Jersey Beer Tour: The Seed in Atlantic City

“I think the ethos of The Seed is always brewing with a sense of story and to distill it down to the simplest of statements. If you own a brewery, run a brewery, or work for a brewery you should be brewing good beer right? You don’t see NBA players that are just bad at basketball, so if you run a brewery you should make good beer."

Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in our state has one. It might be a night out with friends, a 21st birthday celebration, a bachelorette party. Or arriving with high hopes only to go home broke, enjoying a day at one of the few non-beach tags beaches in our state, or, as of late, going to see some kickass music festivals. 

Indeed, everyone has an Atlantic City story. There’s few places in America like it and there’s definitely no other city in the Garden State that compares.

Atlantic City is a city where tales are made, but the city itself kind of tells the story of the Garden State as well. Gritty, misunderstood, diverse, sometimes faced with corruption, beautiful, gets crapped on by New Yorkers and Philadelphians (yet they constantly visit), and always changing. No matter how many times Atlantic City got knocked out, it got back up and fought another day. 

It makes sense that a brewery with a focus on storytelling has a home in AC. I’m not that good at math, but I’m pretty sure most AC stories involve alcohol at some point. But probably few involve a brewery. That is changing with the addition, in 2020, of The Seed: A Living Beer Project located near the Showboat and Hard Rock casinos. 

The Seed is owned by Sean Towers and Amanda Cardinali. The couple grew up in Vernon, which is another infamous town in Jersey. And I know you’re thinking it, and yes they visited Action Park. 
“My favorite ride was the Sidewinder,” explains Towers. “You lay your head down on a mat and went on two different courses. You raced down and it was really fun. It’s funny to tell everyone who has seen the Action Park documentary that not only is everything in that documentary is true, but it’s actually tame compared to what actually happened.”

Besides shady amusement parks, Sussex County is known for its rural character. Towers took advantage of his environment in Vernon and was constantly outside skateboarding, snowboarding,and finding new streams to fish. 

“I spent a lot of time in the woods,” says Towers. “That’s kind of directed a lot of where we stand today and what our focus is at in the brewery.”

For Towers and Cardinali, nature is still a huge part of their lives and it’s a part of the story of The Seed. From the brewing process to the beer to the artwork and even the decor on the tables, natural inspiration is evident. Towers went to nearby Stockton University for school, and is a marine biologist by day. 

“Marine science gave me a way to learn about nature forever,” says Towers. “You know you’re never gonna learn everything there is about nature. Outside of the brewery at my day job, we are focusing on restoration and environmental health. We follow certain marine ecosystems and how they interact with coastal and estuary ecosystems, and try to learn more about that and make things better moving forward. ”

With marine science and brewing, Towers deals with water almost all day. In some ways the two jobs intertwine. Towers used to go around the state and handle quality control for breweries, and test their equipment out. He also used that as a chance to grow his brewing network and learn more about the brewery operations. 

“A couple of the breweries that Amanda was working for needed someone who knew a lot more about microbiology than they did,” remembers Towers. “It was very basic stuff in the beginning. You know, cell counts to ensure consistency in your yeast pitching rates. The contamination bags; we made sure everything was clean. As our network grew, other folks had questions that were a bit more complex. You know, ‘Can we run petri dish plates with a specific medium to see if very specific microbes will grow?’”

Towers used that time spent in breweries to think about what kind of brewery he would want to open one day. He had his own scientific method in mind when it came to The Seed.

“One of the things we learned was to go in with a set focus and make what you want to make,” explains Towers. “And if you can do it well and can tell your story in a proper way that makes people want to follow along with you, and you can maintain your focus while growing to a reasonable level without having to chase trends. And you’ll see that in the beers we brew. You’re not gonna come in here and find eight IPA’ on the board. I mean you’re lucky that there’s two or three on the board right now. 

“You’re not gonna come in here and find super heavily fruited sours that just taste like juice. I’m not knocking those beers. They’re delicious and a lot of people do them really, really well. It’s not what we want to be making here.”

What you will find at The Seed is a particular set of ethos that the brewery lives by and that is staying true to yourself, having a vision and offering an experience that few other breweries in South Jersey have to offer. 

“I think the ethos of The Seed is always brewing with a sense of story and to distill it down to the simplest of statements,” says Towers. “If you own a brewery, run a brewery, or work for a brewery you should be brewing good beer right? You don’t see NBA players that are just bad at basketball, so if you run a brewery you should make good beer. That shouldn’t be the question. So what else do you do that is unique, different or interesting enough to set you apart from other people?”

“I think for us one of the reasons why we opened the brewery was that in our immediate area no one was doing what we wanted to be doing, and we had to do it all ourselves. That kind of honed us in on our ethos of using local ingredients, not fighting to homogenize everything, being cool if the batch of barleys are different this year and lean into that.”

