Friday, June 19, 2009

Draft Magazine swings and misses

Not to beat up on them, but Draft Magazine completely zoned out with this. How they followed this item and came up with New Jersey as the culprit is anyone's guess.

The story is merely localizing a national story, and in this case, how a federal excise tax increase would hurt Garden State microbreweries, like other brewers nationwide. Sen. Bob Menendez was contacted for comment to further localize the issue and even said nothing is set in stone. Even a skim of the story would guide you to the conclusion of a national issue being localized.

Anyway this is our posted response to what Draft Magazine's Web editor wrote (FYI: We did minor style editing and fixes to our hasty writing on Draft's site):

Although we’re reluctant to defend politicians, we do have to take exception to this brief about the excise tax and reasons to avoid New Jersey.

Not to seem obnoxious correcting you, but it is the federal excise tax you are referring to. And while Sen. Bob Menendez of NJ is on the US Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus of Montana is the chairman. And so far it is only talk of raising excise taxes. Also, as an FYI, the soft drink industry could be asked to pony up, too. This is all connected to Congress’ plans to overhaul the US healthcare system, so it’s improbable that a single state would be behind it.

The folks at the Brewers Association put out an action alert on this.

But meanwhile, there is another bill that proposes halving the federal excise taxes on beer. You’ll find information about that on the Brewers Association site, too.

Perhaps you’re confusing the federal measure with the New Jersey Legislature’s increase in the state's tax on liquor and wine. That budget measure excluded beer, and Governor Jon Corzine’s administration, although a bit ham-handedly, stressed that beer was excluded from the increase.

And again, not to seem rude, but your space is better spent calling on beer enthusiasts to write their lawmakers and register their objections to a tax hike, and not singling out a particular state for blame, which, in this case, is completely erroneous.

Again, we're not trying to beat up on Draft Magazine (although they did disparage New Jersey for no discernible reason, other than the apparent cliche of making Jersey the butt of a joke). But their interpretation of things is just so hopelessly flawed, totally mangled.

Craft Brewers Guild Festival on Saturday

The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild 13th Annual Beer Festival, as it's billed on the organization's Web site, is Saturday (1-5 p.m.) in Camden aboard the USS New Jersey. (Note to the guild: Not to be a pain, but it's time to update the festival announcements on the Web site. It proclaims 16 breweries, but there are only 14 members listed under the guild membership tab. Even when you toss in soon-to-open Iron Hill Brewery, which is expected to debut its beers in New Jersey aboard the ship on Saturday, that only makes 15. Plus, Krogh's in Sparta rarely pours at this festival.)

Also, it's a little unfortunate that the guild's site doesn't indicate a festival for the fall. But some guild members say there is the intention to repeat a fall festival, like the one in Newark last October. One of the observations that arose after that festival was attendance suffered because the planning came together late and there wasn't sufficient time to get word out.


Hopefully on Saturday (which unfortunately is forecast to be rainy) the guild will have handouts about a fall festival, as was done last year. Still, it would beneficial to have a little buzz about it going on the Web site now, even if the planning has not totally gelled.

Anyway, here's what the 11th and 12th festivals in Camden looked like.


  • Tickets are 40 bucks and appear to still be available.
  • Parking is available for 10 bucks at the garage across from Adventure Aquarium. Shuttle buses from the garage run regularly to and from the ship.
  • Food concessions are on the ship. It's the usual fare, but at the past couple of festivals the vendor has been better than some you'll find at similar events.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Exit to ale, reprise

If you believe Toll Road News, there’s some frowning at the Woodbridge headquarters of the New Jersey Turnpike over Flying Fish and its Exit Series beers. If that’s the case, then the Turnpike Authority should lighten up.

From a chat with Gene Muller, Flying Fish’s president, it seems the fuss is a little overblown, but not without a PR dividend for the brewery. The static comes from fears over the potential for assumptions, albeit erroneous, that the Turnpike is behind the beer.

