Friday, May 20, 2011

Cape May licensed; another nano emerges

Just as Cape May Brewing scores its state license to begin making beer, another Cape May County nanobrewery is emerging, hoping to fire up a kettle in the fall and launch with an American pale ale in New Jersey's southern shore draft beer market.

Tuckahoe Brewing Company is a foursome of homebrewers from Atlantic and Cape May counties who have been brewing together since 2006. They established their company back in January and earlier this month leased a 1,000-square-foot building at 369 Woodbine-Oceanview Road in Dennis Township, about a 20-mile ride up Route 9 from Cape May Brewing, which just became New Jersey's newest brewery and the state's second nanobrewery (behind Great Blue Brewing in Somerset County).

State regulators gave Cape May the green light to strike a mash following an inspection of their facility on Thursday. (Federal regulators signed off on the brewery in early April.) Ryan Krill, one of the three owners, says they expect to begin brewing sometime next week.

Matt McDevitt, one of the guys behind Tuckahoe Brewing, says he and his partners – Tim Hanna, Chris Konicki and Jim McAfee – have filed paperwork for a brewers notice with the federal government and for a limited brewery license with the state.

"Our goal is to get started around October/November, depending on how that gets processed," says McDevitt, whose day job is teaching at Mainlaind Regional High School in Linwood. Hanna and Konicki are also teachers at Mainland Regional; McAfee is an architect in Cape May County.

Ahead of them now is the task of getting a floor plan together and turning that into brewing space.

"We all get out of school in mid-June, and at that point we'll do some work on it, make it brewery-ready," McDevitt says. "We looked around for about two months for different places down in Cape May County and found a place that has pretty much everything we need, as far as a new-enough building that we don't have to do that much work to it."

The four plan to brew two to three times a week on a 3-barrel set-up to feed an inventory of sixtels and possibly half kegs. If all their recent outreach to Cape May County bars and restaurants to generate interest leads fortune to smile upon them, they'll look to boost their brewing capacity.

"Once things start to move in the right direction, the next step will be a 10-barrel system," McDevitt says.

The partners have been looking at brewing systems from a couple of fabricators who have become central to the burgeoning nano sector of craft brewing.

"Psycho (Brew) is one of the systems we're looking at. Obviously money is a factor, and that's one of the more affordable systems," McDevitt says. "The other is, we've looked at a system from Premier Stainless, which makes another 3-barrel model and will custom-fabricate a system."

Long-time followers of New Jersey's craft beer scene may remember the planned Tuckahoe Malt Brewing Company, which failed to get off the ground back in the mid-1990s. McDevitt says he and his partners approached the owners of that name about opening a brewpub under that banner, but opted for a nanobrewery instead and formed their business as Tuckahoe Brewing Company.

On their blog site, the four say they intend to launch with four styles: pale ale, wit, porter and another ale or pilsner made exclusively with agricultural products grown in New Jersey.

The pale ale, hopped with Cascade, possibly Centennial, and finished with Mount Hood, will likely be the company's flagship brew, McDevitt says.

"That will be what we start with. It's going to be high production with that," he says. "The plan is, right now, to make two seasonals, like a Belgian wit in the spring-summer and a smoked porter for the fall-winter.

Locally made, locally served is a guiding light for Tuckahoe Brewing's business model. McDevitt believes that's something the buying public is keen on these days.

"This area for the longest time hasn't had any local beers besides Flying Fish (from Cherry Hill), but even that is, a little bit, a ways away," he says. "So hopefully, we can do some good for the Cape May and Atlantic County areas, hopefully get some people excited about drinking some locally made beer."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Re-pint, er, repent! Judgment Day cometh!

Oh what rapture it would be to spend this Saturday in Southern California.

Specifically San Marcos, where the folks at The Lost Abbey, makers of some big, tasty Belgian-style beers, plan to throw a swinging End of Days party, complete with space for saints, sinners, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and avenging angels.

"It's the end of Craft Beer Week and the world as we know it at the same time," says Sage Osterfeld, one of those Lost Abbey folks. "Can you think of a better way to go, after you've just had a great beer?"

If you haven't heard – if you've been spending more time re-pinting than repenting – for quite some time a Christian radio evangelist has been preaching that May 21, 2011, is Judgment Day – the Rapture, Jesus' return and the run-up to the annihilation of the Earth that's supposed to happen five months later. (Better get your winter seasonals brewed now.)

"It's been Judgment Day here for five years," says Osterfeld.

Known for taking an ale-infused satirical turn on religion (Devotion, Inferno Ale), Lost Abbey, part of Port Brewing, just marked its fifth anniversary, and incidentally, is looking to expand into the New Jersey market, beyond Belgian brew-loving Philadelphia, this fall.

