Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Central time

Skipping Long Beach Island’s Chowderfest this year? But your dance card still has an opening for this Saturday? Then here’s a cozy beer event you’ll probably want to be part of.

And since it’s the inaugural version of the Central Jersey Beer Fest, you’ll pick up bragging rights for getting in on the ground floor.

And who knows if it grows big, maybe one day you’ll be able to nostalgically reflect that you remember when the Central Jersey festival in Woodbridge drew just a handful of Garden State brewers.

The Ws
When: 1-5 p.m.
Where: Parker Press Park in Woodbridge.
Wallet: Admission is 20 bucks, or 10 if you’re a designated driving adult.
What you get: A souvenir taster glass (made from REAL glass, no plastic; cheers to that) and an opportunity to sample some great beer to a backdrop of live music while you browse the wares of local vendors. The event also benefits charity (veterans groups), so check with your accountant, you may be able to write off the admission charge.
Weather: As of this writing, the forecast for Saturday is a sunny 75 degrees. (The rain date is Oct. 6, just in case.)
Why: Because beer is culture, community and fun, and this festival could turn into the fall counterpart to the annual gathering held by the Garden State Craft Brewer’s Guild in June aboard the USS New Jersey battleship museum in Camden.

Unlike that summer festival, Saturday’s event comes not from the guild, but courtesy of the efforts Woodbridge’s own J.J. Bitting Brewing Company, which got a great assist from its hometown, and John McCormac.

If you’re still holding an old (and presumably losing) lottery ticket, say from a couple years back, you’ll notice John’s name on the reverse side as New Jersey state treasurer. He left that Trenton job and is now mayor of Woodbridge, and he made Parker Press Park available for the festival; Woodbridge has embraced the event as one of its Main Street happenings. John says the festival allows for an added theme to the Main Street events, which also include a farmers market. Plus, he points out, J.J. Bittings is a solid local business.

Note: The festival isn't exactly a municipally sponsored function. But the site help Woodbridge is providing merits mentioning, since finding a festival location – rented at a reasonable rate or used free of charge like the USS New Jersey – isn’t easy. So if you go on Saturday, take a moment to raise your taster glass to Woodbridge. (Trivia: John's a formidable contender when it comes to 1960s TV Batman trivia. He's also a bigtime Yankees fan, whose colors he flew in his ground-floor office in Trenton those years ago when we crossed paths.)

The lineup
J.J. Bitting: Beers the home team brewpub will be pouring include Avenel Amber, J.J.’s popular raspberry wheat, Victoria’s Golden Ale and an Oktoberfest dubbed Bad Boy.
Pizzeria Uno: Woodbridge’s neighbor from Metuchen plans to serve up its IPA, Gust ’n’ Gale Porter and hefeweizen.
Climax Brewing: Look for an Oktoberfest and possibly a cream ale that the Roselle Park brewery revived earlier this year.
Tun Tavern: Folks at the Tun in Atlantic City helped spread word about the Central Jersey festival and are looking into the prospects of organizing a similar event in the land of diving horses and tumbling dice. Until then, look for the Tun’s Leatherneck Stout and Vienna lager to be the brews it will take to Woodbridge.