Local fresh spices for your brews By: Ben Bakelaar

This week, I interview Jon Hauge of Savory Spice Shop in downtown Princeton, NJ. You can find them here and on Facebook. This store is amazing, and since it’s right around the corner from where I work, I’ve been by several times already. I just picked up some whole cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, and whole allspice for my next Session Pumpkin Stout! My plan is to boil them all in a tea after pulse-grinding the nutmeg and allspice to break them up a bit. What spices have you used lately in your beers?

Savory Spice Shop  |  love2brew.com

What is the history of your store? When did you open, and what got you into spices?

8 years ago I was visiting relatives living in downtown Denver.  Knowing that I loved to cook, they took us to a newly opened spice shop within walking distance of their loft.  I was overwhelmed by the selection and the ability to taste anything I wanted.  It was one of the coolest shopping experiences I've ever had.  I remember talking about that if I ever had the opportunity to work for myself, this concept would be a perfect balance of doing what I love while having fun.  As many times happens, the company I was working for was sold about 1-1/2 years ago and our corporate HQ was being moved from NJ to Wisconsin.  The option was move or pursue other opportunities.  With that, my family and I figured if we were ever going to make the leap and open a business, this would be the time.  My background is in Supply Chain and Logistics so I set about getting the distribution network together to make it happen.  At the time I had no idea that my Denver relatives were actually friends with the original shops owners.  They had just begun franchising their operation and thought our situations fit well together.  After many long hours of discussion and another visit out to Denver, we decided that the benefits of an established, well run organization behind us out-weighed the benefits of being independent, so we partnered with the Savory team.  It took some time to find real estate in downtown Princeton and even more time for permitting and construction, but we opened our doors on Nov 21st, 2011.

What is the difference between spices in the supermarket and spices that are sold here?

The differentiation between spices most people know of from the supermarkets and what we have to offer are substantial.  First, our inventory is extremely fresh.  Most herbs and spices do not go "bad" over time, but do lose a significant amount of their potency.  All of our spices are fresh ground weekly at our warehouse and shipped to us immediately.  We also offer over 400 + herbs and spices and another 150 + custom blends.

What is the difference between a spice and herb?

As a note, herbs usually refer to the leafy parts of edible plants while spices refer to the berries, seeds, bark, or root of the plants.  Much of our spice collection is available in either whole form (such as a cinnamon stick, ginger root, or peppercorn) as well as the fresh ground product.  Another distinction in our operation is we encourage our patrons to taste and smell anything we have in the shop.  We even have people who have braved tasting the Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Chile which holds a Guinness record for hottest natural chile in the world. 

Have you had any brewers come in looking for spices?

Several local restaurants and at least one local brewer have been using our spices in their establishments.  I also know of at least one home brewing enthusiast that has been shopping with us.

What spice do you think would work best as an addition to beer? How about the worst?

I'm certain that we have unusual flavor profiles that will satisfy just about any pallet whether in liquid form or on the food that goes with.  Personally, about the only thing I wouldn't put into a brew would be onions and garlic....that would just be nasty.

And finally, pop quiz, what is your favorite beer brewed in NJ?

My personal favorite NJ beer would have to be River Horse Brewing and I am partial to the Tripel Horse. 

Image gallery

Over a dozen kinds of chiles. I (Ben) once had a Chocolate Chile Stout made by Elysian Brewing out in Seattle, and it was interesting to say the least!

Chiles!  Spiceyyyy!  |  love2brew.com
5 different kinds of cocoa. Most people use Dutch cocoa for Chocolate Stouts, in addition to roasted cacao nibs (which Savory unfortunately does not have, by the way).

 Cocoa  |  love2brew.com


Many kinds of pepper, including the hard to find pink peppercorn which is actually a fruit! I’ll be using that in one of my Saisons this summer for sure.

Peppercorns  |  love2brew.com

4 or 5 different varieties of cinnamon, including “true” cinnamon which is milder than what we are used to in the United States.

Cinnamon Challenge anyone?  |  love2brew.com