Friday, July 26, 2013

Welcome to the archive for Beer-Stained Letter, the website that covers New Jersey's craft brewing industry. This page was, from January 2007 until July 2013, the place where everything written under the Beer-Stained Letter title regarding New Jersey's craft brewing industry was posted. That's changed. Now, for up-to-date posts about brewery news, beer people and beer life, click here.

Think Jersey, drink Jersey ...

– Jeff Linkous, July 26, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Again on the cusp of a Longshot win

In 2007 Dave Pobutkiewicz of Pompton Lakes made it to the finals of the Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew competition with a helles bock. Dave's helles bock has taken him back in the finals for 2013. Check out the story here.

Reminder, this page will soon become an archive-only page. (See below for details.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Brewery tenant in Flying Fish's former site

Follow this link for today's interview with Jamie Queli of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewery, the in-development brewery that has signed a lease for the Cherry Hill location where Flying Fish Brewing launched back in 1996.

Reminder, this blog site is transitioning in a few days to the full website at the link above. This page will become a 2007-2013 archive for the main site.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Carton Brewing: And so it gose

For the post about Carton Brewing's gose beer click here ...

Reminder, this blog page is being phased out with a upcoming website relaunch (see below).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Big change coming for Beer-Stained Letter

Within a few days, Beer-Stained Letter will relaunch as a fuller, easier-to-read website with better features.

For now, you can get a sneak peek here.

It's way overdue for a shift from a blog site, and this forthcoming change will accomplish that. This blog page will continue to exist, but will be labeled as an archive for Beer-Stained Letter:

No new posts will go up on after the relaunch. The blog will be solely an archive of the past 6 1/2 years of writing about New Jersey's craft brewing industry. All posts on it will continue to be searchable and accessible.

Think Jersey, drink Jersey
Jeff Linkous, July 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bolero Snort rye beer forthcoming

July looks to be a pivotal month for Bolero Snort Brewing.

The Bergen County beer company expects to have a second fermenter installed at its contracted brewer, High Point Brewing, within days, a move that will put a third Bolero Snort beer on the market.

The beer, There's No Rye-ing in Basebull (yes, it's a take on Tom Hanks' line in 'A League of Their Own') will be a 4.2% ABV quaffable pilsner-like rye beer, available in bottle and draft and available in late summer.

Bolero Snort co-owner Andrew Maiorana expects the forthcoming brew to play to a wider audience of beer drinkers, enticing to, say, Bud Light buyers, but still tasty enough to satisfy craft beer fans.

"This is going to be our take on a lighter lager, but still flavorful, and it's going to be a rye beer," Andrew says. "We were always hoping we would be able to put the rye beer out during the summertime, and it just so happens that it's working itself out, because we're going to get this second fermenter."

The second 30-barrel tank is due to arrive for installation at High Point by next Monday, if not before. The rye beer will likely be the brew that christens that fermenter.

"We hope to be selling it late August. We have the approval on name, we have the approval on the label, the keg collars ... everything is good to go," Andrew says. "We just have to get the fermenter."

Andrew and co-owner Bob Olson launched Bolero Snort, based in Ridgefield Park, around the beginning of 2013, striking a contract-brewing agreement with High Point (known for the Ramstein brand) and putting a 30-barrel fermenter in the Butler (Morris County) brewery. That tank enabled Bolero to enter the Garden State's craft beer market in March, first with draft amber and dark largers, Ragin' Bull and Blackhorn.

Bolero's draft business was followed soon afterward with bottled versions of the two brews. But the company was still left with only a pair of brews in the market, while Andrew and Bob's advance marketing efforts in 2011 and 2012 gave beer drinkers in North Jersey (Bolero's primary distribution area) reason to expect a wider footprint from Bolero. (You'll notice by the printing on their case boxes that a porter is part of their plans.)

The answer to that constraint has been to dress up those two launch beers, like the maple-pecan version of Ragin' Bull that Bolero offered for a cask festival at Uno Chicago Grill and Brewery in Metuchen late last month. Such treatments, in effect, have been a way for Bolero to have different brews in the market and hold beer drinkers' interest, despite the capacity limits of a single fermenter.

