Saturday, April 7, 2007

And Philly Makes Three, Reprised

No more talk, speculation.

Triumph Brewing’s doors are open and taps flowing in Old City Philadelphia.

The stylish brewpub that built a reputation for some great beers in Princeton has been serving to growing crowds in Philly since Wednesday.

On the slate you’ll find eight styles listed, including Triumph’s signatures like Bengal Gold IPA and honey wheat, as well as its gold medal-winning kellerbier (a German style unfiltered lager).

Rounding out the lineup are an amber ale, porter, oatmeal stout, chico ale and a dunkel lager well known at Triumph’s New Hope, Pa., location.

Triumph folks say they’re bullish on the Philly site (on Chestnut Street), and expect to do well in a city where beers of all walks draw legions of fans.

Makes you want to pull up stakes for Old City.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Shore bet

Good news for beer drinkers along the Jersey shore who have discriminating palates.

Fairfield brewer Cricket Hill, purveyors of a quite quenching American lager, have added bottle and draft distribution to Monmouth and Ocean County. As Jersey beer fans, we hope this helps further turn the tide toward the side of taste and choice.

It’s been a month-plus since Cricket Hill widened its reach with its East Coast Lager, amber American Ale and Hopnotic India Pale Ale, the latter being a very enjoyable session IPA (so don’t go looking for the hop hammer to come slamming down. Instead, it's a cumulative hop taste balanced with a not-too-filling full body. No problem standing up two or three of ’em.)

Because of some distribution overlap, Cricket Hill may have already been available in bottles to some shore drinkers. So that means the best news here is the availability of Cricket Hill on draft, which we advocate as the preferred way to have any beer.

You won’t get an argument from Rick Reed, Cricket Hill’s founder, either. Bottling, he says, tends to beat up a beer. The extra handling that bottling necessitates can rough up a beer and change some of its character.

So on that advice, sign up for the draft. And hopefully some savvy and supportive bar owners will help you out.

About Cricket Hill
Founded about five years go, the brewery operates from a former welding shop in an industrial park in Fairfield (Essex County).

Capacity: 3,000 barrels, producing about one-third of that now, with healthy year-to-year growth.

Beer lineup:
Besides its lager, American Ale and IPA, Cricket Hill produces the seasonal Paymaster’s Porter (draft only), Colonel Blides Altbier (with plans to bottle that German style offering) and a Belgian summer ale (draft) that’s looking to find it’s way out of the bright-beer tank soon and into a glass.

Name game:
Cricket Hill actually has less to do with the insect that stars in the brewery’s logo and more to do with the game cricket. The name is a reference to a vantage point for watching cricket matches in Australia. The cricket hill is the equivalent of the bleacher seats, but the spot where the social atmosphere and camaraderie is more inviting.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Wikognition, Part II

Recapping: The prefix “Wiki” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary (despite already earning a place in other reference works).

Why we cared: Because we needed a blog entry. No wait, um, because Flying Fish and Triumph have been immortalized in Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. (Yes, it’s just Jersey beer trivia we’re fatuously falling all over here.)

How we tried to gin up the first take on this entry: Ask Wikipedia founder and Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales if he’s ever had a Jersey-made beer.

Two weeks later, we have an answer. (And we forgive Jimmy for the delay; he’s a busy guy. After all, he does occupy a spot on Time magazine’s list of 100 people who shape our world. He’s quite a sporting guy, too, for entertaining our query. Thanks, Jimmy.)

First off, Jimmy emails us that he does like beer, German beer, in fact, although he didn’t indicate a brand or style. Incidentally, he’s also learning German (of which we know a little: Bier schmeckt immer ausgezeichnet … we won’t swear to the correctness of our usage.)

Jimmy’s a traveling guy, too (he was in Japan when we emailed him last month), so of course he’s been to New Jersey.

But he notes that he’s never had a Jersey-made beer.

“Hmmmm. I think I am entirely unaware of the existence of New Jersey beers!” Jimmy wrote us.


OK, we’re being a little melodramatic. And truthfully, we can scare up a dozen born-and-raised New Jerseyans who, with a Coors Light in their grip, can say the same thing. That’s a bigger ouch, since New Jersey has a rather large résumé as a brewing state (just a lot of it is relegated to beer history now), inlcuding some award-winning craft and pub-brewed beers.

But Jimmy’s answer does play into a bigger picture. And that is the Garden State has a fairly low profile, comparatively, in the era of craft brewing. We're the Garden State, but not quite the beer garden state. That’s a conclusion we’re fairly certain will be underlined, figuratively speaking, when the Colorado-based Brewer’s Association unspools some extensive 2006 industry data this month.

