Friday, April 13, 2007

Collective reasoning

Bottles, openers and trays, oh my.

If you’re one of the legions of beer drinkers who sees a budding art collection in brewery advertisements, bar towels and empty cans, then this event is for you.

The Garden State Chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America is holding its spring swap on Sunday at the Polish Cultural Foundation in Clark (in Union County).

It’s one of three gatherings the club holds each year to give collectors a chance to buy, sell or trade brewery memorabilia (breweriana, as it’s known), from neon signs, sports programs, glassware and coasters to trays, tap handles and clothing emblazoned with brewery names and logos.

And don’t forget the humble can or bottle, testaments to the evolution of how beer is packaged and served. Some beer cans – like rare, pre-World War II containers – can fetch handsome sums (read thousands of dollars).

(Special Jerseyana note: Many a beer enthusiast knows canned beer was born in the Garden State in 1933, from a union between the American Can Company and Newark’s Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company. Beat that, red Bass ale trademark triangle.)

The April show is expected to draw collectors from as far as Pennsylvania and Connecticut and could feature as many as 60 tables from traders, many who are members of the BCCA’s Jersey chapter.

The organization’s treasurer, Scott Manga, says the two larger shows – a kickoff show in January and an Octoberfest show in the fall – pull in collectors from as far north as Massachusetts, as far south as Virginia, and Pennsylvania from the west. Those shows are two-day affairs, held in conjunction with the Jersey Shore BCCA chapter.

If you go

Where: The Polish Cultural Foundation, 177 Broadway in Clark.
Time: From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Trader fees: $12 for Garden State BCCA chapter members, $15 for non-members. Admission for walk-ins and guests 21 or older is $5.
On tap: Climax Brewing’s Hoffmann Helles, Magic Hat (Vermont) Fat Angel and beer from J.J. Bitting Brewing Company brewpub in Woodbridge.

(Special thanks to outgoing Garden State BCCA president Terry Scullin for the photos.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Double duty

When Dave Hoffmann mashes in at his Roselle Park brewery, his mind could be down the shore.

He’s not thinking about beaches and boardwalks, mind you. More like he's immersed in some forward thinking.

That’s because the younger half of the father-son duo that creates ESBs and IPAs under the Climax Brewing brand also creates some come-back-for-more beers as the brewer at Basil T’s Brew Pub & Italian Grill in Toms River.

Doing double duty means Dave spends as much time planning as he does brewing to impart distinctive signature flavors to his Climax styles and to likewise make the beers that flow from the serving tanks at Basil’s have unique qualities of their own.

Up north, Dave recently finished bottling and kegging his Hoffmann Helles and is planning to revive a cream ale he last brewed about three or four years ago; 60 miles down the Garden State Parkway, a quite inviting doublebock earned plenty of fans during a quick run at Basil’s. It’s gone now, but a nut brown ale should be pouring in its place later this month, and a maibock will appropriately be ready at the beginning of May. Also for Basil’s, Dave just may stir a helles into the mix.

Rounding out the lineup at Basil’s-Toms River is Dave’s take on a red ale; a West Coast pale ale that’s hoppy and citrusy without going over the top (“it’s all about balance” is a phrase you’ll hear Dave say often); and a pretty killer chocolate oatmeal stout. (OK, it was really killer.)

From Roselle Park, look for the cream ale under the Climax banner in mid-May. (Dave’s ales take "Climax" in the name, while his lagers carry the familial Hoffmann stamp.) For the cream ale, he'll use some cara-pils malt for added body and the signature creamy texture, without letting loose some extra fermentable that would otherwise boost the alcohol content; for the hop profile think Pacific Northwest (Willamette, Mount Hood and Chinook).

And if all that doesn’t keep Dave busy enough and beer drinkers’ elbows bending, he’s got a hefeweizen in the works (favoring the trademark banana-like flavors, but without the clove notes) to also go under the Hoffmann banner. (He may do one in Toms River, too).

The hefeweizen from Roselle Park may not be consigned to seasonal status; so how long the wheat stays around is up to you.

(NOTE: Savvy Garden State craft and pub-brewed beer fans know that two Basil’s dot the Jersey shore landscape: the original Basil’s in Red Bank and the Toms River site. Once under the same brand, they’ve been separately owned for a few years now, sharing only the name. It's slightly confusing, but they have distinct identities, and you won’t go wrong at either location. Great beer, great food. Trust us.)