"Right now, we can't produce a third with the single fermenter. One of the two (labels) would suffer," Andrew says. "There are accounts that take just Ragin' Bull; there are accounts that just take Blackhorn, and you'd be surprise by how many accounts take just Blackhorn – a lot, actually."

Thus, the new tank is the source of plenty of anticipation for Bolero Snort, a crucial step toward growing the brand and distribution.

"We're pumped. We're really excited," Andrew says, during a stop at High Point last Saturday to drop off case boxes and some empty sixtels. "This third beer is going to put us into another level, and increase our recognition in the state. With that, we'll also increase our distribution throughout the state. We're going to spread a little more south, a little bit more west. We're going to try to keep working the boundaries.

"We've been opening up accounts here and there, a bit more out of our immediate distribution area," Andrew says. "We get requests from people, even as far as Cape May, who say they have liquor stores, or ask 'Where can I find your beer?' Unfortunately, we can't accommodate those people right now."

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Ramstein one-off, plus Oktoberfest

Another foray into one-off beers by weizen beer specialist High Point Brewing, which also for the first time bottled a non-wheat beer under its Ramstein brand.

Additionally of note for High Point: The brewery has gotten the earliest jump ever on producing its signature Oktoberfest seasonal.

Released last Friday, High Point offered up a new one-off brew, a bourbon-barrel aged version of its 6.5% ABV maibock, taking the beer beyond its German traditions and big malty profile by giving it a pleasing tang with the addition of some lactobacillus and oak characteristics from the whiskey barrel.

The brew made for a well-received follow-up to a Belgian-style chocolate cherry sour ale that High Point brewed at the end of last year.

For quite a while now, craft brewers up and down the state have been whiskey-barreling some of their beers for maturation and flavor effect. But the Buffalo Trace distillery oak High Point got its hands on was an inaugural effort at bourbon-barrel aging a Ramstein beer. 

The maibock, like the chocolate cherry sour, were tasting room treats, extras for tour patrons who show up at the Butler brewery for the Ramstein lager and wheat beers.

The jazzed-up maibock went fast, gone by early Saturday afternoon, reflecting the potential of craft brewers' tasting rooms to engage the public with small-batch beers that also give breweries and their tour patrons an additional beer theme to take up. It's all part of what lawmakers in Trenton enabled last year when they updated the rules for Garden State craft breweries.

"We had four kegs that we allocated for the brewery. We were open for four hours, and we sold out of them," says High Point owner Greg Zaccardi. "(It's) the excitement we have now with this new law. Let's be honest, we can make a few more dollars, but we also have to make it interesting. People are going to come here and buy the beer only if it's really worth coming."

The flavor profile of the barrel-aged maibock featured caramel-like signatures against a bright citrus quality, plus bourbon and vanilla from the wood.

"It had that tartness, that yogurty tang," he says. "But the nice thing about it is, you get that thirst-quenching sensation, then it stops to a clean finish of bourbon and vanilla."

Giving the maibock the barrel tweaking, taking it outside its traditional construct, put an emphasis on the sensory elements of beer.

"This was a way for us to get to people, get them to come in and think about what's going on – and they're educated," Greg says. "It draws attention to all the elements of beer. People start talking about aroma, they start talking about texture, they start talking about balance, complexity, depth of flavor."

The beer was a one-off, and though it's gone, there's more where that came from, so to speak.

"I'm not saying we're going to make a beer like it every week. But I would like to believe that every other month or so we're coming out with some sort of unique way of making beer taste different that what you're expecting," Greg says.

Meanwhile, High Point already has its top-rated Ramstein Oktoberfest in kegs. July has historically been the month High Point began brewing the märzen for its annual release on the second Saturday in September. (For years, the brewery has made a tour-day event of the märzen, ceremoniously tapping an Austrian oak keg to salute Oktoberfest.)

Over the past year few years, High Point has begun brewing the 6% ABV märzen earlier and earlier, reflecting increased demand for the seasonal, which, as a lager, requires the requisite longer conditioning time. This year, brewing began right after Memorial Day so High Point could both boost production by about 20 percent from last year and better work to distributors' needs.