But you don’t have to be big to be well known. And maybe we can make a convert out of Jimmy. Of course, we’re not implying that you FedEx Jimmy and the Wikimedia Foundation a mixed case of Jersey’s best. Let’s reiterate, we’re not suggesting that.

But if you infer it, who’s to throw cold water on a good idea?

Uh, maybe you should throw in some pork roll, too.

Two for the Show

Some quick notes from Sunday’s annual Brewer’s Plate festival in Philadelphia.

This is an affair that really underscores the inseparable tie between beer and food.

So if you weren’t one of the 1,000 people at the Reading Terminal Market savoring fine cheeses, seafoods, smoked meats and a some really kickin’ “beeramisu” at the third outing of this event, you’ll definitely want to put it on your calendar for next year.

Here’s why ...

The Brewer’s Plate (a fundraiser by nonprofit White Dog Community Enterprises) unites artisinal foods and dishes from some great Philly area restaurants with beers from craft brewers within a 150-mile radius of the city. Great food, great beer. Great expectations.

(This year, the festival featured 18 restaurants and 18 breweries, with each brewery and its two beers styles paired off with two different restaurants.)

But the event also makes a deeper statement about locally grown and produced food. And locally made beer. And that is, when you make those establishments your go-to purveyors, you create and nurture a community, not to mention giving an important boost to local economic development.

What’s that mantra about craft beers? Support your local brewery? Well, that’s part of what the Brewer’s Plate is saying.

And it’s one of the reasons we stepped across the Delaware to check out the pours from Jersey gems like Climax Brewing and Flying Fish and Triumph. (River Horse Brewing was also extended an invitation to the event but apparently could not make it.)

Some highlights of the Garden State at the event, a bit of what went on our plate and in our glass: Climax (Roselle Park) saw its very able ESB paired with a fantastic crab bisque from Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus, whose wonderfully spicy jambalaya was also matched up with the Farmhouse Summer Ale from Flying Fish (Cherry Hill). We’re big on spicy food, so this was a line we hit a few times more than we should admit.

(Climax’s Nut Brown Ale was paired with some excellent cured meats from London Grill. HopFish, the creamy IPA by Flying Fish, was served with pan-seared scallops from Patou.)

Triumph, which spans both sides of the Delaware, featured a dunkel larger (on tap at its New Hope, Pa., location) with pork loin and lentil pilaf from White Dog Cafe. (Triumph also poured its signature Bengal Gold IPA with a really tasty pulled pork sandwich.)

Great food and great beer always keep good company. Two for the show.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Calendar Note

Attention! Numbers to remember: 700, 23 and 5.

The 11th annual Garden State Craft Brewers festival will again dock at the pier in Camden, on June 23rd, marking the third consecutive year Jersey-made brews will be served on the flagship of Bull Halsey.

More on Bull Halsey in a second.

Right now, know this: Admission to the event aboard the USS New Jersey -- the floating museum at Camden's Delaware River waterfront -- this year will cost you 5 bucks more (this is not a bad thing, stay with us here) and attendance will be limited to 700 of you beer fans. (We’re not sure what the gate did last year, but capping the attendance is good, since it translates into shorter lines for necessities aboard ship, be they edibles or that ever-important line to the loo.)

So it’s going to be $35 to cruise with some of the Garden State’s best in brews in 2007. But don’t flinch. If you sailed with the Philly craft beer festival on March 3rd, you remember that passage was 40 bucks. And let’s face it, that was a pretty good time, followed by the Atlantic City festival a week later for a few bucks less.

So now it’s time for New Jersey beer’s annual showcase event. And for it, event organizers are putting the extra admission money where your mouth is. And by that we mean better food to go with the malt art you have come to expect from Jersey brewers.

So put on your sailing shoes (yes we’re Little Feat fans), the ship’s waiting for you.

(Last year the number for tickets was 866-877-6262 ext. 108. That’s the USS New Jersey’s line. We can’t say for certain it’s where to call now, but if we were starting somewhere, those are the digits we’d dial.)

About Bull Halsey: (we’re talking the Admiral Halsey here, so forget Uncle Albert and butter pies) … William Frederick “Bull” Halsey Jr. was born in Elizabeth, NJ, 125 years ago, and cut a distinguished jib as a US Navy admiral in World War II (a mere 60-plus years ago). The New Jersey was Halsey’s 3rd Fleet flagship during the battle of Leyte Gulf, the mother of all naval battles (so history tomes tell us).

All this has little to do with beer, but a lot to do with where you stand when you sip one aboard the ship. So when the time comes, tip your glass to the Bull and the Garden State.