Friday, July 31, 2009

Teachable moments ...

What we got from the beer summit:

• It makes your skin crawl to hear Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy talk about beer (i.e. that Anheuser-Busch is no longer an American-owned company). Oh let's face it, hearing Steve Doocy talk about anything is nauseating.

• CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the 24-hour news cycle continue to boost Jon Stewart's career.

• The White House could probably stand to start a pint glass collection. (The Prez, Skip Gates, Sgt. James Crowley and Veep Joe Biden, a late addition to the lineup, all drank from mugs.)

• It's unlikely you'll see on BeerAdvocate a new rating for Bud Light under the user name POTUS.

• The Prez, Gates and Crowley all passed on Biden's idea to play Quarters.

• Despite having a brew, everyone could still taste the foot he stuck in his mouth that landed him at the summit. All except, the Veep ... Joe just keeps his foot there.

• No matter the reason, or the brand of beer, it should be noted that BEER was the drink of the day (except the Veep, who had an N-A malt beverage).


Thursday, July 30, 2009

All's fair in malt and hops

Come Saturday evening, we’ll know the newest beer destined for the tap handle lineup at Krogh’s brewpub.

You probably won’t be able to drink it until sometime next year, but when the Best of Show winner of the New Jersey State Fair homebrewer competition is announced, you’ll know what to look forward to.

The annual summer ritual unites the make-your-own contingent in a quest for bragging rights and that coveted opportunity to strike a mash at the picturesque brewpub by the waters of Lake Mohawk in Sparta (Sussex County) and have that beer served to paying customers.

The contest has grown in size in its decade-plus existence and has made commercial brewers out of a couple of winners (those would be Brian Boak, who contract brews with High Point Brewing in Butler; and Bud Usinowicz, who has helped brew at Krogh’s since his victory in ’06). This year has seen the most entries ever with 106 (up from 65 in 2008), including two-time winners and defending champs Mike Wenzel and Steve Moen; and Dave Pobutkiewicz, who was a 2007 finalist in the LongShot homebrew competition run by Boston Beer Company. On top of that, the quality of the homebrewed beers being entered has surged.

Last year, the contest was opened up to homebrewers anywhere in the country, not just those from the Garden State. Next year, the contest is expected to be sanctioned by the Colorado-based American Homebrewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program, a move that's likely to boost the number of entries even more.

Sussex County resident Ken Sharrock is the point guy for the competition. A homebrewer himself and certified beer judge, Ken got involved with the contest eight or so years ago and has helped bring it closer to what beer enthusiasts would recognize as a BJCP-approved event. Besides Ken, the contest has at least two other certified judges, and last spring, Ken administered the BJCP exam to some folks interested in stepping up to the world of accredited beer judges. (They're waiting for their rankings, Ken says.) Most of those people were already serving as contest judges, but in any case, you can expect skilled palates and noses to be crowning the next state champ.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Speaking of things New Jersey ...

If you can celebrate Jerseyana with a beers named after Turnpike exits, then why not that other fixture New Jersey is well known for – government corruption?

Some possible beer names: Bribery Coast Brown Ale, Take the Pinch Pils, Bagman Porter, Hauled into the Dock Bock, Indictment Pale Ale, Jersey Payola Summer Ale. The possibilities are limitless.

And now, here's the Garden State's own Jon Stewart:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Iron Hill Brewery, the video

Iron Hill in New Jersey in moving pictures …

A thanks to everyone who took the time for an interview, and to Kevin Davies, Mark Edelson and Kevin Finn for persevering to overcome the none-too-friendly Garden State regulatory climate, and having the confidence to put a kitchen and a brew kettle in Maple Shade.

Launching the first new brewery in New Jersey in 10 years is monumental, and as some have noted, a homecoming since Iron Hill is a triumvirate of Jersey guys committed to creating great beer and pairing it with equally great food.

Speaking of that none-too-friendly climate, a couple of state Treasury investigators – on Iron Hill’s opening day no less – strode through the doors to conduct a spot check, looking to see that all taxes were paid on building materials and equipment. On top of that, they’ve been going through Iron Hill’s invoices and checking up on IH’s contractors, to make sure they’re registered and, again, that taxes have been paid.

That may be standard procedure for bureaucrats, but it's not much of a welcome from New Jersey, a state that the reputable and highly regarded Iron Hill, a taxpaying company that just created jobs in Maple Shade, chose, say it again CHOSE, to do business in. It’s rather insulting, too, given that it was IH’s opening day, a time when Mark and the Kevins probably wanted to devote their attention to the patrons who would come through the door, not some auditing regulatory nonsense that sits at the core of why New Jersey is tough business terrain.