"In May, we got a list of pre-orders for Oktoberfest from our distributors. They said, 'We'll pick it up in July if you have it,' " Greg says. "So why would we not brew it, if we had bona fide purchase orders for it? That's really what drove us to adjust our production schedule."

Meanwhile, the märzen's junior sibling, Ramstein Amber Lager (5.5% ABV, also called Northern Hills Amber Lager), was recently bottled for the first time ever, a moment that also marked the first instance of High Point bottling a beer other than its signature Blonde, Classic dunkel and doppelbock wheats. (Ramstein Oktoberfest, maibock, imperial pilsner, and golden lager are draft-only brews; the same goes for a 6% ABV pale ale that works its way in and out of High Point's lineup.)

"The beer is a hoppy, slightly lower-gravity sessionable version of our Oktoberfest. We have a lot of interest and (accolades) for our Oktoberfest, and we thought about making it year-round. People always ask us to make it year-round. It's just not designed for that," Greg says. "We wanted to make something that was in a similar vein but could be consumed year-round, and that's what this beer is."

Some of the amber lager, which is a favorite among Ramstein's Facebook followers, is destined for the festival Mondial de la Bière Europe in France Sept. 12-15. It's at least the second time Ramstein beers will be at the event.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rinn Duin gets OK from federal regulators

Tokens on tasting room bar
 Rinn Duin Brewing cleared a key hurdle last week, with federal regulators signing off on the company's brewer's notice.

That happened on Monday (July 8th); Rinn Duin's application to the state for a brewing license is still pending.

Founder Chip Town says once the ongoing brewery buildout wraps up, he hopes state regulators will be able to inspect the brewery and issue a license quickly.

"I'm expecting by end of August, beginning of September we'll be out on taps," Chip says. "We're that close now. It's a matter of finishing this (buildout) in the next couple of weeks and getting the testing done. Once that's done, a couple of weeks to make the beer, keg it and get it out the door."

Rinn Duin founder Chip Town in the
Toms River brewery's tasting room
The 25-barrel brewhouse, mash tun, 50-barrel fermenters and other tanks began arriving at the brewery in Toms River (Ocean County) late last month. The fermenters and other tanks are upright; the brewhouse is in place, but still needs its scaffolding erected, plus some other installation work.

"Everything is approximately where it should be. Now what we've got to do is tweak the exact position because the piping is all premade," Chip says. "The technicians are here. One is doing the piping, the other one is doing the electrical installation, all the control panels, all the motors. It's probably going to be 15 to 20 days to do the complete installation.

"Once we've got all the piping and the wiring done, I can call for a (certificate of occupancy), and then the ABC will come in and do their inspection."

Brewhouse, assembly required
Forty-four draft accounts have been expressed interest in Rinn Duin's session brews – a blond, a brown, Irish red and smoked Scottish ales. Getting those brews into bottles is going lag behind the draft business a little bit, Chip says. He forecasts bottling to get going in the fall.

Rinn Duin's six-tap, 500-square-foot tasting room was finished during the springtime and is stocked with glassware (shaker pint glasses and growlers). Beer drinkers can expect plenty of brews exclusive to the tasting room.

"Those taps are going to have a lot of different beers in them that you aren't going to see in the bars right away," Chip says.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Flying Fish tasting room & Menendez visit

Senator Robert Menendez notes some
accomplishments of Flying Fish
after touring the brewery on Monday
Flying Fish toasted its year-old Somerdale facility with a visit from U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, whose tour of the brewery on Monday was also the highlight of a soft opening of Flying Fish's new tasting room and the bottle release of its hurricane fundraiser beer, FU Sandy.

Senator Menendez, a co-sponsor of legislation to cut federal excise taxes for craft brewers by as much as half, took a brief tour of Flying Fish's brewery space, checking out some firkins and wooden barrels at the foot of towering fermenter tanks. He then raised a pint of Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale with company president Gene Muller and sales director Andy Newell in the new 10-tap tasting room. 

