Rockville Centre native Jason Stein has made significant strides from homebrewing in his parent’s garage to heading up a growing brand in Timber Ales. Stein, 33, a 2005 South Side High School graduate, has continued his passion for brewing even through the past year, when circumstances have complicated the brewing and distributing processes, and he has been recognized for his efforts.
Website and app RateBeer named Timber Ales its New Brewer of the Year for 2020, ahead of breweries in Scotland, Canada, England, Poland and Australia. “Our new brewer awards are among the most coveted of RateBeer Best,” the website states. “These awards often recognize breweries that go on to join the world’s elite craft brewers, and that enjoy continued great success.”
Andrew Berman, a childhood friend of Stein’s from Rockville Centre, went to the University of Michigan with Stein, where they developed a passion for craft beers as they sampled the state’s numerous breweries. A few years after Berman graduated from college in 2009, he joined his friend Matt Federico in New York City, and got involved in homebrewing in 2014. Four years later, Stein joined the pair and engrossed himself in homebrewing culture.
Stein developed connections, and began to make a name for himself on the craft-brewing scene. “There’s a brewery/distributor in Connecticut called 12 Percent brewing,” Berman said, “and they were seeing Jason out there, and hearing about Jason and the recognition he was getting as a homebrewer, and they approach-ed him.”
The 12 Percent Beer Project strives to market smaller brewers to a wider audience. Alex Bank, who operates the brewery, described the company in a 2020 article for myrecordjournal.com as similar to an independent record label allowing artists to work in their own ways. Some of the beer “artists” don’t have their own facilities, and that’s where 12 Percent comes in. The large-scale contract brewery, in North Haven, Conn., collaborates with rising brewers who might need help expanding.
With the arrival of the pandemic and the resulting regulations that limited indoor service of alcoholic beverages, the brewery, where Timber Ales is now produced, had to pause operations. “With a lot of places, bars, and stores not being able to sell to the customer,” Stein said, “it’s kind of limited the outlook in terms of what we could do.” He explained that breweries had to stop production and distribution for a couple of months because they were unsure of the future.
Stein now balances his day job at Ernst & Young with Timber Ales. He is in New York City most of the time, but will make trips up to Connecticut twice a month to brew new beers. While the pandemic has created issues with distribution, it has also had a positive side. “I think . . . it does make it easier if I know there are days when I can just take the calls from the brewery,” Stein said. “. . . With the pandemic there aren’t as many people there, so I can go and sit down and have an office basically to do my full-time job and monitor things on the beer side when needed.” He must be tested for Covid-19 every time he goes to the Connecticut brewery.
Even with the challenges of the past year, Timber Ales has added 21 beers since last February, many of them stouts or India pale ales, or IPAs. One stout, which Stein named Chasing Darkness, even tastes like dark chocolate, and will be the first beer bottled out of bourbon barrels. The bourbon bottle program will be the next big step for Timber Ales. Since the beers the company has produced have had 12 months to age and “develop nuances,” as Stein put it, now they can be bottled from the barrels. “That’s basically what the goal has been all along,” he said. “To have these more complex-style aged beers.”