Friday, September 10, 2010

Port 44 and Hizzoner Corey Booker

Some video footage of Port 44 Brew Pub's grand opening about a month ago.

Nice to see Mayor Booker supports craft beer. (And FYI, the footage was shot by the city)

Now, respectfully speaking, do us a real favor, Mayor Booker, and patronize Port 44, become its friend. Here's why: Maybe someone else will think of Newark as good spot for a brewpub.

After all, Newark used to be home to lots of breweries.

Märzen chronicles

When you flipped the calendar page from August to September, you probably reset your palate from summer beers to something chewy and malty.

Never mind that there are pumpkin ales on the shelf right now. Märzens – Oktoberfests – are the beers that remind you that fall is the best season of the year.

And with this style, New Jersey interpretations aren't to be ignored. In fact, you'll find some exceptional ones made in the Garden State, in North and South Jersey. Over the next couple weeks, you'll see them highlighted here.

First up is High Point's draft-only Ramstein Oktoberfest. The Butler brewery's oldest lager brand has developed a substantial following over the past decade and earned a top rating on BeerAdvocate. The 2010 version debuts this Saturday at the brewery's September open house (from 2 p.m.-4 p.m.)

Like all but one (Revelation Golden Lager) of High Point's 11 beers, its Oktoberfest is the product of decoction mashing, an Old World brewing method whose origins predate thermometers and its goal aims to maximize efficiency in the conversion of grain starches to sugars. But the process also creates malty flavors that are rich and memorable.

"It's the difference between sauté and quick blanch," says High Point founder Greg Zaccardi.

The brewing process, in which a portion of the grain is pulled aside, boiled it, then returned to rest of the mash, takes longer than the infusion-mash methods other Jersey brewers use to make great beers of their own. Decoction also costs more in crew time and utilities.

"The finished product is worth it. We hope people get it, and I think they do," Greg says.

As a business, High Point was born a wheat beer company, and the decoction process was more suited to producing those styles. "Our brewhouse was custom designed for wheat beers," Greg says.

Over time, the brewery shifted its emphasis from wheat beers to embrace other styles, including pilsners and Vienna lagers. The brewery's Oktoberfest was originally tailor-made for a now-closed German restaurant in Atlantic Highlands in Monmouth County.

The Ramstein märzen quickly outgrew those beginnings, and the 140 barrels brewed this season – with an early start in June instead of July like past years – reflect a 30-plus percent increase in production from last year.

"It's draft-only, and it sells out draft-only," Greg says. "The way our brewery is set up, packaging draft beer is better for everybody, for the brewers, for the brewery, for the beer drinkers, for the distributors, for the retailers. We don’t at this point have a need to bottle it. It’s a short season … Fresh beer from a keg is great for Oktoberfest."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An update on the site housekeeping:

There are now three ways to find us in cyberspace:, and of couse, the URL that started it all,

There are more changes coming down the pike as BSL heads toward its fourth year on the Web. The use of the new dot-com addresses, as simple as it seems, is important. And simplicity really is the key.

Thinkjerseydrinkjersey has a certain ring to it, a catch-phrase flavor (and a mantra if you ask us); beerstainedletter has always been the name of the blog, a word play upon tear-stained letter.

But blogspot has always seemed rife with incoherence, a foreign sound (ever try to tell someone over the phone that your Web address isn't simply www-dot-name-dotcom but rather www-dot-name-dot-blogspot-dotcom?). The change was way overdue.

But now done.


Nice cans

An event note: Brewerania collectors have encamped at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, Pa., to show off their latest discoveries and swap stories and mementos regarding all things beer.

Members of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America have been at it since Thursday, bringing with them about 1 million beer cans, plus coasters, openers and lighted signs.

You can join their gathering this Saturday for the general trade session, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (There may be a small admission charge; the convention center is located on North Gulph Road, and of course there will be beer to drink.)

The BCCA has been holding these canventions going on nearly 40 years now – the first was held in St. Louis back in 1971 when a couple hundred members gathered at a Holiday Inn and showed off their wares from their cars.

This year's soiree coincides with the 75th anniversary of canned beer, which many a can collector knows hails from Newark and the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company. The BCCA has held a series of commemorations for its canonized container that culminate at this year's canvention.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dot com'n soon

In the coming days, Beer-Stained Letter will be accessible as

Why the change? It just makes sense.

In the world of Worldwide Web indexing and getting noticed, dot-com does better than blogspot at marking the spot. After the change is made, you'll still be able to find the blog at

To be sure, this is just some housekeeping. But down the road look for some more changes at how Beer-Stained Letter provides original, premium – written and video – content about New Jersey's craft brewing industry.