That’s funny, since Flying Fish doesn’t use the word turnpike on its labels or related Web site. And you can't get an Exit beer at the Molly Pitcher rest stop, nor an Exit 4 T-shirt anywhere but Flying Fish.

Also, the brewery isn't infringing on any trademarks. (You can’t trademark that highway-sign color of green; nor can you trademark the word exit; the shape of the Turnpike’s sign is trademarked, however.)

In the grand scheme of things, this is about the New Jersey Turnpike as iconography and pop culture. The Flying Fish series is an homage to something distinctly New Jersey. And last we checked, the Exit Series celebrates that slice of Jerseyana; it does not mock it, like so many comedians and a recent headline in Draft Magazine.

Still, in the face of all this gear grinding, the brewery’s Web site for the Exit Series now features a disclaimer now (pictured; click to enlarge).

Any authority concerns about drinking and driving were met with the reply that Flying Fish folks don’t condone drinking and driving (they never have; nor does any Jersey micro or pub brewery), and that they drive the same roads as everyone else.

(The dim view of roads and beer or wine or liquor mentioned in the same breath is a knee-jerk association to DUI, a propensity to see a dark side. The thinking person knows better, knows it's not fait accompli. It's unfortunate and makes you wonder when you consider this: Five years ago, Buena Vista Township in Atlantic County temporarily changed the name of its mint-growing section of Richland to Mojito. Why? Because Bacardi gave the town 5 grand for the promotion, and got a mojito sign along Route 40, the main highway through town. Last we checked, a mojito was made not with just mint, but rum, too. And this event went over with not a hubub, but feature stories written about it. Go figure.)

Gene did suggest the Turnpike shouldn’t be spending money on lawyers to swat at a small, taxpaying business. (A lawyer contacted the brewery to press the authority's concerns; there's no cease and desist notice that we know of.) Tolls pay the Turnpike’s bills; who needs a toll hike because the Turnpike Authority took a wrong turn down a legal dead-end?

In the long run, all of this attention proves beneficial for Flying Fish. Exit 11, the second installament of the series, is due out soon. News media from the surrounding region have been working the story. (Update: Channel 4 in New York did a somewhat dour turn on the dispute on the 6 o'clock news. Their written version has a lame headline pun.)

A day in the slow lane for the news outlets perhaps, but a grand avenue of exposure for the beer.

One final word: We’ve dealt with Joe Orlando from the Turnpike Authority, going back to our AP days. And while the Turnpike Authority's concerns are understandable, the tone and disparaging remarks in the Toll Road News story seem out of character. Even on the worst of days, i.e. bad news coming out of the Turnpike, Joe was always helpful and candid, never coarse. Hence, some doubts about Toll Road News.

Catching up

This is something we intended to do a month ago, but we never could find the results of the contest. Until now.

Here's the top winner of the American Homebrewers Association Big Brew 2009 YouTube contest (we won it last year.) Great job, cool animated intro.

Cheers and congrats to all the winners.

Sobering the numbers

If you read this, then you should also read this, and this. The latter should sober up the fear reflex by supplying some perspective.

That research about campus binge drinking, done by an agency that exists to hand-wring about binge drinking, would come back with numbers showing an even greater binge drinking crisis should surprise no one.

If the numbers went down, would the research get a headline? Maybe. But, realistically, in an era in which a little fear goes a long way, lower numbers would probably just sail under the radar. (A little conditioning goes just as far, and we've all been conditioned to accept the viewpoint that crises only get worse, never better, let alone question whether they were ever a crisis to begin with.)

Let's hope those massive (yet encouraging) street protests in Iran over their election continue, so there's truly some significant news to report. Otherwise, this puffed-up piffle will claim unjustified airtime on the 24-hour news channels. It's probably already going to be the next health segment on the local broadcast news stations tonight, given their propensity to pick low-hanging fruit.