Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beer Here? Where have you been, SL?

Not to go too far with this, because having more voices in the village square that is craft beer is a great thing.

And that's a sincere comment.

But The Star-Ledger of Newark and its online entity do deserve a thumbs down for their sudden interest in the craft beer scene with the column Beer Here and for not knowing that Port 44 Brew Pub in Newark is New Jersey's newest brewery.

SL says New Jersey Beer Company is the newest. The North Bergen brewery fired up the kettle this past spring. Port 44 began brewing its lineup of ales in August. It's a quibble yes, but isn't SL a Newark newspaper?

A couple more quibbles: The recycled use of "New Brewski" as a nickname for the state. That moniker was tossed out in 2008 when SL launched its monthly magazine, Inside Jersey, which featured a column that pretty much slammed the state's brewpubs. (Afterward the magazine seemed to care more about wine than beer, save an article by Jersey Brew author Mike Pellegrino about Jersey's beer past, and a back-page item about the Krueger brewery and canned beer being born in the Garden State.)

And didn't SL sponsor the beer festival at Monmouth Park over Labor Day weekend? (That was a festival, that while it had contract-brewed beers with state ties, none of the craft brands actually brewed at home were represented; yet Beer on the Pier last week in Belmar had five Jersey-based brewers there.)

Sadly, this seems more like a dash for advertising dollars (look for the SL hotdog mobile to show up at every festival on the calendar) than genuine interest and a keen read of the marketplace, since New Jersey has had a viable (and yes, now growing stronger) craft beer industry for 15 years.

But newspapers are slow to react (which is why they're dying, and this newfound love of beer sort of reminds us of how the Asbury Park Press newspaper cold-shouldered Bruce Springsteen until he was obviously too big to ignore. However, it's not always the case: Eric Asimov and The New York Times didn't wait until the Brewers Association announced that craft beer was a $7 billion a year industry).

In all fairness, this is the early goings for SL's effort. Stay tuned.

FOOTNOTE: Yes SL did do that silly beer-tie in to the NCAA tournament (March 2oo9 comes to mind), and Climax Brewing owner Dave Hoffmann's Helles got a nice bounce from it. But we seem to recall that tasting panel put styles like IPAs, pale ales and imperial stouts side by side in the same judging session. Make no mistake, Dave's beers are solid and he deserves props, but folks who are seriously into beer would call a foul for the mashup.

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