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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beach Haus fall seasonal in pipeline

East Coast Beer Company will follow up its Beach Haus pilsner with a dark lager as its second label on the shelf and its first seasonal.

Named Beach Haus Winter Rental, the new brew is being targeted for the close of the summer season, says John Merklin, of one the founder's of the contract-brewed brand.

"If we can debut it Labor Day weekend, which is the same time we debuted Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner, it would be all the more fitting," John says.

The new lager is leap-frogging over an ale that Point Pleasant-based East Coast had in the pipeline. The ale is now being tabbed to early spring 2012,

"It's the logical, best next step for us. We always wanted to have a fall-winter seasonal to accompany the pilsner, even though it's a year-round beer," John says. "We wanted to further the brand with a seasonal."

The lager was actually being developed along with the ale, both brewed in pilot batches going back to the end of 2010. John says the new lager will share some flavors with Beach Haus pilsner, especially from the use of Horizon hops in both.

"But you're going to see much different body from it, both in color and in flavor, probably increased maltiness to it, certainly not overbearing," he says. "We'll continue to make these – we like to call them accessible beers – where both the high-end craft beer folks and some of the craft beer newbies are going to be able to enjoy different aspects of it."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Heavyweight reunion

Diehard fans of Heavyweight Brewing, the now-closed brewery famous for its artisanal beers, gathered for a reunion of sorts on Sunday, sampling practically every vintage that brewer Tom Baker made at his digs in Monmouth County.

Sure, the beer was past what you would reason to be a freshness date. After all, Heavyweight ceased to be in 2006, and Tom crossed the Delaware to open Earth Bread+Brewery brewpub in Philadelphia in 2008.

But despite the years, quite a bit of the beer held up, especially the Old Salty barleywines.

Most of the brews were supplied by Mark Haynie (pictured above pouring), who back in the day lent a hand to Heavyweight, helping Tom brew, bottle, pour at festivals and generally keep things going at the brewery in Ocean Township.

So did others. That's the kind of place – and beer – Heavyweight was.

And contributing from their long-held collections were Heavyweight faithfuls Steve Lander (the brew Ste-ve is named for him), Doug Duschl (Doug's Colonial Ale was based on his recipe) and John Companick.

If you were there, you saw more than beer and the remains of a now-gone brewery. You witnessed what comes from craft brewing – a kinship that keeps going long after the beer.