From left: Andy Newell, Gene Muller,
and Senator Robert Menendez
The senator saluted 17-year-old Flying Fish as a groundbreaker in the state, noting the brewery's growth since its move last year from its founding location of Cherry Hill, and saying: “It’s the first microbrewery here in southern New Jersey, and the first new brewery in the region in more than half a century. The $6 million expansion in 2012 has enabled Flying Fish to triple production and create two dozen new jobs.” 

There's more growth ahead: Flying Fish has two more 150-barrel tanks coming later this month.

Last May, Senator Menendez highlighted the introduction of the federal legislation to cut the excise tax on craft breweries from $7 a barrel to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced, a reduction that would actually make the federal tax slightly lower than New Jersey's tax on craft beer production. (Others from New Jersey's congressional delegation who are supporting the measure include Reps. Rush Holt and Leonard Lance.)

Meanwhile, Flying Fish's new tasting room opened quietly on either
side of the Fourth of July holiday for growler fills and sales of six-packs and of the limited-release bottled FU Sandy.

Joe Torres, who recently joined Flying Fish to run the brewery's tasting room, says a total of 109 growlers were sold last Wednesday and Friday, plus nine cases of Sandy, the wheat-pale ale first brewed last winter to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. 

Initially draft-only, FU Sandy sold out effortlessly and was brought back with a draft release in June and 750-milliliter bottles that began hitting store shelves early last week. 

Flying Fish's tasting room is still somewhat a work in progress: Some wallboard still needs to be hung, and the air-conditioning is getting a tweak. Thus, the soft opening. (Check with the brewery for tasting room hours; by the way, Flying Fish has logo'd growlers.)


Casey on brewhouse steps
It's been several weeks since former head brewer Casey Hughes left Flying Fish for Tampa, Florida, and Coppertail Brewing, a start-up brewery of similar size to his New Jersey alma mater. But Casey, an avid fisherman, didn't leave without sharing a one-that-got-away tale, specifically, a beer with a Garden State-crop ingredient whose brewing eluded him during his 10-year tenure.

"Cranberry Berliner weiss. It's a style, being in the state of New Jersey, the one beer I've always said I wanted to make," Casey says. "That was the beer. I love Berliner weiss, and I'd love to do one down in Florida. It seems now that everyone brews Berliner weiss in Florida. The state seems to have really (glommed) onto that style, so I probably won't be able to do one for a while until it all calms down there."

Here in New Jersey, Casey says,  "somebody else will get to make that beer." 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cricket Hill goes big on hops, little on ABV

From the brewhouse, a word on
 Jersey-brewed from Rick Reed.
You say you like hops but want your fix in a session beer, not a brew that does IPA with a lot of ABV?

Then Cricket Hill Brewing has the answer for you: Big Little IPA, a small-batch beer that's waiting in the wings of a July 1 release. 

Think of Cricket Hill Hopnotic India Pale Ale's sessionable 5.2% ABV but with a more robust bitterness (Nugget and Willamette hops), nearly twice the IBUs, in fact. 

Big Little IPA was included in Cricket Hill's offerings last Saturday on the Battleship New Jersey at the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild festival, served up as a teaser to its release.

At a time when a lot of hops lovers are finding comfort with a brew like Founders session brew All Day IPA (4.7% ABV, 42 IBUs) Big Little IPA offers a way to keep your quest for hop-kick in a session beer in the home state.

"We're giving the IPA flavor in Cricket Hill fashion," says founder Rick Reed. "We're not going to knock you down; we're not going to bowl you over. We're going to give you a good hop flavor, 76 IBUs, and you can drink it all day long."

Rick says the Fairfield (Essex County) brewery is winding down this year's production of its Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale, the end of the line of 225 barrels' worth for the hot-weather season. You can expect a big smoked rye for September release, plus another fall seasonal.

"For the first time ever," Rick says, "we're going to abandon the Reinheitsgebot. Under pressure from distributors, we're going to come out with a pumpkin beer. We've never done it before ... the market's there, so we're going to try it."

*ABOUT THE PHOTO: Folks who have been to Cricket Hill brewery tours know Rick usually gives a little speech from the brewhouse deck, a sort of comparative assessment of craft beer's advantages over the big factory beers.