Anyone who has taken a science class in school or was alive the past three years realizes that science can change in an instant. So can beer as well, and that fact is recognized in part of the brewery’s name. The “living beer project” part of the title is an ode to that. 

“That’s a big deal to us,” explains Towers about the name of the brewery. “When we were coming up with the concept, and more specifically the imagery and the branding, we didn’t want to be blank brewery or blank brewing company. We didn’t feel like that captured anything unique or captured what we were trying to do here. So the living beer project at its simplest form is describing what we are trying to do here. We are living, evolving and growing. Everything we do here is learning more about the ingredients, the process and getting better at our craft and profession.”

Despite the ever-changing ethos of The Seed, you’ll find two constants there: One is that there’s a lot of saison on the draft list. Towers and Cardinali built the equipment at The Seed to make saison beer. The other constant of The Seed is that you’ll find a lot of beer on the draft list with low ABV percentages. While The Seed does have a beer that has a 12% ABV, you’ll find numerous drinks with low alcohol content and that is intentional. 

“Saison to us is a big thing,” explains Towers. “It’s less of a beer style and more of a philosophy. All of these French and Belgian farmhouse beers weren’t trying to set out and make saison. They were just making beer with whatever ingredients they had available, and what yeast they had available. That’s what it tasted like, and we try to lean into that here as well. Saison drives home the point of being open to things tasting different all the time. So these beers are driven heavily by the flavors created by the yeast and bacteria and that’s something special for us to showcase.”

Another thing that Towers set out to showcase is how beer can bring people together and can be a communal activity. The commitment to having low-ABV beers on the tap list is a testament to that.

“We don’t want to be promoting that culture, and it’s pretty common in American beer culture to have tiny little sips of super extreme beers,” says Towers. “You sit on your phone and rate them on Untapped. Not that I’m against that, but the culture of drinking beer that is lower in alcohol content is really good. You can have a few of them, and you can hang out with your friends all night and keep drinking beers. We always say that beer is the sidebar to your entire experience and your night out is the perfect setting. That was our focus from the beginning, but having a heavier focus on our lager program has only elevated that experience.”

One of those beers at The Seed that promotes that culture is Stay Awhile, which is a dark mild with an ABV of 4.2%. It’s an English-inspired beer with Garden State ingredients. 

“We like doing those English-style beers, and it’s all English malt,” says Towers. “Very simple, low alcohol, and that one has a dark fruity character to it that we like. All of our English beers are named after the theme of taking your time. We have another English beer called Cozy Up. They all have something to do with slowing down and taking your time. The old world wasn’t very fast paced, and there’s something cool about that.”

The Seed also has beers that are dedicated to family and friends who have helped them out along the way. The artwork for the lagers is done by Cardinali’s brother. The handwriting for the bottles are done by family and friends. Poetry in Motion is inspired by Towers’ grandmother, and you’ll find butterflies, which she loved, on the beer bottle.

“Poetry in Motion the name obviously alludes to the fact the everything around us is constantly changing and evolving over time. So for this beer in particular you’re taking a relatively clean, straightforward saison and mixing it with a smaller portion of a very mature, complex saison. And then all the living microbes from the barrel are gonna help develop everything into something completely new over time. 

“My grandmother used to call me poetry in motion when she watched me play basketball, and most of our cans and bottles the name of the beer is written in. Some are font depending on what we are doing, but 99% of them are handwritten by my friends and family. The handwriting on the Poetry in Motion bottles is my grandmother’s handwriting.”

Basketball is also a big deal to Towers and Cardinali. Towers loves watching Steph Curry play, and Towers is a loyal (key word here) Timberwolves fan. Being a T’Wolves fan is a lot like being a believer in Atlantic City. There’s been some good years, but a lot of it has been tough. Still both have a core that you can get excited about and there’s a future. Towers is excited to be part of it all in AC.  

“The culinary scene is continuing to evolve, and we’re seeing a music scene coming back,” says Towers. “We’re seeing an arts scene come into the city in full force. There’s so much vibrancy in the cultural community in Atlantic City, and it’s a neat thing to be a part of.”

The Seed is definitely worth the drive, NJ Transit train rid, or jitney ride to Atlantic City, and is a great place to have a beer. In the future, Towers would like to have another Seed location in a more rural setting to show beer consumers the full process of how beer works.

“We would like to get people more involved with our partner farms, and get them out to see where all the ingredients are grown.” Towers explains. “It’s no different than eating right? You could go to a place and see where the cattle are raised on site. You see where they are kept, the conditions they are in, and what they are eating. You can experience the environment where all your food comes from and then you can eat it. We want to be able to do that with folks who experience where our grains grow, experience where our food comes from, and where our flowers come from. I think eventually that lends itself very well to a second location where we can put that all on site. We can have our small farm brewery, we can have our own fruit orchard, and we can grow our own flowers. We have that all encompassed in one location where people can enjoy their time.”