Friday, June 21, 2013

NJ craft brewers guild fest is Saturday

The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild returns to the battleship USS New Jersey for the 17th incarnation of the organization's festival.

As followers of the home-state brews know, this event at the Camden waterfront is the only beer festival in the state to exclusively feature Jersey-brewed beers. 

This year, the guild has added a VIP session ($55, tickets are limited) stocked with a dozen cask-conditioned ales, in adition to the regular admission ticket ($45).

Also being served is a guild-collaboration beer that harkens back to Ballantine India Pale Ale.

Admission includes a tour of the battleship (find tickets here). Music again is the Cabin Dogs. 

Last year saw the lineup of breweries at the festival increase by five, reflecting the growth in the state's craft beer industry. You won't find any new brewery additions this go-round; none of those in development were licensed in time. Nonetheless, if you're going to the festival, keep your ears open because you're likely to hear about new breweries in development.

It's a shirt!
The Welcome to Brew Jersey image that graces this blog (and was created by the blog's owner) is now a shirt. The design was donated to the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, which will have Welcome to Brew Jersey shirts on sale at the battleship festival. 

Beer Minute: Brewery count tops 2,500

A mid-year tally of U.S. breweries in operation finds the number has topped 2,500. The Brewers Association's count of 2,514 as of May 31 – the figure is up 422 from the same time in 2012 – goes beyond craft brewers to include the mega breweries, such as Budweiser and MillerCoors and their holdings. Of note, there are 1,167 brewpubs and 1,214 microbreweries. The BA's count of breweries-in-planning is at 1,559, up 331 from the same period last year. That breweries-in-planning figure can be deceptive, given that the threshold for getting on the list is rather low, and the BA had to clean up its list  late last year, purging a couple hundred entries. The BA notes on its blog page that brewery openings are on pace to crack 3,000 next year. At what point the trend begins to slow, where the ceiling is, and how far from that mark things settle is anyone's guess.
New Jersey's craft brewing regulations were changed last year by convincing lawmakers in Trenton that craft beer can help pull the oars of the economy. So this tidbit from the economic think tank National University System Institute for Policy Research helps build on that case: San Diego's craft beer industry means big bucks to that part of California: nearly $300 million in wages, capital spending and contracts. The policy research institute cites 2011 figures, the most current available. (The policy institute itself has only been around since 2007.) According to the institute, craft brewing makes a bigger economic splash for San Diego than the annual Comic-Con, and employs 1,100 people. 
Here's an older item out of the Brewers Association, but it's still worth noting. The BA recently hired an economist from the University of Iowa, Bart Watson, to study the craft brewing industry with an eye toward developing statistical tools for association members and state brewing guilds across the country. Besides doing the data crunching, the job calls for producing a state-by-state impact study.
Portland, Maine, brewer Allagash notes on its Facebook page that its ever-changing Fluxus beer, an expected late July release for 2013, is a porter this time out, brewed coffee and chocolate malts, blood orange, and hopped with Perle, Tettnang and Glacier. An abbey yeast turns it all into beer. (Fluxus 2012, a Belgian strong pale ale, was brewed with spelt and pink and green peppercorns.)
California brewer 21st Amendment's Hop Crisis is back for a third year. The 9.7% ABV imperial IPA that's part of 21st Amendment's limited edition Insurrection Series features new dry hops with New Zealand Motueka and Australian Stella blended with Northwest Cascade hops. The canned beer is being sold in four-packs. (Lower De Boom barleywine and Marooned on Hog Island oyster stout are the other Insurrection brews.)
Here's one for the traveling craft beer enthusiasts: Stone Farms, where Stone Brewing has been growing produce for its farm-to-table Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants, is opening to the public. Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays for 20 bucks, and 10 bucks if you're not drinking. Stone has five acres of the 19-acre property under cultivation, growing year-round and seasonable crops. Fowl are also raised on the farm, producing eggs for garnishes, specialty dishes and appetizers. 

– The Beer Minute is a quick-read round-up of notable events or news about breweries from elsewhere that distribute in New Jersey.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brown ale goes coconuts and coffee at Iron Hill

From left: Homebrewers Shawn 
Kaderabek, Mark Furfaro, Martin Webb 
and IH brewer Chris LaPierre
Bragging rights are always part of the prize whenever you're named a contest winner.

For winning homebrewers who claim a top prize of making beer on a professional brewhouse, those bragging rights get some extra lift when the beer you eventually make gets tapped for public consumption.

Such was the case Wednesday night at Iron Hill brewpub, with the tapping of Buccaneer's Bounty, an American brown ale dressed up with coconut and coffee that Gloucester County homebrewers Shawn Kaderabek, Mark Furfaro and Martin Webb brewed to take first place in this year's annual Iron Brewer contest.

The guys are members of the Barley Legal Homebrewers, the South Jersey homebrew club that meets at Iron Hill and has been part of the Iron Brewer competition since the Maple Shade brewpub opened its doors four years ago. Shawn, Mark and Martin brewed their prize winner on Iron Hill's system late last month. (See photos of their brew day here.)

