Monday, February 4, 2008

Milestones, Part 2

We’re not much on crowing about ourselves, but Beer-Stained Letter marked its first anniversary last week, Jan. 31st to be exact.

To give ourselves a perfunctory pat on the back, we headed to Firewaters in Atlantic City, not so much to toast the past year and usher in the next, but to dig into a couple pints of Baltic Thunder and chat with Victory Brewing sales rep Pete Danford, who was on hand for the draft release of the imperial porter at the bar in the Tropicana casino.

Baltic Thunder has grabbed some blogosphere limelight, owing to its artisanal Heavy Weight Perkuno’s Hammer ancestry (a bit of the beer’s history can be found here), and has now made its way to Jersey taps. Look for the dark clouds to form over P.J. Whelihan's in Haddonfield this month and High Street Grill in Mount Holly on Leap Day. It’s also in bomber bottles at package goods stores with good beer sensibilities.

Want three words to summarize Baltic Thunder? Try rich, velvety and inviting. But a heads up, Thunder has a clap, too, at 8.5% ABV. So, you can toss in a fourth word, too: hearty.

While at Firewaters, we ran into Mark Haynie, a founding member of the NJ Association of Beerwriters (more on that in a minute). Mark came to the BT pouring armed with a cellared bottle of Perkuno’s Hammer, offering a handy taste reference for those at the bar sipping Thunder. Many thanks, Mark. Hope to cross paths again soon, owe you a pint.

Comparatively speaking, Perkuno’s alcohol flavors are more up front than Baltic Thunder’s. And since we were watching “High Fidelity” when we wrote this, and patting ourselves on the back for having Jimmy Cliff on our iPod (watch the movie, you’ll know what we’re talking about), we'll say we can’t decide if PH is the Bob Dylan version of “All Along The Watchtower,” while BT is the seminal Jimi Hendrix cover. Whatever, both make the charts.

Speaking of Mark Haynie, he’s working on the New Jersey Breweries book with Lew Bryson. Mark says their efforts are being edited now, and Lew told us last month that it’ll probably be August (or sometime thereafter) when the book becomes available.

Speaking of this blog and books about New Jersey-brewed beer, writing a guide to the Garden State’s breweries, brewpubs and homebrewers market was the reason BSL jumped into the über crowded field of beer blogging.

But early on, it became obvious that gathering string for a book would take us a minimum of two years, three was more like it, to make up for five-year a gap in our tracking of the region’s beer scene. That’s about half the life of Jersey’s craft beer movement (we blame the hiatus on a mind-numbing five-plus years of working at the AP in Trenton and the subsequent demanding, all-over-the-place schedule; thankfully we said farewell to that insanity).

Nonetheless, when Lew announced in August 2007 that he was undertaking NJ Breweries, well it only made sense to stand clear and let someone with the time in, contacts and publisher do their thing. (Lew has written books on Pennsylvania breweries; likewise for Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and New York, and is/was a Keystone State member/founder of NJ Association of Beerwriters.)

We’re looking forward to the finished work on Jersey. And if you support the endeavor, buy a copy not from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Borders but at a book-signing; you’ll be supporting the author directly that way.

On camera
Meanwhile for BSL, stepping away from the book ambitions freed us up to pursue more video projects with New Jersey beer & brewers, which rather emerged as a passion and focus for us. (If you’ve appeared in the handful of vids we’ve done thus far, or have agreed to participate in an upcoming one, then we owe a huge debt of thanks.) Our favorite video over the past year was Oktoberfest (even though it’s a little off the top in the approach to the topic); our best work was the Brewers Guild festival on the battleship USS New Jersey. Our most successful videos have been on Rich Wagner’s Colonial brewing demonstration and an animation on Cricket Hill’s dart-throwing challenge, assembled from stills shot at the Philly Craft Beer Festival a year ago.

And as we noted last month, we have a few video projects under production now, plus more on the way. The camera never blinks.

Lastly, the focus of this blog has been more chamber of commerce-like to the Garden State’s microbrewing industry, championing those efforts, and not trying to gaze upon them with critiques and evaluation. For a state of nearly 9 million people, you’d think New Jersey would have a higher profile in the industry. Alas, no. Jersey’s micros and brewpubs are somewhat spread out, scattered, and we remain a state where the blandness of Bud, Coors and Miller still claims legions of drinkers, and observations like "at least they have Sam Adams (or Guinness) on tap" make you pine for the successes of Pennsylvania (and have you wishing you were in craft beer-friendly Philadelphia more often). Sigh.

So cheers and thanks to everyone who clicked on our site over the past year or took a phone call from us. Check out our new logo, but more importantly have a beer and salute the choice that craft beer provides.

No comments: