Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to school

Rutgers’ fall semester starts Sept. 2nd, and for Harvest Moon, that means more people stepping off the sidewalks of George Street to settle in for a pint or two at the New Brunswick brewery café.

We stopped by midweek last week (yep, more Jersey beer traveling, with more to come) and talked to head brewer Matt McCord to see what’ll be coming on tap when the Moon gets full with larger crowds.

Think of it as a fall schedule, what glasses you can take. (OK, we’ll leave the bad puns and word play to the would-be Ogden Nashes of the world.)

We’re talking fall here, so naturally Oktoberfest is in the mix, a traditional take on the fest lager with some dark Munich malt and some Vienna. Look for it in late September. It’s worth mentioning that Harvest Moon does go lager with their Oktoberfest. Not all breweries or brewpubs do, since it can mean tying up tank space they just don’t have to let the beer sit and chill for those lager durations. Ones that don't go alt instead.

Pumpkin pie
Also this fall, look for two versions of Harvest Moon's pumpkin ale, with allspice, cinnamon and brown sugar (among other flavorings). Matt says he and backup brewer Kyle McDonald (pictured below) will do two regular takes on the seasonal, plus a high-gravity version.

Last year, the Moon’s imperial pumpkin ale had vanilla beans in it to create a graham cracker crust signature. All three will have the vanilla this year, Matt says.

Deeper into the fall term, Matt has plans for a winter imperial stout and winter warmer. Too bad winter isn't now. Matt also says the schwarzbier, a personal favorite for us, should be coming back around, too. He didn't brew it this past spring, just didn't get it into the mix. So there's something to look forward to.

And speaking of Kyle, the new (but not so new by now) guy on the block, he worked at a brewery in his home state of Iowa before pulling up stakes for New Jersey around the start of 2008, after his girlfriend took a job in the Garden State. Kyle may be the backup, but Matt refers to him as one of Harvest Moon’s brewers, like himself.

Matt brewed solo for about half the six years he’s been at Harvest Moon, and he lives in South Jersey, a fair distance to travel to work. So naturally, he’s glad for the extra hands.

Matt's a guy who respects beer and likes to talk beer – take a look at his extensive beer list on the Moon's Web site; it's pretty impressive, no question. He knows the kind of hard work it takes to always have six to eight house beers flowing (featuring Belgian and wheat brews in that mix) when there's just you and one extra person, plus not a whole lot of floor space available for your brewery. (HM’s brewhouse sits in an elevated spot to the right just as you walk in the entrance from George Street; the fermenters and serving tanks are downstairs; some of the equipment is kinda shoehorned it, but not all. Still, it's not exactly a wide open arrangement.)

Campus life
And what of the Rutgers crowd (notice the big red R on the doors)? Matt says they tend to favor bigger beers. It’s a study of economics, since money can be tight for the college crowd. The equation kinda works out as 1 pint of a bigger beer at $4.50 = satisfaction and savings vs. 2 pints of a lighter style for the same per-pint price. Pretty simple math.

That formula makes Hops2 Double IPA, one of Harvest Moon’s signature beers, in demand with the Rutgers crowd, but it's also popular among women beer drinkers. Hops2 (that’s 2 as in squared) gives you a lesson on hops and bigger beers, but it also mellows somewhat toward the bottom of the glass, and calls on you to answer the question, “Having another?”

It was one of our growler beers – we also took home their kölschbier – so why not? And the kölsch, well it's taken over for the MoonLight Ale on the beer board, to satisfy the session beer end of the scale and lighten the mood. It also fits in with Matt's taste for kölsch beers.

Lastly, also, a quick shout-out to the guys having a school reunion at the bar ... St. John's Prep, was it? Hope the fourth you were expecting in your party made it.

Dates of note
Sept. 1: Rutgers takes on Fresno State in its home opener (4 p.m). The Moon sounds good for pregame or post-game wrap-up, if you ask us.
Sept. 9: The New Jersey Young Professionals group holds a brewery tour and tasting at Harvest Moon. Details here ... tickets here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm the guy that the St John's people were waiting for. Unfortunately there was a mix-up in the e-mails and I was searching for them in Penn Station while they were sitting and waiting for me at the Harvest Moon. Sorry that I missed it. Here is Jerusalem (Israel, not Pennsylvania) we have a beer making that meets a couple of times per month, once to brew and once to bottle. Our beer is definately better than what is available commercially and we have a very good time making it. If you are ever in the neighbourhood, drop in!
Yehuda Miklaf