Monday, September 5, 2011

Beer bloggers and brewers at the Ship Inn

This weekend, I had a very good trip to the Ship Inn in Milford, New Jersey. It is a great English style brewpub, very nicely built not too far from the banks of the mighty Delaware, right next to a small stream that connects with it just about a hundred yards further. It boasts to be the first brewpub to brew beer for consumption on premise since the prohibition. Ann and David Hall converted this 1860's Victorian style building into a pub, and in January 1995 opened up their brand new British style 7 barrel system. On their website they describe themselves very nicely as follows:

The Ship Inn offers casual dining, British and American pub savories, freshly brewed beer, and live entertainment in a traditional English pub atmosphere. We endeavor to provide simple, honest, home-made food from local and ecologically responsible sources when possible.
Now that is a great place to go, if you ever make it to the Lehigh Valley area. (With fall at the doorsteps, this region is just beautiful to drive through, with some very scenic roads along the Delaware river, following an old canal, with the occasional bridge to jump from the Pennsylvania side to the New Jersey side of the river. If you're not too far from here, this is something you should do this fall, and then make a stop at the Ship Inn for some great food and beers!)

So, I came down here to chat with Greg, a.k.a. the Pour Curator. Goal was just to chat about beer, about the brewery I plan to start, my background. One of those great moments where you get to meet cool people because of a shared love for beer, and make new friends. We had been emailing back and forth a bit, and finally had a chance to meet in person over a beer. Talking about beer over email is not nearly as satisfying as talking about beer in a bar, with a nice cold brew in hand. It was a great meeting, and we both loved the beers we tried. Some were very sessionable at about 4.1 to 4.6%, and Greg correctly noted that this was quite an achievement: making a low ABV beer like that, that is still as balanced and nicely flavored as the ones we had, is not a simple thing to do!

But then I had a great chance meeting with Lea Rumbolo, 'In charge of all the brewing' at the Ship Inn, who was working to make an improved version of their first Belgian style beer, a very nice Wheat beer called Giggling Monk. Apart from being one of the few female brewers around (there seem to be more and more brewmasters like her, and I am glad to see that, spearheaded by these women-brewers, more and more women start to enjoy great beers, with a passion that belies the old notion of beer being a male monopoly), what struck me most was her background. She is a trained chef (studied at Northampton Community College), and was/is chef at the Lovin Oven and at the Red Spoon, and was at the right place at the right time, asking to be allowed to learn to brew at the Ship Inn. She brings this whole different mindset to brewing, a sense of cleanliness that was drilled into her at cooking school (any brewer/homebrewer knows how easy it is to mess up a beer because of equipment that wasn't sanitized properly), and a very solid understanding of flavors and how they work together. In the updated recipe for the Belgian style wheat, for example, she uses this one extra ingredient, very lightly, to help create a fuller body, while not really being noticeable itself: she knows that adding certain ingredients with not too much flavor of their own, or in really low amounts, can be a tremendous help in bringing out the flavor of the other ingredients. So great and balanced beers is what she is coming up with.

Personally, I find it very intriguing to see her combine those different skill sets in the Ship Inn brewpub. Instead of the hit-or-miss approach, she tries to put together her beer recipes with a lot of thought and understanding of what she wants to accomplish. And all that while being a woman-brewer, in the great tradition of the (very) old brewers, reflected in the fact that the beer deities of Egypt and the Ancient Middle East where all female. It seems a winning combination to me, and I will be checking out the beers she will come up with for sure!


  1. Great post! When are you aiming to open your brewery in NJ? Best of luck!

  2. nice articall ,write some more.

  3. shipping to tijuana available? ... cheers... Alex.