Unless, of course, the Earth is destroyed.

On Saturday, the brewery will make its Belgian quad, Judgment Day, the centerpiece of a daylong party in the brewery's tasting room, serving the 10.5% ABV ale and other beers that use it as a base. The brewery is reserving one side of its 50-foot bar for saints, the other for sinners. A costume competition invites you to attend dressed as your favorite character from Revelations.

"We've gotten a lot of calls about it," Osterfeld says, referring to the intersection of Judgment Day (the beer) and Judgment Day (the end-of-the-world proselytizing). "The local news in San Diego did a story about it."

Those calls started back in January. At first, the Lost Abbey folks were a little leery about making light of the End of Days pronouncement by Harold Camping, leader of the Family Radio Worldwide ministry. The apprehension was less about the appearance of sacrilege and more about the possibility of doomsday cults, a legitimate concern since the group that followed the Comet Hale-Bopp into the afterlife with a mass suicide in 1997 was located only 15 miles from San Marcos.

But in this case, things are quite different.

In hordes of interviews, Camping says he zeroed in on May 21, 2011, as the date for Judgment Day through close examination of the Bible. He calculated (seems more like extruded) the moment based on the date of Jesus' crucifixion (April 1, 33 A.D.), the 1,978 years hence, the number of days in a solar year (365.2422) and the 51 days from the start of April to May 21st. The product of all that mathematical contortion was then matched to some numerology representing atonement, completeness and heaven. The result: May 21, 2011.

Camping's revelation has drawn plenty of believers, including some who have trumpeted the end-is-coming message via billboards (like ones in Morris County in North Jersey and Cumberland County in South Jersey) that also, coincidentally, promote the ministry's radio show and website. (Wonder if Camping will do a big finale show like Oprah?)

But the bold pronouncement that Saturday is the Big One also has an ample share of doubters and critics. Ample, as in probably most of us.

So, who's to say some satirical, irreverent, or even gallows, humor isn't in order? After all, the doomsday prognosticator made a similar calculated forecast for 1994 (wonder if Camping forgot to carry the 1?) and yet, we're all still here.

For now, at least.

But in case you still need some reassurance about things, Osterfeld offers this comment: "I don't think anyone actually thinks the world is coming to an end."

The image above comes from Lost Abbey's website. And, yeah this site is nearly always about New Jersey beers, but this story was too good to leave behind.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interior work at Carton progresses

Carton Brewing is moving along with renovations to their building at the Monmouth County bayshore. The crew there expects delivery of the brewhouse, fermenters and bright and hot liquor tanks from Newlands Systems in Canada in a little over a week.

"Looks like there's some flooding in Manitoba. The train our tanks are on is stuck. We're not getting it this weekend, looks like it will be the following weekend," brewer Jesse Ferguson explained on Wednesday.

"But they're in there pouring conrete tomorrow. They busted out that front door already, where we're going to put in that roll-up (door). So, things are moving."

Last Saturday, with newly installed floor drains and other plumbing in the background, Jesse, with founders Augie and Chris Carton, discussed the interior work going on at the soon-to-be brewery in Atlantic Highlands.

They also offered some samples of pilot brews produced on a homebrew rig: a hoppy kölsch at 5% ABV and an almost 8% West Coast-slanted IPA.

The IPA, the first test take on that style, was hopped exclusively with Falconers Flight, the Hop Union mash-up of Citra, Simcoe and Sorachi Ace. The Citra-hopped kölsch, much farther along in development than the IPA, is being called Boat and was finished with Nugget and Cascade.

"It's a kölsch yeast in an American pale that we've hopped within an inch of its life," Augie says. "This one is a little higher (in alcohol) than we want; we want it to be closer to 4%."

There's a touch of wheat in it to give it some body, plus some flaked barley. "I'm doing everything I can to get the mouth feel up because it's low gravity, and it's finishing low," Jesse says. "We had a problem where it was coming off too dry and the hops were just off-the-map accentuated. The wheat and the flaked barley are there to try to counteract that."

Among the next steps is possibly another tweak to the grain bill and to produce six more test batches of Boat using various hop varities, since they're having some trouble with the availability of Citra, their preferred hop for the beer, and may need to select an alternative. Four of those Boat R&D batches have been brewed, Jesse said Wednesday.

With Boat, Augie says, the goal is to make a beer whose flavor doesn't collapse, while its alcohol content overwhelm.

"Image you're fishing, imagine you're playing softball, imagine you're commuting on the ferry (from Manhattan), you want to have three or four beers, but you don't want to be crippled. But you also want it to be tasty," he says. "We want it to be a friendly, sessionable beer for guys who like the beers we like – Nugget Nectar, Dogfish 60, Double Simcoe from Weyerbacher. We love all those crazy beers, (but) they're all just so boozy."

