Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big Brew, Part 2 (We won!!!)

First and foremost: A shout out to fellow Jerseyans, WHALES, the Woodbridge Homebrewers Ale & Lager Enthusiast Society, for their second-place showing in the American Homebrewers Association’s YouTube video contest.

WHALES’ efforts on Big Brew 2008 (May 3rd) were chronicled by BobbyFromNJ (that's his YouTube handle), and claimed second place in the most-viewed category (more than 1,750 hits as of this writing).

It’s worth mentioning here that some WHALES members are first-round winners in the AHA’s national homebrew competition. Good luck, and we're behind you all the way.

And now for the big moment, for us anyway ...

We won first place in the YouTube contest in the category of "Best Represents AHA Big Brew."

Winning is fun, but we're not going to crow about this too much or let it go to our heads.

But we will say (and underscore) that we’re flattered, immensely so, and honored in an equal measure. And we can’t overlook the other 17 folks whose entries qualified for judging and made it a competition. It was a fun contest, capturing one of the things central to beer: It brings people together. And nothing does that like homebrewing.

Big Brew 2007 was among the first videos we shot and posted online. A year later, we were back at BeerCrafters, doing it again. So it goes without saying that we owe the the folks there in Turnersville a huge round of thanks for availing themselves for an interview, or for just letting us taste their brews.

But it’s not just BeerCrafters and the Gloucester County Home Brewers Club.

It’s everyone – most of the craft brewers in New Jersey, easily – who has put up with our camera over the past year (or longer in some cases, like Flying Fish).

We like to think that we’ve learned something each time out that we've shot in the news-gathering style we rely on, which has hopefully (and we hope, artfully) kept us out of the picture and put the emphasis on the beer and the people making it, celebrating or otherwise just enjoying it.

Because that’s what it’s all about, the beer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hopping on hops, Part 3

An update on our hops.

It’s been a wet season, and that late-spring nor’easter that whacked the shore with a drenching and powerful gusts gave the Centennials we planted a rough time last week.

Fifty mph winds were hard on the young vines, kind of stunned them a little bit and the bines that were just starting to wind around the trellis lines were blown off course somewhat.

It’s a good thing the foliage wasn’t as dense as it can get. The gusts could have ripped them up like the oaks and other trees that lost a lot of just-sprouted leaves when the storm was peaking.

But nonetheless, the hops are doing fine, and eight days after the storm have bounced back rather hardily. The largest is passing 3 feet, maybe higher, while the other three hills are playing catch-up.

By the by, our trellis is wholly unconventional, not much more than a simple frame fashioned from 1 by 4s and braced with some 1 by 1s, spreading about 6 1/2 feet, over a plot about 5 feet wide.

It’s probably about 5 feet (at least) too short in height – it's about 7 feet – but hopefully that won’t matter. There’s room for the hardier bines to branch out if they run out of vertical room as they climb up the lines.

With some luck, the weather will start to cooperate, dry out a little and the hops will really take off, lush and vibrant.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lunar observations

For a poetic image, it’s hard to top a full moon.

Even though it puts in a monthly appearance, it still has the hypnotic power to make you stop and gaze skyward, more so when it’s low on the horizon looming large in a buttery yellow.

It’s no wonder something so mystical has woven itself so pervasively into the fabric of folklore and culture.

So why not have a beer and toast and old friend’s return visit?

That’s sort of the idea with the Fullmooner beer tastings sponsored by Beerheads and TotalBru. The next one is Tuesday in Manayunk, Pa., and this being May, it’s aptly dubbed Fullmooner V. (By the by, May's full moon is called the milk moon in English-speaking cultures and corn-planting moon in Native American cultures.)

So what’s the Jersey connection? Well for starters, River Horse’s Belgian ale Tripel Horse (10% ABV) is among the flight of beers to be poured (see the flier below for other beers on the menu). Plus, Philly and its near and far environs are rich in beer prospects, even for us on this side of the Delaware.

So by the light of a full moon, have a brew.