Buccaneer's Bounty (6.0% ABV, 33 IBUs) was inspired by Koko Brown, Kona Brewing's toasted coconut-infused nut brown ale, and elaborated on with the addition of Sumatra coffee against a lineup of Perle, Styrian and Cascade hops. For a brown ale, the hops are a little more assertive in Buccaneer's Bounty.

"Two of our threesome here prefer a lot of hops, hoppy beers. So we went a little heavier on the hops in this beer than you might normally mix in there for the style," Martin says.

Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre is a veteran at taking recipes for 5- or 10-gallon batches and reworking them for commercial sizes of 15 barrels. Still, scaling up poses some conversion concerns, and when you add a food ingredient, like coconut – one that's less frequently used than say, honey or blueberries – things can gain a tougher curve to work against. 

A toast to Buccaneer's Bounty
"One thing that really surprised me about this beer is, if I were going to be making a beer with coffee and coconut in it, I never would have thought to put that amount of hops, particularly not American hops, in it," Chris says. "Any of the fruit or spice beers I make – the winter warmer, the pumpkin – I don't put (much) hops in it at all. So when I saw the (amount) of hops in this, I didn't know what to think of it."

Yet, Chris' working to Shawn, Mark and Martin's design produced a tilt toward a hoppier brown ale that gives Buccaneer's Bounty the quality of remaining pleasantly grounded in familiar, comfortable beer flavors. 

"Tasting the beer, I'm amazed by how well the hops play into it," Chris says. "It has a place in there; it makes sense. It kind of reminds you that it's a beer, despite all of the kitchen flavors, food flavors."

About the name
Shawn says Buccaneer's Bounty was a winning beer in search of a name. The moniker came after the contest judging and was arrived at through some resampling of the batch their contest entry was drawn from. Shawn and his co-brewers noticed hints of rum in the beer and a little bit of alcohol presence (there's no rum in the beer, or rum-barrel aging). That got them thinking about pirates, and after some word-associating, they came up with Buccaneer's Bounty. 

About Iron Brewer
The annual homebrew competition starts with Chris brewing Iron Hill's malt-monster beer, The Situation. The second runnings of wort are given to interested homebrewers to create a beer for competition. Top prize is the opportunity to brew at Iron Hill under Chris' guiding hand. Last year, Scott Reading and John Companick won with Om Nom Nom, an oatmeal cookie beer that also featured raisins, cinnamon and spice and vanilla bean. Scott and John, these days, are probably more notable for Spellbound Brewing, their in-development craft bre

Also out of Iron Hill: 
The company last year cracked the top 10 of the Brewers Association annual rankings for brewpubs, based on beer production. This year, with the January 2012 addition of Iron Hill's Chestnut Hill restaurant in Philadelphia, the company improved in the standings, reaching No. 7. 

Mark Edelson
The Rock Bottom brewpub chain continues to occupy the top slot. (Maple Shade continues to be the busiest of Iron Hill's nine locations for beer sales, while the Media, Pa., location leads in overall sales. Iron Hill plans to open a 10th restaurant in Voorhees this August. The long-range picture is for the company to double in size over the next seven years, expanding along the edges of its Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania market.)

Mark Edelson, one of Iron Hill's co-owners, acknowledged this year's list (published in New Brewer magazine back in mid-spring) and extended a healthy portion of credit to the Iron Hill food menu and the company's kitchens. 

"We'd be No. 1 if it were based on the kitchen," Mark says. "When the Brewers Association does the rankings, it's based on beer sales. If you look at those rankings, and they say the number of pubs each group has … you divide it out … there are some people in there who are selling either a lot of beer offsite, or they just sell a lot of beer. 

"We're probably lower than that on the amount of beer sold per pub, but that's because we're restaurant driven. We sell so much food, and food helps to drive the beer."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beer Minute: StoneRuinTen release today

California brewer Stone has released a rebrew of its Ruination Tenth Anniversary triple IPA. Last year's observance of the IPA's milestone was well received, prompting Stone to put a rebranded version, StoneRuinTen, on the brewery's special-releases calendar for this year. Here's the beer's construct: 110 IBUs, a 50-50 blend of Citra and Centennial in a double dry-hop, and an ABV clocking in at 10.8%. The new name is a brewery and fan shorthand for 2012's Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA. Folks at the brewery suggest drinking this brew sooner than later to maximize the hops experience.


For a fifth consecutive year, Pliny the Elder tops a survey of American Homebrewers Association members asking which is the nation's best commercially produced beer. Russian River's highly acclaimed Elder bested Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA, Bell's Hopslam Ale and Ballast Point's Sculpin IPA in results released Monday. Alas, three of the five (Pliny and both Bell's beers) are not distributed in New Jersey. Pull out your travel plans.

– The Beer Minute is a quick-read round-up of notable events or news about breweries from elsewhere that distribute in New Jersey.