Friday, October 7, 2011

Still a nano, just a bigger nano

A capacity boost at Cape May Brewing Company.

The nanobrewer located in Lower Township in Cape May County has stepped up its brewing batch size to 1.5 barrels and has added five 2-barrel fermenters that will allow the brewery to phase out the nine 35-gallon fermenters it began operations with back in late spring.

The quick jump to a tripled brewing capacity is part of Cape May's business plan, says co-founder Ryan Krill.

The original brewing setup – designed Chris Henke, the company's brewer, and fashioned from repurposed half-barrel kegs – was directed more at getting the nanobrewery licensed and up and running in the craft beer market than it was to brew and maintain a flow of beer inventory.

"The new setup is stainless steel tanks Chris got from a stainless distributor and got welded with fittings. It's more efficient," says co-founder Ryan Krill, who took some time on Friday to talk about the brewery's jump from brewing 12- to 13-gallon batches to 46 gallons.

Other changes include the addition of a second cold box and regularly scheduled brewery tours. The tours began in July as announced-date events but are now set for each Saturday (noon to 4 p.m.). The tours have proved popular, Ryan says, drawing crowd sizes of 100 people during the allotted hours.

Also, the brewery has also joined the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, one of three newly licensed craft breweries in the state to do so. (Kane Brewing and Carton Brewing, both in Monmouth County, are the other two.)

Cape May is still supplying a single bar account (the oceanfront Cabanas in Cape May), but Ryan says the tiny beer company that he started with his dad, Robert, and college friend Chris has seen a gradual increase in production.

The brewery produced 16 barrels from July to September, in the form of their flagship Cape May IPA, a one-off dark IPA (a beer that was done on a lark, so it's highly improbable to ever see it return), a porter, stout and wheat beer.

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday you can expect a cranberry wheat beer, Ryan says.

Speaking of Carton Brewing, the Atlantic Highlands production brewery that came online in August will begin conducting brewery tours this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. (Judging from their website, this week they pilot-brewed a milk stout – Carton of Milk Stout – a brew that was always in the company game plan.)

Additionally, Carton is teaming with Kane Brewing, the Ocean Township production brewery that opened last July, for a benefit beer dinner on Oct. 14th.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chocolate & Beer, Beer & Chocolate

Chocolate stout, chocolate porter ...

When it comes to putting chocolate in beer, those two styles are ready candidates.

Which is why Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre, looking for something a little different, opted out of those styles and turned a brown ale into a chocolate brown ale loaded with 22 pounds of dark Belgian chocolate for an October beer release at the Maple Shade brewpub.

The beer and a truffle, made with wort from Iron Hill's mash tun by chocolatier Mike Collins of Reily's Candy in Medford, were the centerpiece of an event this past Wednesday night that also saw a selection of Reily chocolates* paired with IH beers.

The video gives you the backstory to how this fusion came about. But the quick version goes something like this: Chris grew up in Medford and knew of Reily's, a 40-year fixture in the Burlington County town. Mike, who's been with Reily's for almost half of the shop's existence, is a Iron Hill mug club member and discovered IH beers at the company's West Chester, Pa., location.

Combining their crafts seemed like a natural idea, and the result is Reily's Chocolate Ale and the Iron Hill truffle.

*The pairings at the October 5th event:

  • 70% Cacao with Gogi berries & Abbey Dubbel
  • Tierra Missou Truffle & Bourbon Wee Heavy
  • Jalapeno Chocolate & Ironbound Ale
  • Vanilla Caramel & Oktoberfest
  • Bourbon-Soaked Cherry Cordial & Cherry Vanilla Porter
  • Iron Hill Chocolate with Caramelized Wort & Reilly’s Chocolate Ale

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Apple founder Steve Jobs died yesterday, and if you own an iPad, iPhone or an iPod, you can't escape how profound the guy's vision shaped your life.

Jobs knew what you wanted before you did. And that's how Apple made really cool stuff, game-changing stuff.

In a trickle-down fashion, Jobs shaped craft beer enthusiasts' lives, too. Just look at all the beer apps for the smart phones that are out there now, then remember that the iPhone revolutionized mobile phones and turned us all into a gadget-wielding bunch.

On a much more local level, the stuff that sprang from Jobs' mind has had a hand in New Jersey craft beer, from its leading edge to its current growth phase.

Flying Fish set up shop in Cherry Hill 15 years ago with Macs as its business computer platform (and on the Web a year ahead of that).

Before Carton Brewing began sending beer out the door this summer in Atlantic Highlands, you would find Augie Carton enthusiastically using an iPad to show off versions of the brewery's marketing materials and tap handle prototypes.

