Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brewer Chris Sheehan talks Port 44 beer

Brewmaster Chris Sheehan took some time from his brewing of a red ale to chat this morning about the just-fired up brewhouse at Port 44.

The former beer-maker at Chelsea Brewing in New York City offered some observations about getting started in his new digs in Newark and teased to some brews Port 44 patrons can expect.

From Chris:

  • Gold Finch ale, brewed Aug. 6th as Port 44's inaugural house beer, is expected to be ready for tapping Friday, Aug. 20.
  • That first batch will be a little stronger (6% ABV) than planned, since the efficiency of the brewing equipment is still being figured out. Making adjustments accordingly is all part of the process when dealing with a new setup.
  • Gold Finch ale is named for New Jersey's state bird.
  • Renaissance Red was being brewed today. In the coming days, a stout and an American-style wheat beer will be brewed.
  • Down the road, look for a wet-hopped IPA-styled brew, Catskills Harvest Ale, done with freshly picked hops grown in upstate New York. The Cascades, Fuggles and other varieties were grown by Chris' family (including mother and sister) and friends in Cooperstown, Franklin and Delhi. The brew will be a variation of the one often made for Chelsea Brewing.
So how does Chris feel about being the first brewer in decades to be making beer in Newark that's not for Budweiser, which as most folks know is now owned the Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate AB-InBev?

"Damned proud," he says. "I tell everybody we're the only American brewery in Newark."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Port 44 in Newark is now brewing

For the first time in years, there is beer being brewed in Newark that's not coming from Anheuser-Busch.

After a long, frustrating wait and an accompanying share of anticipation, Port 44 Brew Pub has begun making beer.

Port 44, New Jersey's newest brewery and the second Garden State brewpub to come online in a little over a year, now has an inaugural light ale in the fermenter, and plans call for another day of brewing on Wednesday.

"The good news is, we're up and brewing," owner John Feeley says, adding that regulators signed off on Port 44's licensing on July 28th.

After months of renovation at the 44 Commerce Street location, Port 44 opened for business in late April, standing beers from guest breweries on the bar for patrons, while the owners continued to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of securing the licensing that would allow them to make their own ales.

A grand opening is planned for this Thursday, but again guest brews will be featured. Alas, the brewpub's license was not issued in time to have house-made brews ready for the event.

Feeley says Port 44 will follow up the grand opening with some sort of bash to herald the brewpub's entry into the Garden State craft beer scene.

Newark was once a big player in the brewing industry, but Prohibition (1920-33) was a death knell for a number of the city's beer-makers. Industry consolidation in the years after Prohibition's demise left Budweiser as the last brewer standing in Newark. (Pabst shut down its Newark plant in the mid-1980s.)

Until now.

Meanwhile, over the past year, New Jersey has seen its brewing landscape reshaped with the addition of the two brewpubs and a production brewery.

Iron Hill in Maple Shade dragged the state out of brewing dormancy in July 2009 when it became the first new Garden State brewer since the bar-restaurant Krogh's tucked a 5-barrel brewing system into its confines in Sparta in 1999. (For the record, contract-brewed beers also emerged in this time.)

Last spring, New Jersey Beer Company in North Bergen began turning out a pale ale, stout and abbey single as its flagship brews.

And now Port 44 boosts New Jersey count to a combined 19 production and pub brewers since craft brewing arrived in the Garden State in the mid-1990s.

Congrats, Peter Kennedy

Bloomfield homebrewer Peter Kennedy, notable for the Web site Simply Beer and his beer prowess in general, gets his 2010 crowning achievement saluted this Saturday during the awards presentation for the New Jersey State Fair homebrew competition.

Peter's Sorachi Patersbier was named 2010 Best of Show during the July 31st fair judging. The grand prize, if you recall, is the winning recipe will be brewed and put on tap at Krogh's brewpub in Sparta. Krogh's is the longtime sponsor of the contest, which is coordinated by the homebrewers club Sussex County United Brewers and Alchemists (SCUBA).

Peter recaps the experience of his first homebrew contest victory in a blog post on his site.

Now in its 14th year, the 2o10 edition of the State Fair homebrew competition marked the first time the event was sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program. The contest attracted 162 entries from not just Garden State homebrewers, but New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania as well.

Also at the 1 p.m. awards presentation at the Sussex County fairgrounds, SCUBA will conduct a homebrew demonstration.

Lastly, a shout-out to SCUBA member Ken Sharrock for forwarding the contest results. The categories and winners appear below.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Here's to your health

Homebrew rules that suck

What do New Jersey and Oregon have in common regarding homebrewing?

Laws that essentially say you can't take your homemade beer to your club meeting, friends' homes, etc. That's because your beer creations are supposed to be consumed only at the premises where they were brewed.

Sucks, doesn't it? (And yeah, we've groused about this before.)

In the case of Oregon, a hop-producing state with a reputation for good craft beer, it really does: The annual state fair's homebrew competition – a 22-year tradition – got iced this summer because someone discovered the rule. (Read more here.)

New Jersey's state fair homebrew contest was held July 31st as planned, like it was last year and years before that. No hitches. The same goes for Big Brew Homebrew Day observances that unite homebrewers in a day of communal brewing at an expressed location (like the backlot of a homebrew supply shop,, club member's home, or even a brewpub parking lot). That's most likely because in New Jersey's case, the permit limitation apparently goes unenforced, as does the obligation of obtaining the $15 permit itself.

Some folks, however, do bow to the requirement and plunk down their $15; others don't, for a number of reasons, including the fact they don't know the regulation exists. Still others are more defiant, arguing the state has no business telling them what they can do with some hops and the same ingredients that go into making bread, let alone charge them 15 bucks to enjoy a hobby that is essentially cooking.

While it hasn't happened, it's not far-fetched to think that New Jersey's regulators wouldn't ever take a harder line regarding homebrewers. You certainly hope that doesn't happen.

Yet, until the rules are changed – ideally by eliminating the permit completely or at a minimum dumping the language about where the beer may be consumed – Garden State h0mebrewers risk running afoul of the rules.

Just what that means is anyone's guess. But who really wants to find out?

East Coast Brewing, Part 4

East Coast Brewing is now licensed by federal regulators, and the folks behind the brand expect their contract-brewed lager to be in distributors' hands later this month.

That's from John Merklin, who says the first production run of the Point Pleasant company's Beach Haus pilsner was finished in the early hours of July 29th at East Falls Brewing in Rochester, N.Y. (East Falls is the maker of Genesee Cream Ale).

"You can’t punch the smile off our faces at this point!" John says via email. Aug. 23rd is the target date for getting the beer to the wholesalers.

John founded the company with Brian Ciriaco as East Coast Brewing. However, they'll be doing business as East Coast Beer Company, the name you'll find on all labeling and branding efforts. The shift was a nomenclature adjustment undertaken to appease regulators.

A pre-Prohibition pils, prototype batches of Beach Haus tasted reminiscent of a Vienna lager, a little deeper in character and bolder than the typical pils.

Hops: Mount Hood and Horizon at 42 IBUs; ABV: 5.5%.