Friday, April 10, 2009

Craft Beer Week ... an action moment

Next month plays host to American Craft Beer Week. It's May 11-17, to be exact. Think of it as Philly Beer Week for the whole country, or something like that, only it's a much older awareness effort than PBW.

And we recall, through the mists of time, that former Governor Whitman proclaimed July as a beer month in New Jersey, around the time she was heading into the stretch run of her second term. Alas, it would seem that stirring these embers and keeping the flame alive for the sake of craft beer has fallen by the wayside in our state.

It's a pity, since the Brewers Association in Colorado spoon-feeds the information and a lot of the accompanying rah-rah collateral material to organizations (or bars, it would appear) that want to jump on the beer wagon. It makes you wonder what the Garden State Craft Brewer's Guild is doing. Or not doing. There's not an iota of mention on the calendar over at (And not to beat up on the guild, but geez, there's crap dating back to January on the news page of the Web site, the postcard link doesn't work and the promised Frequently Asked Questions page has been in the larva stage for months now.)

Anyway, without getting into the whole saw about burgeoning growth in the craft beer segment of the brewing industry, like the BA does, we fired off a letter to Governor Corzine's office, asking that May 11-17 also be designated New Jersey Craft Beer Week, to coincide with American Craft Beer Week. We sent it conventional mail and through the governor's Web site.

Here's the letter:

Governor Corzine,
May 11-17 is American Craft Beer Week, a designation bestowed by Congress (House Resolution 753) upon the efforts of the nation’s small-batch brewers/entrepreneurs, who make excellent beers that capture the heritage and modern culture of one of the oldest beverages on Earth.

The congressional resolution also serves to raise awareness of the community of microbrewers and restaurant/pub brewers. And amid our current national recession, it would be fitting that American Craft Beer Week also serve as a reminder of the contribution that those brewers make to their local and state economies, with jobs, tax revenues and licensing fees.

New Jersey itself has a long brewing heritage, and some claims to beer fame. For instance, canned beer was developed at the Gottfried Krueger Brewery in Newark and went on the market just two years after the end of Prohibition. Moreover, President Roosevelt chose New Jersey as the site of a speech to rally plans for pulling the nation out of the Depression, referencing the resumption of legal beer as a component of the economic recovery efforts.

Today, the 18 craft brewers that call New Jersey home carry on with that entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, making world-class beers that have earned national accolades and enjoy wide appeal here in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. It would be appropriate – and is requested by this correspondence – that May 11-17 be declared New Jersey Craft Beer Week to coincide with American Craft Beer Week and honor the accomplishments of New Jersey’s small-batch brewers and their contributions to consumers' enjoyment, the brewing industry, their local economies and the state’s economy.

We also added another section, for good measure, just a sampling of details about Jersey brewers, things that many of us know, but points that someone outside the loop may find interesting and useful. Besides, it would be decent fodder for a press release from the governor's office, should there actually be a proclamation ...

Some facts about New Jersey craft brewers:

  • The Tun Tavern in Atlantic City pays homage to the now-gone Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, where the United States Marine Corps was formed in 1775. Every November 10th, the Tun holds a birthday celebration for the Corps, drawing active duty and retired Marines from across the country.
  • JJ Bitting Brewing is housed in an early 20th century brick building (circa 1915) that once was home to the JJ Bitting Coal and Grain Company. The brewery/restaurant effectively preserves a piece of American railroad history by making that building its home.
  • High Point Brewing, which brands its beers with the name Ramstein, pays tribute to both New Jersey’s highest elevation, and the American-German spirit of cooperation that is Ramstein Air Base in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz.
  • Flying Fish Brewing is New Jersey’s second-largest brewery, coming behind mega-brewer Anheuser-Busch (now Anheuser Busch-InBev), and this year is producing a series of beers saluting the culture of humor and community that bonds New Jerseyans with their world-renowned New Jersey Turnpike.
  • Along the Delaware River, River Horse Brewing makes its home in the old Original Trenton Cracker factory building in Lambertville.
  • Boston-based Pizzeria Uno has but one brewpub across its chain of restaurants in the US. It’s located along Route 1 in Edison.
Should anyone want to follow suit and push the idea to Corzine's office, just cut and paste the letter and mail it to (but hurry, time's running short):

The Honorable Jon S. Corzine
Governor, State of New Jersey Office of the Governor, PO Box 001 Trenton, NJ 08625-0001

Or cut and paste it into the correspondence part of the governor's Web site, but that's a bit of a pain in the ass, with drop-down menus etc. (we used the small business category, by the way).

Odds of getting a response? Who knows? But Corzine's treasurer did stick his foot in his mouth last month in regard to beer drinkers (tempest in a beer stein, in the end, actually), and maybe the governor could use something to settle the foam.


PS: And yes, we know, Uno Chicago Grill, but the corporate HQ, we discovered, is Boston, hundreds of miles from where Uno originated. What a wicked pissuh!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

OK, maibock for real this time

aturday’s open house at High Point definitely will be the 2009 debut of Ramstein Maibock.

We jumped the gun last month, saying it would be on the bill of High Point’s March open house, alongside the Ice Storm eisbock and Double Platinum Blonde. An oops on our part.

But this time, it’s definitely a go, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the brewery in Butler, with Councilman Robert Fox doing the honors of tapping the ceremonial wooden barrel.

Speaking of the Ramstein Maibock, it walked away with top ranking in Ale Street News’ tasting of springtime bocks. And take a look at that list, it bested some German-made bocks that were part of the tasting.

Ale Street gives it 4 1/2 stars; we give it our highest rating: 5 growlers.

And speaking of open houses, the photos here are from the March event, the first High Point open house for 2009.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April 7th, a date that lives

Prohibition, the national experiment, goes belly up … Legal beer finally. Happy day.

A year ago, on the 75th anniversary of April 7th, 1933, some folks were stepping all over the date to point out that in 1933, it wasn’t the final spade of dirt to bury Prohibition, that April 7th was a mere stepping stone.

Prohibition’s actual repeal wouldn’t come until Dec. 5, 1933, when Utah ratified the 21st Amendment, securing a sufficient majority of states doing so. Because government is a process.

Seems like the purists were arguing (and hawking a book) that repeal wasn’t big enough to embrace both dates, that April 7th was stealing Dec. 5th’s thunder.

Maybe that's an extreme reading of their point, but anyway, thanks for the clarification. And 76 years later, who gives a crap about splitting hairs, unless you're on Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

April 7th did mean 3.2% (alcohol by weight) beer was legal, and that certainly helped put one foot of the Volstead Act on a banana peel (the other was already in the grave). It's enough to be happy about.

The rest is history.

Have a beer.