Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brewing with Wheat ... and High Point

When you put wheat beer in the name of your brewing company, you most surely separate yourself from the rest of the pack. And when you earn a reputation for delivering great wheat beers, you become a natural stop in the exploration of those distinct and distinguished brews that use malted barley's cereal grain cousin.

Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer takes you on a global journey of discovery of those beers in Brewing with Wheat, and makes a stop in Butler, N.J., home of High Point Wheat Beer Company and the Ramstein brand.

Stan, whose other titles are Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them, and The Beer Lover's Guide to the USA, interviewed High Point founder Greg Zaccardi about a year ago for a section in the book.

Now called High Point Brewing, a shortened name that makes room for the lagers and pale ales that have been added to the Ramstein banner, the brewery once lay claim to a one-and-only title in the US beer industry (excerpt):

When Zaccardi began selling the Ramstein brand beers in 1996, High Point was the first, and only, all-wheat brewery in the United States since before Prohibition, when weissbier breweries were tiny and made something that tasted more like wheat beers from Berlin. He since has begun brewing a variety of barley beers under contract, accounting for more than one-third of production. "We couldn't survive brewing wheat beer alone," he said.

Followers of High Point know those additional brews these days include a well-received maibock and Oktoberfest, Vienna lager and a imperial pilsner initially brewed for restaurants in New York City, not to mention a Belgian red for the Harvest restaurant chain that owns Trap Rock brewpub in nearby Berkeley Heights.

Another excerpt, courtesy of Stan:

Now that he has made a variety of styles under contract, such as a Belgian-style dubbel and a German-style Pilsener, Zaccardi remains convinced wheat beers present the greatest challenge for a brewer. "Brewing consistent wheat beer is the hardest thing to do," he said. "You have to control something that is uncontrollable, the yeast."
You can get a glimpse of what's in Brewing with Wheat here. The book's available through Beertown, Beerbooks and Amazon.

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