Saturday, July 19, 2008

Biergarten beer in the Garden State

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n the glass this week, some growler beers we picked up on a jaunt across the north and central parts of the state …

From High Point Brewing, a really great kellerbier (5.5% ABV) and an abbey red (6.5%); from J.J. Bitting brewpub a tasty bitter (5.7%).

High Point’s draft-only keller comes via a request by the folks who bring you Brooklyn’s top-notch beer bar Spuyten Duyvil (Dutch for spitting devil) and BBQ restaurant Fette Sau (auf deutsch for fat pig), two establishments where Ramstein beers claim tap handles and the keller goes by the name Ramstein Fette Sau Pils.

Greg Zaccardi, High Point’s owner, says the Duyvil and Sau’s owners were looking for a brew that was off the beaten path, yet invited you to relax and enjoy another round without feeling six beers plowed.

High Point happily took the challenge and produced this excellent unfiltered pilsner, which is probably the best beer we’ve had all summer. The brewery had a few extra kegs left after filling the Duyvil/Sau order and put ’em tap for tours and growlers. A biergarten beer in the Garden State, as Greg says.

Interestingly enough, the Ramstein keller’s origins echo those of the brewery’s Oktoberfest. That beer also came via special request from a restaurant, and fortunately for everyone, has stuck around. The Oktoberfest brew is now in its seventh season, one of a number of lagers – maibock, amber lager, golden lager – and a pale ale that High Point brews to round out its lineup of wheat beers.

Also while at High Point this week, we grabbed some Project X, a Belgian red brewed for the Harvest Restaurant Group, which has establishments across North Jersey (and owns Trap Rock brewpub in Berkeley Heights.) Think Chimay red with this drinkable brew, produced with yeast from Trap Rock.

Meanwhile, sometimes you have to scratch an itch, and for us that quite often means a Brit ale. J.J. Bitting’s Best Bitter does just that; it happily reminds us of a homebrew we made over and over and over in the ’90s that we dubbed Cross-eyed Mary, a hop-and-malt homage to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album that won us a few compliments from tailgating friends at Tull shows.

Hey, August, we still have the label we made for Cross-Eyed Mary (we even have one signed by Ian Anderson) in case you want to rename your brew. Ha!

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