October 10, 2012

Princeton’s Famous Black Squirrels Inspire a New Beer at Triumph

A NEW BREW: Eric Nutt, left, and Tom Stevenson, both of Triumph Brewing Company, are ready to dispense the Black Squirrel Ale that brewmaster Stevenson has concocted after a suggestion from Steve Omiecinski, co-owner of Princeton Black Squirrel Company. The brew will be on tap Monday, October 15 starting at 6 p.m.

At Communiversity last spring, Steve Omiecinski, co-owner of Princeton Black Squirrel Company, ran into Tom Stevenson, the brewmaster for Triumph Brewing Company on Nassau Street. The talk, about business, inevitably turned to beer.

“I said to Tom, ‘Wouldn’t it be kind of neat if we had a black squirrel beer?’, Mr. Omiecinski recalls. “He started scratching his chin. I think he was building a recipe on the spot.”

A few months later, Eric M. Nutt, Triumph’s sales and public relations manager, called Mr. Omiecinski to say Mr. Stevenson had come up with a brew. The result, Black Squirrel Ale, will debut at a barrel-tapping, to which the public is invited, on Monday, October 15 starting at 6 p.m. The nutty brew will remain available at Triumph for the next two or three weeks.

Mr. Omiecinski and his wife Mimi, who owns Princeton Tour Company, founded Princeton Black Squirrel Company two years ago with partner Rob Green, to promote all things Princeton and encourage collaborations
between businesses, residents, Princeton University, and community organizations. The name refers to the town’s unique population of black squirrels, which legend has it were imported to Princeton by 19th century philanthropist Moses Taylor Pyne.

“The company’s message is increasingly well understood,” says Mr. Omiecinski, whose day job is running the North American marketing organization for Terumo, a Japanese medical device firm. “I think everything about the Black Squirrel brand is celebrating everything about this town, and how businesses and the University and the residents can all contribute to making this a better place.”

Black Squirrel donates a portion of its profits to the Princeton Public Library. The company sells its mugs, tee-shirts, and decals at Landau on Nassau Street and Luxaby Baby and Child in Palmer Square. “We’re exploring other opportunities to partner with other small businesses,” Mr. Omiecinski says. “The idea is to have ways to promote and
celebrate the town.”

Mr. Omiecinski, Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Nutt are hoping to attract a sizable crowd to the barrel-tasting. Describing the brew, Mr. Stevenson said, “The beer is basically a Porter, or dark brown ale. It’s brewed with American-grown chestnuts, and will have some hazelnut flavor. Between the two, we hope it’s nutty enough to be appealing to a squirrel.”

All joking aside, this is Mr. Stevenson’s first venture into making a nutty beer. At Triumph, he has created more than 100 different styles of beer. “They can be trying to emulate an existing style, or revive an old one,” says Mr. Nutt. “Some have legitimate stylistic roots. Others are made up.”

Bar patrons who show up at the barrel-tapping wearing Princeton Black Squirrel apparel will get their first Black Squirrel Ale for free, courtesy of Triumph. Mr. Omiecinski says he is waiting until the barrel-tapping to get his first taste of the brew. “I’m refraining until then,” he says. “I want to be surprised.”