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This article was prepared by Jamie Saxon for the March 9, 2005
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
It’s Better on Tap: Triumph at 10
Lots of people drink beer in college. But only a few have the vision
to turn it into a career. While earning his undergraduate degree in
philosophy with a minor in English at Trinity College in Hartford,
Connecticut, in the late 1980s, Adam Rechnitz found himself in the
perfect place at the perfect time. "When I was in college the
microbreweries on the West Coast were just flooded with new beers. At
Trinity I drank them all. Research is important."
After he graduated in 1988, Rechnitz packed up his car and took a
two-week class in microbiology and brewing science taught by the
renowned Michael Lewis at the University of California at Davis.
Poised at the cusp of the microbrewery boom, Rechnitz – who grew up in
Red Bank, the son of an American and English literature professor at
Monmouth College and a housewife – went north to Seattle and got a job
washing kegs. From there he "brewed up and down the West Coast,"
consulting with dozens of microbreweries. "Everybody wanted to open
microbreweries. Yet as I saw breweries opening up, I made the fatal
mistake of saying, ‘I can do these breweries better than they can.’"
Rechnitz’s first microbrewery baby – Triumph Brewing Company in
Princeton – is still booming, and celebrates its 10th anniversary on
Monday, March 14. "I knew this brewing craze was going to hit the East
Coast with a vengeance, and I wanted to be here for it." After
considering sites in New Brunswick and Lambertville Rechnitz settled
on Princeton and – with his then partners, Ray and Erica Disch –
opened Triumph’s doors on March 14, 1995, coinciding with then
Governor Jim Florio’s signing the state’s first brewpub law.
"Princeton really leapt out because the building had such potential
and was right across from the university."
Since then Triumph has brewed more than 60 styles of beer. The biggest
feather in Rechnitz’s cap came at last year’s Great American Beerfest
in Denver, where Triumph’s New Hope location (opened in 2003) won a
gold medal for its Kellerbier, an unfiltered Pilsner style of beer
from the Franconia region of Bavaria, and Triumph Princeton won a
silver medal for its Rauchbier, a specialty of Bamberg, another city
in Franconia, which is made from smoked malt and has a very unusual
style, similar to a smoked cheese.
Asked if any evenings stand out as highlights in Triumph’s first
decade, Rechnitz admits, "It’s one big alcoholic fog." But after a
moment of consideration, he adds: "I had a nice time talking with
Christie Todd Whitman when she was Governor; she liked beer. I
remember John-John came in one night and sat at the bar. I made a
point of leaving him alone and told everyone else to, too." He says
it’s wonderful when actors like Jimmy Smits and others doing plays at
McCarter make Triumph their watering hole of choice.
It has taken a decade but Rechnitz has finally come to realize the
true cost of owning your own business. "I think every person who goes
into business for themselves, if they thought it would come at such
personal cost, they would never do it. I found myself 10 years older
and with almost no personal life." (His former partner, Ray Disch, has
been working in commercial real estate for Trillium Realty in Hopewell
and on April 1, opens his own firm, R.E. Disch Real Estate, at 10 E.
Broad Street in Hopewell. Disch’s wife, Erica, teaches Spanish to
fifth graders in the Montgomery school system.)
Rechnitz has now removed himself from the day-to-day operations,
thanks in part to his business partner, Brian Fitting, who joined the
Triumph clan four years ago: "If I can’t step out of this business
that I started and let the thing run a little more on its own, I
haven’t been successful." He is now focusing on opening two more
Triumphs – one in his hometown of Red Bank and another at an
as-yet-undiscovered venue in Philadelphia.
As for his 10-year-old birthday boy in Princeton, Rechnitz chalks its
success up to character and ambiance. "We’ve created a space in which
people from every background and all walks of life feel comfortable.
People in suits rubbing elbows with guys who just got off the
construction site. It’s a public house and a public house is a very
democratic institution. It’s nice to have a reputation for that sort
of thing." Sounds kind of humble, doesn’t it? On that note, Rechnitz
says: "My lawyer says there’s no such thing as good press or bad
press, just make sure they spell your name right."
– Jamie Saxon
March 14, 138 Nassau Street. At 7 p.m., a trumpeter and an unnamed
guest of honor – it could be former Governor Jim Florio, or former
Princeton mayor Marvin Reed, or Acting Governor Richard J. Codey, or
someone else – will tap a wooden keg of Triumph IPX, a "double" or
"Imperial" version of Bengal Gold, the beer tapped on Triumph’s first
anniversary. Chef Mark Valenza will prepare special entrees for the
restaurant, and Triumph IPX pint glasses and t-shirts will help
commemorate the event. 609-924-7855, www.triumphbrew.com.
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