buck Hill creativity, our beers have a distinction that matches our passion for brewing them,” Mena said. “Beer enthusiasts are coming in from all over the area to try our brews.” He added, “We take pride in offering an array of traditional and not-so-common drafts with big flavors and bold taste. Join us for a taste, a pint, or a growler.”
Buck Hill is located a few miles outside of Newton at 45 State Route 94 in Blairstown, NJ. For information/hours, visit, call 908-854-5300 or check out their Facebook page.