And finally, not to be self-serving, this blog site has always spun from Apple gear: Every word, image and video has made it to the Web thanks to a Mac or Apple software.

So if you're enjoying a beer today, take a moment to toast a visionary.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hold up your end of the bargain

River Horse Brewing holds its annual Oktoberfest from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday at the brewery on Lambert Lane in Lambertville.

The brew lineup for this pay-as-you-go event is Lager, Special Ale, Tripel Horse, Hop A Lot Amus, Hop Hazard, Hipp O Lantern and their new Brewer's Reserve, a dunkelweizen; the featured musical entertainment is Ludlow Station, the jam band head brewer Chris Rakow plays guitar in. (Check 'em out here, playing at last April's ShadFest.)

Unlike past years, the 2011 edition is a one-day-only affair (rain date is Sunday; past editions of the fest were spread over the weekend), and the brewery is calling on its legions of fans to lend a hand to a couple of local food pantries that are struggling to keep up with demand for their help in the flat economy.

So if you're going, pack along some of these items, and consider it holding up your end of the bargain in return for the great gig that River Horse puts on ...

  • Canned soups, tuna, salmon, chicken, vegetables
  • Canned or dried beans
  • Rice and whole grains
  • Pasta
  • Tomato sauce
  • 100% fruit juices
  • Condiments - ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, etc.
  • Baking mixes
  • Cereal- hot and cold
  • Baby food
  • Sugar-free items (juice mixes, Jello, pudding, etc.)
  • Dog and cat food

Monday, October 3, 2011

Turtle Stone projects December licensing

Craft beer's return to New Jersey's southwestern reaches looks to be entering a homestretch, as the planned Vineland-based brewery Turtle Stone Brewing expects to get its brewhouse set up this fall and potentially licensed to start making beer toward the end of the year.

If successful with that pace, Turtle Stone will become the third production brewer licensed in the Garden State this year (the others are Kane Brewing and Carton Brewing, both in Monmouth County); 2011, as a growth year, is on track to see the most craft brewers – seven – get the green light from regulators since 1996, when craft brewing was still getting established in New Jersey.

Turtle Stone founder Ben Battiata (that's Ben above on the right, talking to Mark Haynie of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News) took some time last week to talk about the progress with his brewery, the first in Cumberland County since Blue Collar Brewing ceased operations in Vineland seven years ago.

BSL: You had your 15-barrel brewhouse and fermenters in storage for a while. Where are they now?
BB: Right now they're in our brewery facility. The next step is getting our floor done and we'll be able to get the equipment set up ... I've got to do some electrical and plumbing work, set up my cold room, set up my tanks. Then we'll be set to go.

BSL: The regulators with the state, they're telling you early December?
BB: They've reassured us – as long as our equipment is set up to their satisfaction when they come out and do their inspections – we'll be approved by December.

BSL: You're so close you can taste it?
BB: I'm getting very anxious. It's really close.

BSL: You also redid the company logo ...
BB: We did. We ran a contest online through a graphic arts website. I think there was 120 different designs to choose from and we did select a design. It actually turned out nice. I like it a lot and we got a lot of good feedback on it.

BSL: Has anything changed with the beers that you want to enter the market with?
BB: Not really. We still want to go with the jasmine green tea blond (ale), and we still want to do the American stout. They're probably going to be the two first beers we put out there. I'd like to work in a winter seasonal beer; that's in the works right now. One of the first seasonals, or specialty beers, we're going to do is – Vineland is considered the dandelion capital of the world – so we're going to make a saison using dandelions and lemongrass. It's going to be like a nice spring seasonal beer.

BSL: You're a big supporter of locally produced commodities. What are your thoughts on that, and who out there in the wider world that is your neighborhood of South Jersey can assist you with that?
BB: Being located in South Jersey, we have quite a bit of farmers just in the town we're in alone. I know a lot of beekeepers. Our honey jasmine green tea beer is going to use local honey. If I could get any other locally grown products to put into that I will. It's difficult to get as much barley that we need locally, so I don't know if that's going to be the case. With the dandelion beer, I have some growers right now who are going to grow the dandelions for me for that particular beer.

BSL: Besides the honey and dandelions, what are some other possible commodities?
BB: What I plan on doing for our fall beer, rather than a pumpkin ale, as an alternative, we plan to use local sweet potatoes, maple syrup and some additional spices. It's actually based on a sweet potato casserole recipe that I make every year. So I'm making a liquid version of that.

