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Rocking Out With Jeremy Myers

Rocking Out With Jeremy Myers

written by Danya Henninger

It only took one glass of beer to convince Neshaminy Creek Head Brewer Jeremy Myers to whip out his bass.

Granted, the beer in question was Beast Infection, a sour fermented version of NCBC Tribute Tripel that notched an 11% ABV after 18 months in port barrels, so even though the alcohol content was well-concealed, the 12-ounce goblet packed a punch. But the 1975 Gibson Ripper was easily accessible, stashed with a vintage Fender just behind the towering racks of wine and rum casks that serve the Croydon brewery’s extensive new barrel-aging program.

Since launching Neshaminy Creek in 2011, Myers has attacked brewing with a vigor and dedication unparalleled in the region. Already following a steady growth curve, production has surged since the June installation of an in-house canning line, and the brewery expects to ship 10,000 barrels next year.

But before he got into beer, Myers’ passion was music.

As a sophomore at Penn State, Myers founded Jump Start Records with a roommate, and the label has been steadily putting out albums for more than 18 years. Though 2014 was relatively slow, things are picking back up, with seven record releases slated for just the first few months of 2015.

At Jump Start, Myers signs a diverse assortment of musicians, from those who follow their own punk rock style —“We’re punker than you, so just deal with it,” one website reads — to ska, hardcore and reggae. The label offers everything from pressing vinyl (increasingly popular) to burning CDs (less and less so) to coordinating digital distribution to offering recording advice. It also offers print services.

Via an offshoot called Jump Start Screen Printing, Myers and his partners create patches, posters, t-shirts and hoodies bearing groups’ names, logos and artwork. That “merch” not only satisfies fans, it also becomes an important revenue source when bands go on tour.

Jump Start added printing early on, after just a few years in business. “It grew out of that punk rock, DIY philosophy,” Myers explains. “We were like, ‘Why shouldn’t we just print our own shit?’”

To accomplish that, he made use of a credit card and purchased a hand-operated silkscreen press. The acquisition turned out to be a wise one, and the company began offering print services for a wide variety of clients. Now equipped with two presses (still manual), Jump Start makes all of Neshaminy Creek’s apparel, and also does the same for other area breweries. Own or seen a branded t-shirt from Spellbound, Village Idiot or Naked Brewing? Likely a Jump Start product.

Currently, the record label and print shop operates out of the 1000-square-foot basement in Myers’ Churchville home. It won’t be a home-based business for much longer—he and wife Christina are expecting their first child — and it wasn’t always. From 2004 to 2009, Jump Start had a storefront, first in Fishtown and then in Port Richmond. Myers had scored the account to print all the “tattoo-inspired” textiles for Sailor Jerry Clothing, and the popular brand made up nearly a quarter of his total business.

Myers alternated between running the shop and touring with his own bands. He once spent 52 consecutive days on the road, and has played in 46 states, six Canadian provinces and 14 countries around the world.

Despite his hectic schedule, Myers somehow found time to explore his increasing interest in beer. He’d first been bitten by the beer bug all the way back in college. The same year Jump Start put out its first album, he and his friends got their hands on several bottles of JW Dundee’s Honey Brown. The taste was revelatory, and there was no going back.

“We were blown away, like, ‘Ohhh, this is so much better than the crap we’ve been drinking,’” he remembers, admitting that their previous go-to had been schlock like forties of St. Ides.

He celebrated his graduation with a trip to Pottsville to tour Yuengling. The 185-year-old brewery was one of a handful of brands he had adopted as new favorites, alongside Sam Adams, Anchor Steam and a young upstart called Victory.

For the next eight years, whenever Myers had a few moments between producing and playing music, he read voraciously about beer and the brewing process. It wasn’t until 2006 that he actually tried doing it himself, but he was immediately smitten.

“It felt really natural to me. It was almost like riding a bike,” he says. “Eventually, I said to myself, ‘Can I see myself printing when I’m 50 years old? Not really. Can I see myself brewing when I’m 50? Oh yeah.’”

After sending his résumé to half a dozen local breweries, he was accepted as an intern at River Horse. Timing was good; the Lambertville, NJ, brewery had just undergone an ownership change, and Myers was the second person brought in to brew. Within four months, he had upped his time in the brewhouse from 16 hours to more than 50 hours a week, and convinced management it was worth turning his “internship” into a job. After completing the two-week intensive in brewing technology at Chicago’s famed Siebel Institute, he was hired full-time, and worked there through November of 2009.

“When I left, I just planned to get a job someplace else,” Myers says. “I didn’t have the specific intention of starting a brewery.”

But that’s what he did. Armed with his wife’s blessing and support, he partnered with buddies Steve Capelli and Rob Jahn (who himself was a punk roadie when the two first became friends) and founded Neshaminy Creek. Determined to allow themselves room to grow, the trio leased a huge 18,000-square-foot facility in Bucks County, and set to work.

These days, Myers arrives at the brewhouse around 6 AM, works a 10 or 12-hour day, then heads home and spends at least an hour or two in the Jump Start basement office. Printing goes on even when he’s not there (to the tune of 35-40 hours each week), thanks to logistics manager Kevin Day.

Day was also recently brought on as office manager at NCBC, mostly so he can help oversee human resources—the company now counts 14 full-time employees and recently began offering health benefits. More employees are coming, since Neshaminy Creek’s brand new taproom will require its own staff. Plus, an 800-square-foot laboratory is being built, and five custom-built 60-barrel fermenters will soon be delivered.

Things are moving fast, but the focus continues to be on quality, consistency and a desire to learn and improve. Myers refuses to call himself “brewmaster,” preferring instead “head brewer.”

“Just because you’re some jerkoff that got some money together to start a brewery, it doesn’t mean you’re a brewmaster,” he says. Myers’ punk rock attitude is blunt and unforgiving, but it serves his new profession well.

“People ask me all the time, ‘How are you guys doing so well?’ The answer is simple. Our beers don’t suck.”

About Mat Falco

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