Thursday, May 27, 2010

Craft Beer Week and J.J. Bitting

New Jersey's lone voice on a congressional panel committed to craft beer paid a call on J.J. Bitting brewpub on Monday, presenting owner Mike Cerami with an autographed copy of the American Craft Beer Week resolution passed by the House of Representatives last week.

Rep. Leonard Lance also sampled a flight of Bitting beers – including a raspberry wheat, Scottish ale, bock and India pale ale – declaring the IPA to be his favorite of the lot created by brewmaster James Moss. The Republican from Hunterdon County also took a tour of the Bitting brewhouse.

"It's incredibly important that we have these types of businesses across America to promote Main Streets. Main Streets have to engage in ingenuity in order to prosper. The high quality product that is manufactured here is an example of that ingenuity," Lance said after touring the brewery.

Lance's 7th District stretches from one side of New Jersey to the other (it covers 54 towns), and is home to four brewpubs (Bittings; Pizzeria Uno just south of Bitting along Route 1; Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights; and Ship Inn in Milford) and a production brewery (Climax Brewing in Roselle Park).

To be sure, Rep. Lance's visit to Bitting was about constituent service. Woodbridge is one of the larger towns in his district and the place where he catches the train to Washington. Plus, Lance's House seat is up for re-election this November.

But, what all Garden State craft beer enthusiasts should know about Lance is that he is the only member of New Jersey's congressional delegation to hold a seat on the House Small Brewers Caucus, which was formed in 2007 with a commitment to supporting small breweries, and focusing on business and regulatory issues, among other objectives. Lance is among several lawmakers to sponsor legislation to lower the federal per-barrel tax small-batch brewers pay on the beer they make.

Over its three years of existence, no other member of the Garden State's congressional delegation with a brewery in his or her district had stepped up to join the caucus and lend support to the state's 15-year-old craft beer industry until Lance did last year. (Lance is a first-term congressman, elected in 2008).

Meanwhile, neighboring Pennsylvania and New York each have four congressional reps on the caucus, some who got in on the ground floor.

New Jersey should have more representation on the panel. Hey, Reps. Frank Pallone and John Adler, we're looking at you. Your districts are home to a combined four craft breweries – three pub brewers and the state's biggest craft brewer, Flying Fish in Cherry Hill. And, of course, the breweries themselves should be pressing their representatives to join the caucus.

Beer is one of the few products that is taxed on its very creation, and craft beer is very much about commerce, local economies, cultural heritages and preservation. The early-20th century brick building that houses the Bitting brewpub had a former life as a grain and coal company.

Craft beer is also a growing industry, even in New Jersey where for a decade there was no new blood, until last summer and this spring (Iron Hill brewpub opened in Maple Shade in July 2009, while New Jersey Beer Company just began production brewing in North Bergen).

And that's why it matters having a voice in DC.

Now if only legislators in Trenton would get the picture.

1 comment:

Mark Frystak said...

I've sampled the beers of Brewmaster Moss and am thoroughly impressed!