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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

Triumph Brewing Company 10th Anniversary Party, Monday,

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,

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