For a county that is about as South Jersey as you can imagine, Gloucester County has been in the middle of it all when it comes to statewide issues: from the Deptford Mall/pig farm debate to its purple voting streak, to warehouse proliferation and more.
And with stricter regulations recently imposed on NJ breweries, Gloucester County is not only in the middle of the action, but has been leading the way, thanks to the folks at Death of the Fox Brewing in Clarksboro.
Death of the Fox opened in 2017 as a brewery and coffee roastery. Owner Chuck Garrity was inspired by visiting such places out West, where it’s far more common than here in NJ. Lo and behold, Jersey had a problem with it.
“Fortunately we are in a position where we already went head to head against the state to allow our coffee business,” explains Garrity. “We fought hard for that and the state initially pushed back and said, ‘You can’t do that,’ and we said, why, and they said, ‘Nobody has done it before and we don’t know how to manage that.’ Well that’s not my problem, and what I was looking to do was fully utilize my space and to be able to provide something that is appealing to both drinkers and non-drinkers; for people who love coffee as much as they love beer. It’s not necessarily a new concept. It’s new in this area. I was influenced by some companies on the West Coast that had a hybrid model so you know it’s not anything new. But in the state of New Jersey, if it doesn’t fit neatly into a tiny, little box, it’s a problem.”
Recently, Garrity filed a lawsuit against the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) that challenges the ABC’s special ruling on breweries. Those regulations limit advertising and events—from trivia to sports on TV—at breweries. It also prohibits breweries from coordinating with food trucks and a bunch of other asinine restrictions.
Needless to say Garrity doesn’t trust the process over in Trenton. He does, however, have a lot of trust in himself. Garrity left a stable job in health care technology to start Death of the Fox. Working in that field gave Garrity insight into government regulations, but also how to handle the details of business.
“I can see my creative vision come to fruition, and that was too good to pass up,” says Garrity. “I could have stayed in health care another 10 or 20 years and then had a pension and try to do it 20 years later. There are so many unknowns in life, and I saw this so clearly that I had to do it.”
But before leaving the rat race, Garrity had to ask himself some questions that every entrepreneur should ask themselves: Who are you? Who are your customers? And what makes you different?
“I talk to entrepreneurs all the time and I tell them to make sure to know who your customer is, who you are, and what you are providing to the market that’s different from what is already out there,” explains Garrity. “If you can’t answer those three questions, then you might have a tough time with the business. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, it’s cool to open a brewery.’ Yeah, it’s cool to open a brewery, but it’s not a good enough reason to open a brewery.”
One way Death of the Fox stands out is by, as mentioned, serving both coffee and beer. On the coffee side of things, Death of the Fox has over 50 options for lattes. What also makes DotF stand out is their hours; they’re open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in a world where it’s tough to find a coffee shop that isn’t a Barnes & Noble Starbucks open past 5 p.m.
With Phoenix and Robyn blasting through the speakers, and the rustic feel of the place, DotF can feel more like a coffee shop than a brewery, and Garrity is OK with that. He wants DotF to be the place “where people can come that isn’t home or the office.” Garrity also enjoys the roasting process of the coffee as well.
“I love it because I can roast 50 pounds of coffee and have that available for sale that day versus waiting two or four weeks for a beer to condition and ferment out,” says Garrity.
Speaking of the beer, it’s pretty damn good, and well worth the time. Many of the beers at DotF have a coffee counterpart, such as the Butterbeer, and you can get both beer and coffee flights at DotF.
On the lighter end of the beer spectrum, there is the Hessian Session Kolsch, an ode to the German army that the Americans defeated in the Revolutionary War, at many sites in New Jersey, including nearby Red Bank Battlefield. It’s an entry-point beer, “much fresher and fruitier than your standard Coors Light,” Garrity says.
On the heavier end is the Moby Dick—The Great White Stout (8.5% ABV).
“It’s a white coffee chocolate stout,” says Garrity. “It’s light in color, but it tastes like a roasty dark stout. We infuse it with the coffee that we roast here, which means 20 pounds of coffee are steeped in the beer itself. If you’re a coffee lover and you love beer, I recommend Moby Dick. It’s not for the faint-hearted though.”
There’s some fun on the taplist, too. The Cinnamon Toast Pale Ale (made with Cinnamon Toast Crunch) is unique and worth a pour—Garrity says 30 boxes of the cereal go into each batch.
For Harry Potter fans, there’s Professor Fox’s Magical Butterbeer. The beer’s slightly sweet, and a couple seconds in, the butterscotch hits you like a bludger in quidditch.
No matter whether he’s pouring something conventional or unique, the road to providing customers with a unique brewery experience starts and ends with taking proper care of the tanks and having good water quality for the beer. Even the location of the beer tanks matters to Garrity.
“We clean more than we brew,” says Garrity. “You have to get all the right chemicals, acids, things like that. Your brew day ends when you’re finished cleaning, which may take another hour to two hours, but it’s all part of the process.
“You have to have things like temperature control and make sure you are treating the water properly. I go to a lot of breweries and they aren’t doing anything to the water, but you can taste that in the beer. Beer is 98% water and you’re gonna taste that in the beer. If you don’t have a system to control the temperature, especially at this time of the year, when it has gone from 10 degrees to 65 degrees in a matter of days, it’s not good for beer. You have to have a good system to make sure that when the beer is fermenting it stays at a constant temperature.”
While Garrity continues fighting the state over its regulations, he’s also looking to the future, which includes a second location serving non-alcoholic beverages. Non-alcoholic beer’s having a bit of a moment, with the now-popular Dry January, new brands popping up left and right, and non-alcoholic restaurant nights or entire concepts opening.
“There’s a lot of momentum right now when it comes to non-alcoholic beer,” explains Garrity. “We’re developing things like kombucha and also a couple great non-alcoholic beers, and we will have things like mocktails.”
Go to deathofthefoxbrewing.com for more info.