Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rider U students lens NJ brewer docu

At the intersection of collegiate youth and beer is where you'll find a short-form documentary destined for the Worldwide Web.

And it has nothing to do with beer pong.

Just a year past being of age to drink, Rider University senior Dennis Quartarolo, of Wall Township in Monmouth County, thought New Jersey's 16-year-old run of micro and pub brewing to be worthy of examination in a video, for which he and four other students just wrapped up interviews and shooting.

The students (Dennis is a radio-television major at the Lawrenceville school) chose Princeton brewpub Triumph, Cherry Hill production brewer Flying Fish and East Coast Beer Company, the nearly year-old purveyor of contract-brewed Beach Haus pilsner, to shape the perspective for their 15-minute production. They also turned to a Jersey beer industry-watcher for some additional observations.

At a shoot in Jack's bar in Long Branch on Wednesday, Dennis discussed the origins of the project, titled Jersey Brewed, his flirtations with the big brewers' offerings and his embracing of craft-brewed beers. The docu project, Dennis says, was a class assignment and will also be uploaded to YouTube some time in May.

"Every single one of us in the class had to pitch a documentary idea, and I pitched the idea of a documentary about New Jersey breweries," Dennis says. "I figured it was a cool story to tell, to focus on this state, go to these guys and find out their stories about why they do it.

"They all had jobs before they decided to start brewing. They all come from different walks of life. I think that's interesting, all of them have the one common bond of craft brewing. It's almost like kind of a language that only a few people speak. All three of them have different ways of doing it; all three of them have different stories to tell."

At 22 years old, Dennis falls into a demographic cohort that became legal drinkers at time of incredible choice, a veritable wall of brands and styles, a situation that's increasingly making the Big Three – Bud, Miller and Coors – less and less the entry point for new beer drinkers.

Dennis' own backstory with craft beer begins with Flying Dog's Old Scratch Amber Lager, a brew he embraced after moving quickly beyond the Bud Light from a friend's party and the Pabst he had been buying.

"I was like, 'Whoa, this is completely different than what I usually have,' because up to that point I was buying PBR or Yuengling," he says. "From there, I started going out and buying more: I got Rogue Dead Guy, Elysian the Wise, Arrogant Bastard ..."

It didn't hurt, either, that Dennis got a job at Wine King, a packaged goods store in Sea Girt where a friend was working. Dennis started to think Jersey and drink Jersey after that.

"We actually have a section for New Jersey beers. That's when I started trying out Flying Fish, River Horse, Cricket Hill ... When Beach Haus came in, we tried that," he says. "I've just been going from there, getting more and more into them."

Among his favorite beers: Dead Guy; his favorite Exit brew, No. 13. ""I really enjoyed the chocolate. That was really good."

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Dennis (right) is joined by Rider seniors Tom Mellaci and Caroline Downing at video shoot at Jack's in Long Branch. It's worth noting that despite the Miller Lite memorabilia, Jacks has some great craft beers on its taps: Lagunitas, Blue Point and Dogfish Head to name a few.

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