Brewing in the Sticks: Stickman Brews in Royersford
When I walked through the door of Stickman Brews in Royersford, head brewer and co-owner Ethan Buckman was standing over a tank overseeing one of his new brews. There were a few things he was working on that day, one of them being a wild fermented red ale called “Poor Clock Management,” named after Andy Reid, which is going on tap this Friday.
Like a lot of breweries, Stickman is in a warehouse, but this one was the former home of Sly Fox’s brewing and canning plant. The place is very open—to the right is where the brewing takes place, to the left are high-top tables and chairs. And straight ahead? The bar.
Jenga and Cards Against Humanity are placed on all of the tables, which already tells me that Stickman must be a fun place to hang out (because who doesn’t like Cards Against Humanity? And beer?). Dart boards are on one of the walls—there’s a dart league on Wednesdays.
What Buckman and his business partners—his older cousin, Jim Buckman and Jim’s wife, Kate Sorrento—are trying to go for at Stickman is a casual, welcoming place for people of all backgrounds to get together, enjoy the beer and food, and have fun. Buckman says that on busy nights, “this really cool thing happens … we notice at once—two groups of people will come in, they’ll sit at different tables, and by the end of the night they’ll be all be hanging out and playing games together and I love that about this place.”
For a man of twenty-four, Buckman has a lot of brewing experience, which all started with his lack of spending money in his freshman year of college. Finding a job wasn’t working out, so he bought a hot plate and started brewing beer in his dorm room to make some cash. Going into his sophomore year, Buckman scored an internship at The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh where he was eventually offered a job and without hesitation he left college and worked at The Church for three years.
He then moved to Oklahoma, where he brewed at Mustang Brewing Co. in Oklahoma City for a year before moving back home to Jersey. For a short time, Buckman was the cellar master at Amalthea Cellars in Atco, NJ, but learned that wine wasn’t his thing and soon after he became the head brewer of Free Will Brewing.
Throughout those years working for other breweries, Buckman wanted his own. “When I was sixteen, I took a business class in high school and wrote a business plan about how I wanted to open a brewery,” he said. After talking with his uncle, they decided to take the plunge and created Stickman Brews. Stickman opened in December of 2015 after an almost six month build-out.
Buckman’s creations are essentially “Americanized Belgian farmhouse-style” brews made in small batches that taste like something you might have had before, only different. For example, “Plant Matter,” his American-style tripel, tastes like a Belgian tripel but is drier and heavily hopped, coming out at eighty-two IBUs.
Plant Matter is one of the eight signature brews from Stickman. There’s also an American farmhouse ale, a wild black ale, Belgian double brown, Bier de Garde, Kentucky-style common, smoked saison and a Belgian style stout.
But these labels should be almost entirely disregarded.“The only reason there are style names next to the beer is because we are legally required,” says Buckman. The beers he makes can’t quite be put into a category because they just don’t fit.
While all craft breweries have qualities that make them different from each other, at the end of the day, Buckman isn’t too impressed with the variety of beer styles in the industry. “From the inside looking out, the beer market is not creative—everybody brews the same kinds of beers.” This is one of the reasons why Stickman doesn’t have an IPA on tap, which is disappointing for some. “People come in and they’re pissed off because we don’t have an IPA…it happens all of the time.”
Buckman doesn’t plan on making one, though. “We brew farmhouse style beers— an IPA isn’t brewed open-top fermented, an IPA is not fermented with wild yeast or farmhouse strains of yeast.” But that doesn’t mean that hopheads won’t be satisfied with what Stickman has to offer. “The only thing that our beers have in common with an IPA is that there are a lot of hops in them.”
If you want to try Stickman brews, you’ll have to stop at the Brewery, because as of right now, they don’t distribute. You can also try their food, including the three kinds of mussels on the menu that are steamed in Stickman beer.
So where’d Buckman get the name “Stickman Brews”? “I was out with some friends…the bar had this bottle fridge and you could see all the different labels and they were just all really, really overdone… like Renaissance portraits,” so he said, “If I ever open my own place I’m just gonna draw stick figures on my labels.”
While stick figures may be a simple choice for label artwork, the beers at Stickman are anything but simple. Just head over and taste them for yourself.
Stickman Brews [Official]