John Merklin

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What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I am currently president and co-founder at East Coast Brewing Co. [in Point Pleasant, N.J.] I have been a lifelong enthusiast of all things beer ever since I got my start delivering beer to my father from the family fridge as he watched football on Sundays when I was very young. My legal drinking age came just as the micro/craft revolution picked up steam in the early 90s so I have been weaned on the good stuff from day one.  This is also when I had my first chance to homebrew when a friend of mine got a kit for his 21st birthday.

My official start in the industry occurred after reading the book Beer School and deciding that I had a new calling in life. The idea to launch a beer specific to the Jersey Shore came to me when I was on a business trip in early 2007.  I was immediately joined by my school friend Brian Ciriaco who is a co-founder of the company. We spent a lot of time deciding just what kind of company we were going to be and what kind of beer we were going to make. When the time was right we approached local homebrew legend Tom Przyborowski to help develop recipes for us. Along with a few other talented, hard-working and committed individuals, we were able to launch the company.

What’s new at East Coast Brewing Co.?

Well, we are, having only been official since November 2009. Our first beer, Beach Haus® Classic American Pilsner, is scheduled for a summer 2010 launch.

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

My former life was in hi-tech. Everything there was about owning global market share and snuffing out the competition. The craft brewing community, with few exceptions, has been very collegial. This is awfully refreshing. While we are certainly striving to establish ourselves as successful members of the community, it is nice to know that everybody does not have to lose for us to win. When someone like Jim Koch takes the time to call you up, review your business and wish you luck, which is exactly what happened to us, you know you are part of something special.

I also get a real sense of pride when talking about the company and product to the local folks at the Jersey Shore. We have yet to meet a negative reaction and the excitement is overwhelming at times. We have become local heroes of sorts before we have even sold a bottle of beer. The fact that my hometown is part of my business territory is absolutely fantastic!

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

Living at the Jersey Shore gives you a lot of options. During the summer months I spend whatever time I can relaxing on the beach with the family. During the winter it is all about skiing as several Northeast mountains are within a two-hour drive. Spring and fall is all about soccer as I coach both my daughter’s and son’s teams.

What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?

This answer might underwhelm a few, but there are few things I take greater joy in than taking a good beer, be it an ale, lager or pilsner, and matching it with some pizza. There are a great many breweries in the Brewers Association that can take great pride in knowing their beers have paired up well with some of the finest pizza made at the Jersey Shore.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

Kölsch. I spent a lot of time in Cologne, Germany and was very inspired by this beer. It is a local style that is globally appealing at the same time. It is very much what we are going after with our Beach Haus® Classic American Pilsner.

What’s the most exotic travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

Malta. Put back a few Cisk lagers, to say the least.


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