BSL: You're raising money, via a website, for packaging equipment. The $30,000 goal isn't a deal breaker, is it?
BB: No, no. The Kickerstarter thing is a campaign we decided to do. It's based on more creative-minded ideas. We actually had to apply and get approved – our idea actually had to get approved by this particular company. It's money to assist towards probably our bottling system. Initially we're going to start with kegging. But the money itself is going help to purchase our packaging equipment, which we've yet to purchase.

BSL: Have you looked into getting financial assistance through that program backed by Boston Beer?
BB: We did actually look into it. Our county is too far south. They do actually approve certain areas of New Jersey (where) they will process these loans. For us, we're too far south.

BSL: These days, no one gets into the craft brewing game without doing some serious back-channel work – outreach to places like bars, the places that can push the product. How have you networked?
BB: Our area is a little deprived of craft beer (bars). We're going to push the local idea. That's actually good enough for a lot of these bars that don't really carry craft beers. They want to carry something that people have some connection to, whether it's the town that they live in that the beer's coming from, or the neighboring town. That's something that I think is going to help us a lot. Everybody is welcoming to the idea. We've gotten such good reception.

As long as we've been planning this – which has been over five years at least – a lot of people have been anticipating, have been waiting, so there's also that aspect. I think once we're out in the market, they're going to be jumping for it.

Oct. 18 release for new Beach Haus brew

East Coast Beer Company is poised to release its second label, a fall-winter seasonal follow-up to its Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner, which debuted in the Garden State craft beer market a little over a year ago.

Beach Haus Winter Rental, a German schwarzbier-inspired black lager (5% ABV), was brewed a couple weeks ago in Rochester, N.Y., at High Falls Brewing, East Coast's contract brewer.

East Coast president John Merklin says the beer will be bottled and kegged Oct. 17 and brought into New Jersey Oct. 18.

John describes the dark-ruby colored brew as a medium-bodied beer with a maltiness and roastiness, a hint of chocolate and some subdued hops.

"We think it's really in line with what we're trying to do as a beer company – accessible but rich styles. We gravitated toward that as a style because it's the right fit for us," he says.

Don't look for a big release party, but John says the East Coast crew will be hitting the trail soon, radiating out from the company's Point Pleasant home base to promote the new addition to the Beach Haus brand. (A pale ale that has been on East Coast's drawing boards for a while is being targeted for April.)

"We're going to be here, there and everywhere, talking about Winter Rental with folks," John says.

Since East Coast's launch into the New Jersey craft beer market around Labor Day of 2010, the company has extended its reach outside the Garden State.

Beach Haus entered the Pennsylvania market back in June (it's in 14 counties now), and East Coast has met with New York distributors, although it has not signed on with anyone yet.

Back at home, Beach Haus cracked into the suburban chain restaurant scene (the pilsner is in 25 Applebee's locations up and down the state), where craft beer in general has been making deeper inroads against the likes of Bud Light and Coors Light, the long-established brews found at the eateries flanking the malls and shopping centers.

Craft beer's growing presence in such establishments (think Harpoon's IPA at TGI Friday's) is a reflection of its surging popularity. Finding Beach Haus, or any other Garden State brand for that matter, mirrors that trend.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pinelands Brewing siting new location

Pinelands Brewing, a South Jersey nanobrewery in development, is looking for a new building and possibly a new host town.

Founder Jason Chapman said the building in Egg Harbor City (in Atlantic County) that he and partner Luke McCooley chose back in the wintertime for their planned 1-barrel brewery now looks to be unsuitable. (That's Jason in the hat, talking to Ben Battiata, of Turtle Stone Brewing, a South Jersey brewery that's in the process of coming online.)

The building had housed a soda company in a former life (that's what made it attractive for a brewery, Jason says) and most recently was the home to an indoor flea market-like business.

Complications with the town have arisen over the location and are forcing Jason and Luke to scrap the building and look elsewhere, possibly in Burlington County.

"We had been leasing the building with the optimism of getting through the city, but have actually hit some hard times with them. It was a tougher battle than we previously could foresee. Right now, we've actually backed out of the lease, and we're scoping out a warehouse in Burlington County," Jason says.

One of the sticking points relates to a pre-existing condition that stipulated the building was to be knocked down to make way for parking for an as-yet unfulfilled city redevelopment project.

City officials wouldn't consider the brewery project as long as the redevelopment condition was still in force, and trying to get it lifted would tie up a lot of time and financial resources.

"For someone trying to start a small business, it's very difficult," Jason says.

The setback is disappointing, Jason concedes, but he says he's looking more forward than backward.

"It's a learning experience. No one said it was going to be easy. When you start this kind of project, the cards are stacked against you," Jason says. "But I remain confident. I will persevere. I'm hungry for this. I want to hold a position in bringing craft beer to South Jersey."