The Carton business model is to make brews below 5% ABV or at 7.5% and over. "It's either going to be sub-5 and sessionable and fun to drink, or it's going to be contemplative, thinking, big bottle 8%," Augie says.

A guy with a food blogger background and penchant for exploring flavors, Augie acknowledges the time-is-money critical nature of getting the brewery built. But he confesses to finding pleasures in the R&D side.

"Jesse and I bought ourselves a (MoreBeer) Tippy ... It's our pilot system; we got that just to have our mad scientist days with. It's coming in about another six weeks," he says.

The pilot brewing rig's arrival could be about the time their actual 15-barrel brewhouse is ready.
"We'd like it to be late June," Augie says, referring to the brewery buildout. "But I think it's going to be July."

It's a mug of one of the incarnations of Boat, provided by Jesse.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guild puts out action alert for brewery bills

The talking points are up and the action alert has been made.

The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild is asking New Jersey beer enthusiasts to reach out to their representatives in Trenton to support Senate bill 2870 and Assembly bill A3969.

The companion legislation would bring the rules under which the state's craft breweries operate more in line with marketplace conditions in the mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere nationally.

The guild posted the upshot of the legislation on its website on Tuesday, along with a blueprint for contacting state lawmakers to express support for the bills.

Meanwhile, the Senate version picked up a new sponsor, Sen. Donald Norcross, a Democrat from Camden County. Norcross joins Sen. Tom Kean Jr., the Union County Republican who introduced the measure at the beginning of the month. The Assembly version is sponsored by Craig Coughlin, a Democrat from Middlesex County.

Coughlin, by the way, also has homebrewers' interests in mind. He just introduced an unrelated bill, A4012, which would throw out the state's requirement that homebrewers get a permit to make their beer. (Text of that measure hasn't gone up on the Legislature's website yet.)

But back to the commercial brewing legislation.

Here's what the guild says is the aim of S2870 and A3969, which were referred to law and public safety committees in their respective chambers:

  • Remove the arbitrary cap (2 brew pubs) on the amount of brewpubs a company can open in the state. (Taking away this cap means brewpub businesses wishing to expand and create jobs in the state could without any unnecessary restrictions.)
  • Allow small breweries to sell beer directly to consumers from their brewery locations. (New Jersey wineries already have this privilege. Additionally, this element mirrors A3520, which was introduced back in November.)
  • Allow small brewers to sell their product at 10 locations across the state directly to consumers. (New Jersey wineries have this privilege already, bringing their product directly to consumers without any harmful impact on other wine or alcohol interests. Think BYOB restaurants with this one.)
  • Allow small breweries and brewpubs to offer samples to consumers both at their brewery or offsite at such things as charity events and festivals.
  • Allow brewpubs to sell their beer at other bars and restaurants that they own but do not brew beer onsite, yet have a retail consumption license.
  • Allow brewpubs to sell their beer off-premise in the same manner as small breweries through the wholesale distribution chain. (This would allow consumers to buy their favorite brewpub beer at other locations in the state.)
  • Increase the amount of craft beer both New Jersey’s small breweries and brewpubs could produce annually.

The current regulations were enacted in the early 1990s, a time when craft brewing in New Jersey seemed faddish, more likely to remain a niche interest and not grow into a part of the state's manufacturing base.

For the state's breweries, the rules now feel like size medium T-shirt on a XL body – they don't fit.

And for any New Jerseyan who's been to Sly Fox in Phoenixville, Pa., for instance, had lunch and a draft beer, then came home, stopped at a package goods store to pick up a six-pack of Royal Weisse, the existing rules can be confusing.

"This legislation removes some of the roadblocks that craft brewers in the state currently have to take their success to the next level," says Mark Edelson, one of the owners of Iron Hill brewpub in Maple Shade. "The current legislation has been in place for about 20 years and was negotiated at a time when states were just starting to craft legislation to launch our industry.

"This helped incubate our industry in New Jersey, but as our industry has grown, we are seeking two things: a more level playing field with some of the privileges currently enjoyed by New Jersey wineries (and) a more level playing field with small breweries in neighboring states."

But this is about more than beer. There's a spinoff benefit for the state by encouraging growth, and it's not all about excise taxes, either. It's jobs, Mark says, and not just brewery jobs, but also ones like pipe fitters, truck drivers and engineers.

"The economic impact is clear. This will allow us to promote and expand our sales, which leads to more revenue for the state and more jobs in the state," he says.

