Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sunny side up

enny’s and IHOP may think they have a lock on breakfast, but here’s an angle the two chain (blecccchh) eateries didn’t think of: a breakfast beer for the shorts and tank top months.

But Cricket Hill did: Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale. (And yes we know it's getting into late summer, late for talking about hot-weather seasonals, what with Oktoberfest just around the bend. But we had to track this brew down, and it took a little bit of time.)

To be sure, part of the charm is the name, but as a bottle-conditioned Belgian summer beer that’s aimed as a full-bodied first step for some folks not quite into the full-bore saisons yet, this is a quite-drinkable brew. And as far as sales go, it’s also pulling some oars this summer for the Cricket (Fairfield in Essex County), outdoing its inaugural year (2007) when it was a draft-only beer.

Like a lot folks at the Garden State Craft Brewers Festival back in June, we ordered breakfast – JSBA was the first keg at the festival to kick – a few times over. Then we set out to find it the bottle, in the 12-packs that CH uses to market its seasonals (maibock and porter are two others).

It took a while, since CH doesn’t have much distribution in South Jersey. But we finally got our hands on it by heading up to Spirits Unlimited in Red Bank (Newman Springs Road & Route 35). We’ve been enjoying it with some revved up summer foods, tangy ones and practically anything you can put jalapeños on.

Try it with our very own burger recipe: douse a lean ground beef patty with some Caribbean jerk seasoning, grill a pineapple slice on both sides (sear it so the sugars caramelize), top the burger with the grilled pineapple, then top both with a slice of melted pepper jack cheese.

Like a good Jersey diner, Cricket Hill’s got breakfast whenever you want it.

On the horizon

Owner Rick Reed says CH is gearing up for version 2.0 of their bourbon-barrel brew. This year's is a small batch of naturally carbonated ESB, with some twists, that’ll stay parked in Jack Daniels oak (last year’s was aged in George Dickel barrels) until it’s time to be racked into four or five firkins (we did say small batch, didn’t we?) and maybe into some growlers for faithful followers.

Meanwhile, CH also has a Festivus for the best of us. OK, rest of us. We just didn’t want to be so linear with the Seinfeld reference. But yes, CH’s Fall Festivus amber ale is also on deck. Rick says it “tastes like the colors of fall.”

And yes, the name is borrowed from Frank Costanza’s contra-Christmas holiday. You’ll probably have to supply your own pole though.

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