Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another one in development - update

Looks like the brewing of craft beer is returning to Ocean Township in eastern Monmouth County.

Followers of New Jersey-brewed craft styles will remember Ocean Township as the home base of Heavy Weight Brewing, the Tom Baker enterprise that earned acclaim for artisanal beers like the imperial porter Perkuno's Hammer, Lunacy Belgian golden ale and Cinderbock lager.

Tom shuttered the brewery in 2006, pulling up stakes to cross the Delaware into Philadelphia, opening the brewpub Earth Bread + Brewery in the city's Mount Airy section a couple years later.

But now entrepreneur Michael Kane says he's signed a lease for space in Ocean Township to house Kane Brewing Company.

Back in the spring, Michael had his eye on a site a few miles south in Manasquan, winning some favor among town officials but encountering flak from some ill-informed town residents who stridently opposed the proposed venture.

Hence he opted for another site where he could brew the line of Belgian and American ales envisioned in his business model.

Meantime, Michael's in the process of setting up a Web site and working on licensing and procuring equipment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Märzen chronicles, Book III (or yet again)

Oktoberfest is a short season, but the beer that distinguishes it from other fall observances deserves a lot of mention.

So here's some more, specifically, a spotlight on a couple of interpretations of the style that are worth your stein and leisure time.

It just went on tap at Uno Chicago Grill & Brewery in Metuchen a few days ago, and the Oktoberfest that brewer Mike Sella turned in this season is richer than Warren Buffet and more enjoyable than watching Jon Stewart riff on Glenn Beck's chalkboard, kabuki histrionics.

In fact, it's also a taste of two seasons: Clocking in at over 7% ABV, the beer has all the signatures of Oktoberfest but a middle flavor and coppery color that hints at doppelbock.

Mike's brew is also proof that you can take an ale yeast and bend it to a lager will. He used an American ale yeast and fermented at 58 degrees. If you didn't hear him cop to that, you'd never know it. (Yeah, other brewers have done this, too, but sometimes you still get that ale nose in the beer. Not here, Mike's is malty and lager-clean.)

Not quite a hundred miles down the Garden State Parkway from Uno, Tim Kelly set up the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City with some of his finest work since taking over as the brewer there in 2007.

Like Mike's fest beer, Tim's 6.6% ABV, noble-hopped Oktoberfest will have you time-traveling to March. By your second round, you'll swear you've poured a Maßkrug of doppelbock. (Honestly, that second glass will feature a middle flavor quite reminiscent of Salvator. And by the way, Tim did use a lager yeast.)

Tim's an ambitious brewer and has turned in some interesting Belgian styles for the Tun (a brown he made a couple Christmases ago tasted great at yuletide, but a filled-to-the-rim growler of it we aged until February became a really superior beer). For his first try at an Oktoberfest at the Tun, Tim reached for toasty melanoidin signatures and attempted a decoction mash.

"I'll never do that again," he says, with some self-deprecating humor.

The beer was fine. But problem was the Tun's brewing system isn't set up to do decoctions. Tim (with the help of Flying Fish head brewer Casey Hughes, as we recall) used buckets to ladel a portion of the grist from the mash tun into the kettle to be boiled, then back into the mash.

A regular five- or six-hour brew day thus grew by more than a couple of hours, a noble effort for a payoff that could still be attained by infusion mash means and some Munich and aromatic malts, as his efforts this season ably demonstrate. (That's not a swipe at decoction; try High Point's Ramstein fest beer to taste what decoction can do.)

Look for Tim's Oktoberfest at the Central Jersey Beer Fest on Saturday. Or better yet, head to the Tun. And Uno.

Woodbridge, Belmar & Iron Hill's

Turnpike Exits 4 and 11 figure big into the beer picture on Saturday, but the day has nothing to do with the Flying Fish Exit Series beers theme-brewed to those numbers.

Exit 11 on the turnpike is Woodbridge, where the 4th edition of the Central Jersey Beer Fest runs from 1-5 p.m. About an hour's drive south, in Maple Shade off Exit 4, Iron Hill brewpub will be hand-bottling and making available for sale some well-aged Flemish red ale.

On top of that, there's a worthy beer gig at the Shore where more Jersey beers will be poured.

Parker Press Park, along Rahway Avenue, just past the bend in Main Street, is once again the location for the JJ Bitting brewpub-sponsored Central Jersey Beer Fest. From its debut in 2007, this has been a charity event, and this year's proceeds will benefit a cancer-stricken mother of two from Woodbridge and American Legion Post 87.

Jersey brews at the event, according to organizer and Bittings owner Mike Cerami, will include brewpubs Harvest Moon (New Brunswick), Tun Tavern (Atlantic City) and host JJ Bittings; production brewer Cricket Hill (Fairfield); and Boaks Beer (contract brewed at High Point in Butler) and East Coast Beer Company (contract-brewed in New York). Rounding out the list will be beers from Brooklyn, Blue Point, Ommegang, Erie Brewing, Boston Beer, and Doc's Cider.

There will also be food vendors and live music.

Admission is $25, and $15 for designated drivers. Unlike last year, no tickets will be available at the gate (you can buy them at Bittings on Main Street).

If you were at last year's event, you may recall things got a little testy when the admissions outpaced the beer. In order to keep things running smoothly this go-round, ticket sales will cut off at 800.

The park is spacious, with plenty of shade trees. Plus you'll find picnic tables to relax and take a load off. Travel tip: There's construction planned to commence very soon on Route 9 in the area, so coming in on Routes 1 and 35 may be the best path. NJ Transit is a good bet, too, since the train station is a bottle cap's toss from the park.