Just days away

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's New Jersey Craft Beer Week, too

Here's the proof, fresh from Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

You have to go back 11 years for a proclamation like this, when Gov. Whitman proclaimed July 2000 as American Beer Month in New Jersey.

So yeah, this is pretty cool.

Here's to all the people who make the great beer here, the New Jersey craft brewing industry.


Good time to be in our own backyard

It's American Craft Beer Week, and that's a good moment to take stock of what's emerged on the Garden State beer landscape over the past year.

For starters, 2011 finds in business two new breweries, Great Blue Brewing (Franklin Township, Somerset County) and Port 44 Brew Pub (Newark) that weren't here a year ago this time. A new contract-made brand, East Coast Beer Company (Point Pleasant), also landed on the store shelves with a pilsner (Beach Haus) and is ramping up plans for another label.

Two production breweries are in development in Monmouth County – Kane Brewing (Ocean Township) and Carton Brewing (Atlantic Highlands), while nanobrewing has gained a foothold in the state. One such brewery is already licensed (Great Blue), while another (Cape May Brewing) is on pace to get the green light soon from state regulators, and further still, a handful of nanos are on the drawing boards (Flounder Brewing, Pinelands Brewing and Jersey Shore Brewing Experience, to name three.)

The hits keep coming.

The state's oldest production craft brewer, Climax in Roselle Park, bought a bottling line to put its ales and lagers in six-packs for the first time in its 15-year history. To the south, the state's largest craft brewer, Flying Fish, has designs on a new building in Somerdale (about five miles from its current home base of Cherry Hill) that will triple the brewery's size.

But Flying Fish isn't alone with the serious need to expand. In fact, right now, nearly all Garden State brewers can't make beer fast enough for demand, and for many, limited capacity is the reason.

Meanwhile, in Trenton, lawmakers are being asked to update the rules for microbrewing to catch New Jersey's industry up with neighboring states, if not the rest of the country.

"The current legislation has been in place for about 20 years and was negotiated at a time when states were just starting to craft legislation to launch our industry," says Mark Edelson, one of the owners of the Iron Hill brewpub in Maple Shade.

Looking east, the phrase down the shore now translates as being able to find good beer selections on tap on the sandy side of the state, something that, excluding oases like Firewaters in Atlantic City or brewpubs Tun Tavern, Basil T's and Artisans, has lagged behind North Jersey and the Delaware side of the state.

"I'm usually a little shocked about this area because of its proximity to New York City and people's exposure to cuisine, culture and travel," says Mark Danzeisen, owner of the well-stocked Twin Light Taphouse in Highlands, which just celebrated its first anniversary May 1 and will turn over its taps to Long Island's Bluepoint Brewing this Wednesday for a American Craft Beer Week soiree.

"Beer has always been something – I won't say shunned – but it's never been fully explored or delved into like the rest of the state. People are opening their eyes now."

Danzeisen, 30, comes from a place where the beer pedigree is solid. He opened Twin Light, on Monmouth County's bayshore, because the beers he was used to drinking were, for the most part, still back home. Although back home – Philly – wasn't a world away, it did seem so through the prism of a flavor-starved pint glass.

"I grew up down in Philadelphia and worked in beer bars down there. In college, my local bar was Monk's, Bridgid's, North Third, Standard Tap," he says.

All of New Jersey is picking up its game, he finds.

Thank a vibrant craft brewing industry, changing palates and a food movement that embraces beer. Roll into that the gravitational pull of beer-craving Pennsylvania and New York state. Or anywhere else that takes a wider view of food and drink.

"You go to Europe, you go to other places, and food and alcohol is first before other business is taken care of ... Or the home is based around the kitchen. We've lost that because of our time investment into work and other things," he says. "We're seeing this culture swing back toward food and appreciation of food, a return to grandmom's recipes and mom's old recipes. Beer is being pulled into that; there's that seeking out of flavors."

But, as much as it seems like our own backyard is suddenly a fun place to play, this week is also a reason to remember and support the home team – the Jersey brewers who have been plying these waters for 16 years, the folks who chose to go into business back in the 1990s because they wanted to bring to New Jersey what they were enjoying from their own beer travels or homebrewing experiences.

And it's a moment for the new entrepreneurs, who see a brighter beer future in the Garden State and a chance to bring to market the brews they envision.

Because, yes, it is a good time to hang out in our own backyard.

Homebrew Day, the video

This year's video from National Homebrew Day/AHA Big Brew, shot May 7th in the back lot at Iron Hill brewpub in Maple Shade, where the year-old Barley Legal Homebrewers club pretty much calls headquarters.

Special thanks to Chris LaPierre at Iron Hill and Tim Kelly from the Tun Tavern.

Remember to support your local homebrew shop.

And brewery.