A few days ago, G-LO forwarded an email from Jennie Hatton of Profile PR inviting us to attend the first pour at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurants new Voorhees location. Usually, we would both jump at the chance for such an invite since (a) we like free things and (b) we REALLY like free things. Sadly, G-LO was unavoidably detained with work, so I was sent to represent at the event and pitch-hit as the camera guy (I’m nowhere near as gifted as our Mr. LaDouche). The event was spectacular as the first pour led to several more, a full meal, and two growlers for the road. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is the brainchild of Kevin Finn, Mark Edelson and Kevin Davies, and what began as a single location in 1996, has blossomed into the 7th largest brewpub chain in the country with 10 locations serving PA, NJ, and DE. The idea seems rather simple; offer the customer quality craft beer and complementary food; all of which is prepared on site. As a NJ resident, I have been to their other location in Maple Shade several times and have tried about a half dozen more times to get in, only to find that the wait was too long (with three children in tow) as the location was almost too popular. Now, with a location opening right in my backyard, I was looking forward to the first pour and an opportunity to talk with the folks behind Iron Hill.
After the first pour (I selected a Pig Iron Porter), I had an opportunity to talk to Kevin Finn and discuss the measure of success. He admitted that he got into the business for the beer but noted that he has stayed for the people. He is especially proud of how Iron Hill has offered the opportunity for folks who may have entered as part-time wait staff to assume full-time executive positions. He pointed to the Head Brewer, Kevin Walter who started as an underemployed English major moonlighting as a server who five years later is now the resident brewer for the Voorhees store. Kevin Walter then led me on a tour of the brewery which has been engineered to maximize the limited space. Kevin explained the brewing process and his start as a home brewer and then went on to explain the custom design of many of the brewery’s components from the fermentation ranks to the hopback wash to the chillers. Since this is a full production facility housed in the back of a restaurant, space is at a premium. As such, the Iron Hill folks try to think of everything.
As if the first pour and tour were not enough, Iron Hill invited some of the press (somehow I qualify as press) to test the dining room. As I was flying solo, I was invited to join Kevin Trayner of Ale Street News along with his wife. That led to a few more beers as I sampled the Mahalo, Apollo! (a summer wheat beer) and the Beebop Brown (an English-style brown ale). For my dinner entree, I opted for the Jaegerschnitzel (pan-fried pork cutlets, buttered egg noodles (what, no spaetzle!), haricots verts and roasted mushroom sauce). With a heartier meal, I needed a big beer to complement it. So, I selected the Titus 2XIPA, an American IPA (with a powerful 7.8% ABV). Kevin selected the Jaegerschnitzel as well while his wife was looking for something a little lighter and opted for the hummus and the nachos. For an opening night, the service was very good and the food and beverages arrived in no time. After some good conversation and a good dinner, I was looking to spend a little money in return for the night out and asked our server for two growlers: the Rocksteady Pils and the Titus 2XIPA. Well, you can imagine my surprise when the waiter returned and informed me that the growlers were gratis. What an embarrassment of riches and let’s just say, he may have gotten one of the best tips of his life.