Maple Shade
The folks at Iron Hill always have something up their sleeve. This time, it's a bottling party for a 9-month-old, barrel-aged Flemish Red tricked out with wild yeast and bacteria to give it a tang that's worth writing home about. (It's a pay as you go event.)

The brewpub will be tapping some (5.3% ABV, 20 IBU), as it's called, while it packages the beer (made in December 2009 and stored in Beaujolais barrels since the headwaters of this year) in corked and caged 750 ml bottles, labeled, signed and numbered by head brewer Chris LaPierre (who's a big fan of sour beer styles) and assistant brewer Jeff Ramirez.

Bottles will then be available for sale at the bar.

FYI: This deep red ale is a bottle-conditioned beer, so the bottle you buy must be stored until it carbonates naturally (Chris recommends a couple of months, or even letting it mature for years).

From Chris' note to mug club members: "This will be a couple of firsts for us: our first beer available in bottles and the first time we’ve done an entire batch of sour, wood-aged beer in Maple Shade."

With this festival, Beer on the Pier, look for Jersey brews from Climax (Roselle Park, go for Dave Hoffmann's well-regarded Oktoberfest and his IPA) and Artisan's brewpub (in Toms River where Dave is the hired consultant/brewer), Cricket Hill, River Horse, New Jersey Beer Company (North Bergen, makers of 1787 Abbey Single and Garden State Stout), and East Coast Beer Company and Hometown Beverage. Hometown, like East Coast Beer Company, is a shore-based contract brewer. East Coast is based in Point Pleasant Beach, while Hometown, the purveyors of New Jersey Lager (as well as New York Lager and Pennsylvania Lager), is based in Manasquan and closing in on a second anniversary in the beer business.

Both Cricket Hill and East Coast Beer are doing double duty on Saturday. Newly minted in the beer scene, East Coast is a co-sponsor of the event with BeerHeads and the borough of Belmar, and just brought its Beach Haus pilsner to market (it's brewed by Genesee in upstate New York) late last month.

"We actually sold through 650 cases in three weeks. We’re thrilled; we're just starting off and we're at the higher end of expectations," says East Coast founder John Merklin. Saturday's event is part of a marketing blitz that has seen the company hit nine craft beer events or tastings in those three weeks.

John says the company has message beyond the flavor and style of its beer, a pre-Prohibition pilsner. "This is not a summer seasonal. It's regional; it's a reflection of the region ... a direct reflection of being at the Shore. The analogy I'm using is the Beach Boys, (hearing them) you know what it's like to be in California," he says.

Beer on the Pier, Belmar Marina, Route 35.
VIP Tent: 1-3 p.m
. General Session: 2-6 p.m

$40 online; $50 Gate; $60 VIP (soldout); 
$10 designated drivers. (A portion of the proceeds go to benefit the Monmouth County Foodbank.)
Food from 10th Ave Burrito, Mr. Shrimp, Crab Shack, Jacks Tavern, Federico's Pizza.
More info (732) 681-2266

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The region

As goes New York City and its environs, so goes New Jersey ...

New York's third annual Craft Beer Week begins Friday. Find details here.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Singles scene

Some Jersey singles (top shelf) mingling.

Meanwhile, this is worth a read. And this is curious. (They're from news feed at right.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wurst case scenario

For a moment, set the märzen aside.

Because there's also plenty of hearty food rolled into this 2 1/2-week thing called Oktoberfest.

And you don't have to be in Münich to find it.

Try Toms River for some of that Old World flavor.

Detlev Barsch's business, D.A. Barsch German Butcher Shop, is tucked inside in brown, single-story building along Route 9, in the northern part of town where used car dealerships practically outnumber the people.

(Incidentally, for beer in Toms River, it's along Route 9 that you'll find the more well-stocked packaged goods stores, not busy, main-drag Route 37 into Seaside Heights.)

German food is Detlev's life; the butcher profession is a family affair, going back to when he lived in Oranienburg, Gemany, just north of Berlin.

“We had a sausage factory with 150 employees … we had our own store and our own delivery trucks," Detlev says, his voice gently seasoned with a German accent. "I learned my profession in Germany. In competition, I was the best butcher in all of Berlin in 1968; I was No. 3 in all of Germany, and my mother was the only female master butcher for 15 years in all of Germany."

Detlev, 62, has been plying his profession in New Jersey for decades (he came to the US in 1970), and many people remember him from the German butcher shop in Forked River (Lacey Township), about a half-hour drive south of Toms River.

"I started off with the whole family in Forked River. In the '80s, I sold the business to my brother (Wolfgang), then I started my own business on a dairy farm in upstate New York. I had a butcher shop there, Hamden German Butcher," he says.

A flood in 1996 pretty much devastated Delaware County, New York, and Detlev returned to New Jersey, working for his brother for about 10 years. He opened D.A. Barsch 2 1/2 years ago.

Standing behind his shop counter, he flips the calendar page from September to October. The Saturdays of the months are marked with catering orders. Predictably, this time of year is busy, and finds his shop lining up area retirement villages, German-American clubs and anyone else planning a fall fest event with bratwurst, knackwurst, sauerbraten, schweinshaxe, potato pancakes, red cabbage and other traditional German and European foods.

But Oktoberfest has gained an even wider reach as a time to entertain.

"The younger generations that spent time in Europe, they just throw a party for their friends and want to make it an Oktoberfest," Detlev says.