By Jean Redstone
Perhaps the first interesting thing about Charles (‘Chuck”) Garrity is that he’s got a streak of dedication pushing him, like a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough. There’s an inner commitment toward an identified success — think farmer nursing a new crop to harvest.
The second interesting fact is that he knows what the word “zymurgy” means. How many people do you know can say that?
Mickleton residents the past 10 years, Chuck and Kathryn Garrity, and their daughters, Darci, 12, and Grace, 11, watched the surrounding area fill with others seeking the same out-of-the-hubbub life style.
“When we moved here,” Garrity recalled, “I was about the fifth house in. Now there’s 200.”
As the holder of a Master’s of Business Administration in healthcare technology, Garrity built a career in consulting and analysis, advising major healthcare players and providers. Currently a part-time consultant, he left a vice president position at Beacon Partners in Boston three years ago, after 12 years of traveling, long-hours and high pressure conditions.
“I don’t get married to titles,” Garrity explained. “I’m married to being able to have a work/life balance. I left to get that balance. I spent a lot of time on the road. Now I can ride my bike to work.”
This is where zymurgy enters his story. Zymurgy, the last word in many English dictionaries (who in the world keeps track of such stuff?) is the branch of chemistry which deals with wine or beer making and brewing.
There’s even an app for that: the app is offered by Zymurgy magazine, put out by the American Homebrewers Association.
His move to Mickleton presented Garrity an opportunity he decided to take advantage of. “I’ve always loved a good quality beer, even when I was in college’” Garrity said. “I like trying different things and going to different parts of the country and trying local beer. “On our honeymoon, a highlight for me was visiting a Guinness brewery.”
When he moved to Mickleton, Garrity met a neighbor who was upgrading his home brewing equipment. “He was very passionate about brewing and was getting new equipment. So I purchased his old system,” Garrity said.
He began experimenting with home-brewed beer. “I’d been in the corporate game more than 22 years and it’s pretty stressful. It’s been good to me, but not particularly healthy,” Garrity said. “Over the years I’ve always wanted my own business.”
On cue, Mickleton presented Garrity with another opportunity, neighbor Dan Natkin. Also a brew aficionado, Natkin became a limited partner in what is evolving into a full-fledged brewery, thereby striding into the popular stream of craft beers.
Like Garrity, Natkin travels in his work and uses his access to the wide countryside to visit local breweries seeking inspiration and knowledge. “Between us, we have been to dozens of breweries all over the country,” Garrity said. ‘We talk about bringing the best of that experience back here. That’s going to be an important element (in our) success.”
The partners have acquired 3,000 square feet of space in the Villages of Whiskey Mill, near the newly-opened Cinder Bar. They plan to open The Death of the Fox, a coffee cum craft beer house this fall.
As ambitious as it is innovative, Garrity talks enthusiastically and knowledgeably about his goals — ‘vision’ might be the better word. He sees a niche in his community and its nearby surrounds. He is eager to fill it.
“This country used to have a different beer or ale for every little village,” Garrity said. “You got a feel for the place you were in from the brew, but that all changed when what is called the ‘Dark Age of Beer’ arrived.”
That dark age came with industrialization and small breweries lost their colonial heritage identity to large nationwide brewers. “But now there’s new interest in local brews again,” Garrity said, naming the craft beer movement as a progenitor.
While he is not officially up and running yet, he has already formulated and marketed (in a small way) a few craft beers. Garrity wants to specialize not just in craft-style home brews, but in customizing a beer upon request.
“This is experiential,” he enthused. “I’m working with local bars and restaurants to make a custom beer just for them. They can put their name on it and sell it. The small batch concept is very important to us. It’s what will make us stand out.”
As proof of concept, Garrity and Natkin offered to craft a custom beer for the anniversary of The Caffeinated Cyclist shop in Pitman last year. “I asked them, ‘What if I made you a custom beer, a coffee beer, like a porter? A custom made, one-time only beer for the anniversary,’ “Garrity recounted.
He knew from the comments of people familiar with his home brews that such a concept was possible. “People really took to my beer. They wanted me to make it for events, weddings, business affairs.”
Matt Kupsky, manager at The Caffeinated Cyclist, pronounced the custom brew, a coffee stout, “very delicious. It looked almost like coffee. It had an authenticity and originality. We’d do it again for other occasions. The customers liked it.”
Garrity includes in his vision a community feel for his brewery. “I’ll be the first in the area to combine a coffee house with a brewery and I will use local businesses for my needs. I’m partnering with Crescent Moon coffee shop in Mullica Hill for their expertise and I met with the owners of (N Star Hop Farm, also in Mullica Hill) and they will supply hops for the brewery. He has approached several local businesses for supplies he’ll need.
“My family is all excited at this change for us. It takes a lot of knowledge to go from home brewing to professional,” Garrity said, his own excitement rising in his voice. Indeed, he has recently received certification from the prestigious Seibel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago after taking courses “to firm my skills.”
Besides the local business partnerships, Garrity wanted to feature local history in his plans. It’s how he got the name of the brewery. He came across a private residence off Kings Highway in Mt. Royal that at one time was a favorite tavern among area colonists.
Ye Death of Ye Fox Tavern, it was called, after a dead fox was found there. It frequently hosted riders from the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club (1766-1818), the first fox hunt in the not-yet-American countryside. It also hosted patriot strategy sessions during the Revolution.
“One day I saw this house and I just knew if I ever had a brewery I would name the business after it,” Garrity said. “When it happened, I asked the owners for permission and that’s how we chose the name. Everything sort of worked out.”
Just as the brewing practices before the “dark ages” of beer is informing modern crafters, the history behind its name may well be a good omen for the future of Death of the Fox Brewery.
Garrity, who traded a lucrative Boston business career for a chance at a colonial-style brewery, named his new business after a tavern built on land given in the late 1600s by William Penn to John Clark.
John Clark was a brewer, a “zymurgist,” to coin a word. John’s son sold the property to Benjamin Alford, a colonial Boston businessman.
Is it possible history is smiling?
You can follow the tavern’s progress on Facebook: www.facebook.com/deathofthefoxbrewing/ or visit it’s Website at: Dotfoxbrewing.com