Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gushing gourd

If a barrel is 31 gallons, and a firkin 11, then how much is a pumpkin?

From the looks of the one Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre tapped, about 2 gallons (or so) of nicely spiced, harvest season ale.

Chris ushered in the pumpkin ale era with the Wednesday evening tapping. That's the visage of Groucho Marx on the pumpkin below, by the way.

"We started with the grain bill for an amber ale and took 250 pounds of long neck pie pumpkins, roasted them in the convection oven until they were golden brown – I had to show up at 5 o'clock in the morning because I had to be out of the kitchen before the kitchen staff came in and got ready to cook ..." Chris says.

The roasted pumpkin went into the mash. Spices – cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove and vanilla bean – were added at the end of the boil instead of finishing hops. The result is a great pumpkin ale at 5.7% ABV.

But wait, there's more.

"The imperial pumpkin ale is coming out in a couple of weeks. It's much bigger – more pumpkins, more malt ... we also added four gallons of molasses," Chris says.

That brew will be a little over 9% ABV, "a little bit darker, bigger and a lot stronger," Chris notes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ramstein in France

If you know anything about High Point Brewing, it's that a thread of Old World Europe runs through the Butler brewery's signature beers.

Owner Greg Zaccardi trained to be a pro brewer in southern Germany, and his Ramstein brand is all about wheat beers and lagers made in that Old World tradition, a taste of Europe made in America.

This weekend, High Point will come practically full circle with its Classic and Blonde wheat beers being served to Europeans in Strasbourg, France, at the three-day Mondial de la Biere, the widely known world beer festival that's held annually in Montreal, and now has a continental reach.

At the Oct 16-18 event, Greg will give a presentation, The History and Evolution of American Microbreweries, and participate in a panel discussion on the what the future holds for brewers. (The junket is an invitation-only affair, and Greg's trip was coordinated through the Ale Street News.)

American brewers, Greg says, dedicate themselves to making beers that weren't available to US consumers a quarter century ago. And though if you play your cards right, you can make a living as a brewer, but it's passion for the product and putting it in the hands of a receptive public that drives the US craft brewer.

"People can taste the difference and are willing to spend for the difference," he says.

With regard to the to roundtable topic, Greg says the brewing industry has become quite automated, with computer-controlled processes from mash tun to fermenter to packaging. "In a large-scale production brewery, the role of brewer will be played by the IT guy."

And while we're on the topic of High Point, it's worth noting that the brewery's 2009 Oktoberfest beer was rated tops on Beeradvocate. That's the good news; the bad news is the beer is nearly all gone. You might find it at some of High Point's draft accounts, but folks armed with growlers hoping to get them filled with the märzen at the brewery will be disappointed.

And speaking of Oktoberfest, PubScout Kurt Epps has a wrap-up and photos from Pizzeria Uno's celebration held on Monday. And on Sunday, Long Valley weighs in with its annual Oktoberfest.

But hang on, there's one more event: Iron Hill's got the gourd. At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday (Oct. 15), they'll be tapping a pumpkin filled with this year's rendition of pumpkin ale to hail the release of that beer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Planes, grains & automobiles (lighthouses & boats, too)

A four-day road trip with Cape Lookout, North Carolina, as the destination ...

How do you get New Jersey beer out of that? By trawling for beer along the Outer Banks.

Briefly ...
Many miles south of Kill Devil Hills, Cape Lookout's sesquicentennial was observed Saturday (Oct. 10) with, as honored guests, the descendants of the lighthouse keepers and members of the US Life-Saving Service (which eventually became the US Coast Guard) who served at Lookout.

Our lineage goes back to 1859, when light thrown from the current beacon's whale oil-burning wick first swept the surrounding waters of Cape Lookout. Hence, we set out for the southern shores of North Carolina, where you can still find wild horses and a lighthouse done up in diamonds of black and white.

Plenty of 19th and 20th century maritime history, lots of East Carolina cuisine (i.e. pork barbecue), but not much craft beer at hand, save for a sixpack of Highland Brewing's Kashmir IPA and a couple of liters of Weeping Radish picked up in Jarvisburg, North Carolina, on the way down (the Radish was a destination for beer friends of ours in the mid- to late-1990s, when it was in Manteo on the Outer Banks; that location is now closed).

(A quick call to Charlie Schroeder at Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights put the inadvertently overlooked Outer Banks Brewing Station on the return trip itinerary. Charlie vacationed at the Outer Banks last summer. After a four-hour drive up from Morehead City on Sunday, there was good beer to be had.)

Jersey Connection
Outer Banks Brewing is ensconced in a wind-powered white building trimmed in red, its shape a fresh architectural take on Life-Saving Stations found along the coast at the turn of the 20th century. Located along the southbound lanes of busy Route 158, the brewery's so close to where the Wright brothers revolutionized travel that you could get hit by a prop blade. (The pub brews an alt called Altimeter.)

The beer's good – pub food, too – and the brewery's wind-generated electricity isn't a curiosity but a philosophy (a tenth of the pub's power needs come from wind-generated electricity).

Twenty-five minutes into our pint of chocolate stout, beer traveler Randy Boyles made a pit stop en route home to Advance, North Carolina, settling in for a lunch and grabbing a half liter of Outer Banks Moondog ESB and two-liter growler of the pub's brown ale to go.

And here's the Jersey connection: Randy races yachts, his vessel being a 30-footer called the Rocket J (as in Rocket J. Squirrel, better known as Rocky the Flying Squirrel, whose image graces the side of the boat).

One of the Rocket J's six crew members for those regattas on the Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound is Tom Hughes, father of Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes.

So you can imagine that Randy has an appreciation for Flying Fish.

While traveling to Philadelphia recently on business, Randy, who confesses to the kind of beer snobbery that makes a lot us craft beer enthusiasts, met up with Casey for a stop at Monks Cafe in Philly, and got to try FF's Exit 4 Tripel and Exit 11 Wheat Ale.

Flying Fish was still on his mind when he pulled into Outer Banks.

"I was here because enough people come down from the North, I thought there was an outside chance I might find Flying Fish down here. But I haven't yet. I haven't found it in North Carolina. I don't think it's come this far south," Randy says.