Gretchen Schmidhausler has been brewing in New Jersey since 1996, but her biggest leap was to go to Neptune. Neptune City New Jersey that is, “Steiner Avenue” specifically. After stints with Red Bank Brewing and The Ship Inn, and a dozen years at Basil T’s in Red Bank, Gretchen decided to go off on her own. The happy result is “Little Dog Brewing Company” which opened last November.
A true to her “Jersey girl”roots Gretchen purchased her 4 barrel brewhouse from Dave Hoffman of north Jersey’s Climax Brewing – and then bought a derelict laundromat in a residential section of Neptune. She knew what she wanted to achieve, and wanted to do it herself. “I want to grow, but stay a boutique brewery – stay local. It will be great when I hire my first (other) employee”. Right now Gretchen is the brewer/owner/everything that is Little Dog. “I wanted to do it all myself until I finally lost my mind…well that happened May 1st when I started self distributing…I have people who want my beer, and I have the capacity to brew, but I can’t get it out the door at that pace yet”.
The conscious decision to locate in a residential area, and her attention to appearance inside and out is a good illustration of Gretchen’s desire to be part of the neighborhood. As she greets many of her patrons by name – she remarked to me “many of my customers have been with me since my time at Basil T’s…” She was able to obtain local government support to decorate the front of the building with a cheery red striped awning. The interior of the tap room is likewise a comfortable and welcoming experience.
“It was a lot easier for me to start the brewery having been in the business for so long, but I am still talking with people asking questions. I was on the phone the other day with Jeremy “Flounder” Lees (Flounder Brewing) for 90 minutes. He was so helpful.”
She is focused on more traditional German styles (“Steiner Ave.”, right?) – there was no hop bomb on tap. At our visit, my friend and I really enjoyed the nicely crisp “Duck Boy” pale ale, the subtly tangy “Linzer Tart”, and two versions of Gretchen’s award winning dry stout recipe. Inspired by her tenacious Basenji dog “Quincy”, Gretchen is determined to make Little Dog Brewing work. “In many ways I am a ‘small dog’ in amongst the bigger brewers” she says with a comfortable smile. I think that it’s easy to be comfortable when you are at Little Dog, why not just drop by and experience it for yourself and help another great local brewer achieve their dream? And tell Gretchen that BeerAppreciation.com sent you to Neptune…City.