You don’t have to speak with Brooke Tidswell for long without seeing his obvious success mindset. He has big goals, he’ll pay the price, and he’s committed to continuous improvement.
“One of the things we said when we started,” he reflects, “is we always want to be getting better every day. If we make a beer that we think is good, how do we make it great? If we make a beer that’s great, how do we make it spectacular, and never stop changing that?
“So, we always are tinkering with recipes, or tinkering with the process.”
That drive is a necessary quality if you’re going to operate a craft brewery in South Jersey these days. Especially in Medford, which has become a first-class destination for craft beer almost overnight.
Tidswell, his partner Jay Kuhn, and minority partners Chris and Aaron King, currently own and operate Farm Truck Brewing, the newest craft brewery to open on Main Street. It’s already a huge hit, earning raves online for the atmosphere, the staff, and of course, the beer.
A business venture that literally started with business-minded Brooke asking chef Jay, “You wanna start a brewery?” has become a model for brewing the way it should be done.
“Who’s the top brewery in South Jersey?” Tidswell asks. “I think if you ask that question today, 99% of the answer is Tonewood Brewing. Those guys are phenomenal. But for us, top two, top three, I want to be one of those here. I want Farm Truck to be in people’s minds. But we have to earn that. And it takes time. It takes a lot of work.”
The brewery’s name, he explains, is a tribute to the farming history of the Garden State, the environment where Tidswell spent his childhood.
“There was always a truck that would always start no matter where it was parked. Cornfield, wheat, whatever, it started. It was reliable. Smelled like hay and cow s*** (laughs), but it worked.”
The beer-drinking experience has improved exponentially in our lifetimes. The selection of specialized brews for every taste, compared to the days of “Budweiser or Miller?” has made life significantly better for all of us. (If only we had so many choices in political parties.) People can now drink beer and actually enjoy the taste of it.
People like Brooke and Jay and his gang are a big part of the reason.
At Farm Truck’s home base, you can sample a variety of IPAs, lagers, and ales, made for both conservative and adventurous tastes. And there’s a dedicated process behind making each of them taste great.
Tidswell emphasizes three keys to a flavorful beer: timing, science, and ingredients. He also shares an obvious advantage Farm Truck has: that three of his brewers, including Jay, are chefs. That kind of experience can go a long way in improving the taste of a beer. Tidswell says that when creating a recipe, Jay and crew try different chef-inspired approaches until they hit on something that works.
“I was not a culinary guy, but I love great beer. I love great food. Obviously, in a kitchen, experimentation is the norm. It should be the norm. It’s their mentality with my willingness to say yeah, let’s do a full batch of an experimental beer anytime.”
Farm Truck’s attention to detail during the brewing process is easily as important as their willingness to experiment. As Tidswell describes, a lot can go wrong when brewing beer.
“Bacteria can ruin a beer. Our cleaning process has to be top-notch. Number two is oxygen. Oxygen can ruin a beer. Then temperature, if we’re not keeping our beer at the right temperature, that can play a part into it going wrong.
“There’s a lot of things, bad grain, bad hops, bad ingredients, but those things are negated when you work hard with your checks and balances.”
The crew even brings in a “beer chemist” to check on their products. Leaving aside the question of “Where was “beer chemist” on Career Day?”, that’s a testament to their commitment to quality control.
“She does a lot of our testing, checks our water profile, does all the little things that we don’t do or know how to do.
“If I’m going to put beer that we made in your hand,” Tidswell asserts, “I need to make sure that every single little bit of it was done right.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to make the trip to Medford to try Farm Truck’s craft beer creations. Their website lists multiple restaurants and liquor stores in the area where you can find their products.
Once you’ve established solid quality, Tidswell says, selling to liquor stores isn’t difficult.
“That just takes time. Just stopping by and talking to them, telling them your story.
“A lot of the liquor stores started off buying three cases, one of each style that we had available. When it sells, they call us and say, ‘Hey, I want three more.’ Then it goes, ‘Hey, I want six more.’ Now you’re gonna get your own shelf, or you’re gonna get your own tap line at a restaurant.
“It’s just earning it. Earning it by trust and good product. And obviously, if they’re making money and they’re selling beer, they’re happy.”
Ultimately, however, Tidswell would prefer that beer aficionados come visit Farm Truck and experience it for themselves.
“When you come here and we have 16-20 beers on tap, and you see the space that we have, you’re able to go, ‘Okay, this makes sense. I enjoy this place. The guys are pretty neat, the staff’s awesome. They’re always so friendly.’ We have live music on Fridays and Saturdays, so you’ve got good beer, good people, good music.”
Tidswell loves Medford, and he even loves that he has some tough competition on Main Street. With Farm Truck being one of three and soon-to-be four craft breweries in town, Tidswell shares, “People come to Medford now because it’s a destination for beer.”
Farm Truck seems made for the JerseyMan audience. Not only does it reflect Garden State pride, it’s upscale and high quality, and it’s crafted by entrepreneurs who know how JerseyMan readers think.
“You guys like the finer things in life,” Jay Kuhn says accurately, “and we go above and beyond to make sure we source the best ingredients for these beers, and we treat people right.
“You’re putting that hard-earned money into a good place, you feel comfortable, because you know it’s gonna be good.”
Brooke, Jay and company are pleased with the reception so far…4.9 stars in 81 Google reviews as this sentence was written. Kuhn says “When you walk through these doors, there’s always gonna be a smile on your face. You see all these people in here, every single one of them is having a good time. Every single one of them.”
Tidswell agrees. “I think it’s just absolutely awesome when I can sit in a corner and see 60 people sitting with their families and friends and laughing.
“That to me is the most humbling and most exciting thing, you can go anywhere you want, and you choose to come to Farm Truck.”