Monday, April 21, 2008

The Cricket in Chime Square

What’s the hottest beer video featuring a Jersey brewer?

It continues to be Cricket Hill’s Rick Reed teeing off on the big brewers’ bland beers and brainwash marketing tactics.

Rick’s screed from the mash tun rostrum at his Fairfield brewery (in the shadow of Anheuser-Busch just 20 miles down the road in Newark) has drawn 9,000 YouTube hits and counting since it was posted just over three months ago.

If you remember, the video was shot by a Cricket Hill friend on one of the brewery’s Friday evening tours. It drew bloggers like ants to sugar (including us) and spawned a parade of links and embeds from the YouTube hosting. And that was after plenty of CH fans had seen it and spread word themselves.

These days, beer fans bellying up to Cricket Hill’s station on the festival circuit mention seeing it (and a Coors distributor that Rick ran into squawked about it, so there's also a Bud version, with 1,048 hits). There’s even a link to the initial video at the Cricket Hill’s Wikipedia entry, but that tidbit shouldn't be too surprising, given the user-contribution nature of the online encyclopedia.

In a world of short attention spans and a plethora of Web viewing choices, and this being a niche topic, we'd argue that the 8,700 number is practically viral, and a testament to Rick’s humorous delivery and, dare we say, a groundswell of shared sentiment. (The clip’s onward pace was a pleasant surprise to Rick, who says he doesn’t surf YouTube’s site.)

Meanwhile, those of you who flocked to Cricket Hill’s Belgian-style summer beer (trappist yeast and some wheat malt) will be happy to know it will soon be available in bottles as a seasonal. The beer was a new offering last year and popular enough to earn the in-glass treatment this year.

Rick says there’s still some wrangling with federal regulators over the labeling for Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale.

For the uninitiated, federal folks have a say in labeling, among other things, for alcoholic beverages produced and introduced into the marketplace.

In this case, it seems that Uncle Sam is tripping over and raising a bushy eyebrow at the word “breakfast” in the beer’s name – never mind that they wouldn’t bat an eye at “lunch” or “dinner” used similarly – and even wanted to know what was in the beer (maybe they thought it had Scrapple or Taylor ham in it) and demanded an accounting of the ingredients.

Whatever happened to free speech? Even in marketing. (The savvy among you will recall a stink a decade ago when some state regulators – New York among them – thumbed down Michigan brewer Bad Frog's label of the frog giving the finger.) Rick is undaunted and laughed that he can always fall back and call it "brunch."

Meanwhile, CH still expects to have the summer ale available next month and at the shore (CH beers, notably for now their lager, are going on tap at the Clam Hut in Highlands in Monmouth County). Look for the summer ale – and eventually other CH seasonals – in plain white 12-pack cartons adorned with identifying stickers (a budget-conscious move since packaging doesn't come cheap).

CH's ESB-ish ale, Colonel Blides Bitter, is also getting the same bottle treatment, initially anyway, but will eventually be in printed cartons like Cricket Hill’s flagships, East Coast Lager, Hopnotic IPA and American Ale, as it becomes CH's fourth year-round bottled beer. (FYI: The Colonel is on cask at the 700 Club in Philly, according to Kevin Rowe’s site.)

Say you saw it on Roller Derby:
Also: Cricket Hill was chosen as the official beer of the Philly Roller Girls teams. The Broad Street Butchers, Heavy Metal Hookers and Philthy Britches tasted lots of beers but felt CH’s East Coast Lager and Hopnotic IPA were what got fans rolling. Feisty women on wheels, skating for bragging rights, and great beer. Beat that WWE.

Cricket Hill site:
Official Cricket Hill blog:

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